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Ireland and the Fiction of Improvement$
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Helen O'Connell

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199286461

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199286461.001.0001

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Improvement and Nostalgia: Society Schools and Hedge Schools

Improvement and Nostalgia: Society Schools and Hedge Schools

(p.63) 2 Improvement and Nostalgia: Society Schools and Hedge Schools
Ireland and the Fiction of Improvement

Helen O’connell

Oxford University Press

This chapter demonstrates how improvement education was defined against the example of the hedge school and accordingly sought to instil an ‘ordinary’, vocational education — attuned to the needs of a developing market economy — instead of the ‘high-minded’ academic instruction in Latin and Greek provided in many hedge schools. Educational debates in Ireland in the post-Union period were beset by revolutionary anxieties. Hence, the provision of education in Ireland in this period was largely determined by a counter-revolutionary liberalism, which was decidedly anti-intellectual in emphasis. The focus on useful and vocational instruction in improved schools was meant to counter the lure of revolutionary idealism as well as aestheticism (the latter bound up for improvers in the study of classical languages).

Keywords:   Irish literature, improvement fiction, Ireland, hedge schools, vocational education, counter-revolutionary liberalism, William Carleton, peasantry, landowners

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