For students of the old sod, it's a matter of courses

January 27, 1994|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

You don't have to go to County Cork to soak up Irish culture or discover your Gaelic roots any more. A short stop at Anne Arundel Community College for one of Conrad Bladey's courses in Irish culture will do nicely.

In fact, growing numbers of students at the campus in Arnold are doing just that. The single course on Irish culture Mr. Bladey taught last semester was such a hit that college officials asked him to teach three different classes this semester. Students can now take "History of Ireland," "Irish Culture and Myths" and "Legends of Ancient Ireland."

Mr. Bladey also is lecturing on one of three tours to Ireland the college