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The Real Irish-American Story Not Taught in Schools


The Real Irish-American Story Not Taught in Schools

Bill Bigelow

“Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.


When I was a kid (i. e. from the mid-1950’s through the late 1960’s) in school growing up going to the public schools in a suburban town, and a large suburban public high school, what was taught to us in United States History classes didn’t even really begin to scratch the surface, generally. Inotherwords, we were not even taught the half of it. The same holds true today, obviously.

It wasn’t just true of Irish-Americans, but Americans in general.


lest we not forget our people, were also slaves. We were worth less than our african brothers. 5 schilling to their 25. We were made example of , if tried for escape. Our people were bred like animals with the africans, but this practice was soon banned, to keep the African trade, more profitable, much like the ban of marijuana, now, thanks to big medical.


Excellent piece. I’m going to send it to my daughter’s school administrator.


Won’t do any good. Since the establishment of the Federal Department of Education all schools are under federal control. The Feds insist on high cost testing and want to link federal education aid to the scores on these tests. The children are being taught to regurgitate the ‘right’ answer (as decided by the corporate makers of the tests) as fast as possible. No thinking allowed. This is not teaching. It is indoctrination. All activities the the school must have federal approval. It is all a matter of boring repetition. The IQ or our students is falling year by year—due to this bad education and the poor quality of our food. Fluoride, the hazardous waste that is put in our drinking water, makes the children placid and apathetic. They put this in the water at the Nazi prison camps and they were able to reduce the number of guards by 75%. It makes people dumb and listless and unable to stand up and fight back. Welcome to 'merica! Sig Heil!


Actually, she attends a public, non-profit Charter School and they create their own curriculum.


You’re lucky yours is non-profit and public. I’m not sure how that works, but I know most charter schools are even tighter on using the federally mandated curriculum than public schools.


These days anyone with their kid in a decent school is lucky.


For me the question has always been this. Why is it that the starving people continued to grow the food but did not just eat? In germany, under Hitler, why did the people continue to get on the trains? At first they did not know where the trains were going, but eventually everyone understood that the jews were being slaughtered. In ireland, and many, many countries before that, people get so down trodden that they act against their own sense of survival. We, here in America, inherited a country that was founded on freedom. yes, it is true, that there were and are continued problems. But this country has been a bastion of freedoms since its conception. founded by men who, though flawed, wanted all men and women to be equal. Will we continue to give up these freedoms by just ignoring the politicians who are taking these freedoms away from us. Will we too either starve as we create the very food that would save us, or will we climb aboard the trains to our demise? History always repeats itself. There will always be people who are evil. But they are a small number when compared to the people who are basically good. Why then is it that the minority of evil always gets the majority to behave in a detrimental way, leading to their demise.


It’s an excellent question, and the answer is more or less the same as the answer to “why did Milgram’s subjects continue to (as they thought) deliver shocks to an innocent person?”, and “why didn’t the soldiers of the 1914 Xmas truce simply refuse to resume killing one another?”.

In every case, the answer is the same: they couldn’t figure out how to stop and still survive. The Irish would have been hanged for refusing to turn over their crops, the Jews shot in the street, the soldiers shot as deserters, and Milgram’s subjects would have felt a kind of social death from shame.

Nothing less than revolution could have saved them. In every case but Milgram’s where saying No and making it stick would have been revolutionary enough, the victims would have had to kill, or be killed for disobedience.

Hierarchy: it’s not just another way of organising.


Of course, little is said of the Potato Famine today. It was hard to get anyone outside of Ireland to even notice it at the time. During the famine, there were many English who refused to believe there was a famine in Ireland. Many Englishmen who chose to be concerned had to actually go over to Ireland to see for themselves. And even after seeing the suffering first hand, they often weren’t believed when they came back to tell the tale of what they saw and so couldnt drum up any collective action to provide famine relief. The relationship between Landlords and Tenants in Ireland varied greatly too. Some Landlords exhausted their funds to feed their Tenants. Some Landlords were scoundrels.


You don’t really believe all that US exceptionialist guff, do you? Sounds like a speech from a tea party rally. Well, come on, they didn’t really want all men and women to be equal, did they? I mean, you can drop the women for a start as they were excluded from voting and the political process. So just the men then. You can also drop those whose skin tone was a bit on the dark side as they usually tended to be slaves which is a condition, I think you’ll agree, even a mind most excellently skilled in cognitive dissonance would have a job hooking up to the concept of them being inheritors of freedom. And you can drop all the poor folks who, not being property owners, that is to say landed gentry, were not allowed to vote or have much input into the poltical process of ruling the place. And you can drop the myriad tribes of native aborgines whose experience of this glorious freedom you extol was a kind of slow or rapid genocide and the theft of their lands where they had previously been probably a lot freer than anyone in the new system were offering them. So you can exlude all them I guess, eh? but apart from all that, spot on! And now on to the next step, let’s give other folks in far away backward lands the benefits of that glorious freedom, of which we are the gleaming bastion, by dropping bombs on them, until the whole world is as free as we are*

*terms and conditions may apply, don’t forget to read the small print.


Oh goodness… a perfect example of the poor education system in the US…


Like the Highland Clearances 50 years earlier and a host of other ‘ethnic cleansings’ (our term) studding history, the ‘famine’ was a product of the ‘politico-economic climate’ of the times.

This sad old world has seen its share of injustice and misfortune. What is evident is that there seems to be no ‘holocaust’ from which human beings can not recover. If they don’t forget, they can forgive, learn something and move on to be ‘better’ than their afflicted ancestors.

It’s when people can’t forgive, nurture the trauma and refuse to learn something, that such travesties are perpetuated and reproduced. When an injustice becomes the defining characteristic of a people, they’re doomed to repeat it, to relive it every day and it will ‘screw them up’.


You need to look at the nature of society in Ireland in the 1830’s-40’s. ‘The Famine’ didn’t happen in the cities. Nor did it happen to farmers with land or who weren’t subsistence tenants. In some places the effects were ameliorated - much of the emigration was ‘charitably-funded’- there was no economic depression or other situation that was causal or contributary. The deaths don’t appear to have been deliberately provoked by government policy although a ‘laissez-faire’ reluctance to intervene was prevalent during the early years of the period.

Sadly, the Famine was caused by the failure of the staple crop of the poor, their inability to adapt quickly to the changed circumstance and a general inability/reluctance to deal with a very large problem affecting people with no social connection.

The ‘Irish Clearances’ came later historically toward the end of the 1800’s. The point then was the removal of the ‘subsistance tenantry’ who hadn’t been dislodged by the Famine.

The Irish Famine pales in significance to the effects of similar situations that have occurred regularly in Africa, India and China including in the past century. They’re not taught at all.


You’re pointing out one of the subtlest types of filtering, though apparently without recognising it. When there is a disaster, and government functionaries choose to do nothing in amelioration even though they could, they are actually choosing to support the outcome of the disaster. No choice is also a choice, though often not recognised as such by the victims.

In the 1800s, many Scots clan chiefs decided to violate the age-old principles of the clan system, in which the chief acted as a redistributor and the clansfolk supported him (nearly always “him”) in war and peace. But those scunners decided they could get more wealth from sheep, and shipped the people off to live or die as they could on the coast of Nova Scotia (and elsewhere), typically with no more than the clothes on their backs and happen a sack of tatties for the trip. My own family didn’t suffer that fate, but it was only luck that saved them.


Thanks for this informative piece, I never got to know about this issue and the story behind it. I shared the story to my Italian acquaitances on FB, hope somebody will notice.


“In the 1800, many Scots clan chiefs decided to violate the age-old principles of the clan system, in which the chief acted as a redistributor and the clansfolk supported him (nearly always “him”) in war and peace. But those scunners decided they could get more wealth from sheep, and shipped the people off to live or die as they could on the coast of Nova Scotia…”

And not long before that, Nova Scotia went by another name and was inhabited by my Acadian ancestors, who were removed by the British in what would be called an ethnic cleansing if it were to happen today.

We don’t learn much about that in schools, either.

It seems like many of these things we don’t learn much about in schools today boil down to the British being “the White man’s White man”. Why is that?


France, Prussia, Holland, and Russia all had the same potato blight, but no “famine” because nobody was taking their other food crops away.


Or as John Mitchel put it (in The Last Conquest of Ireland (perhaps)), “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.”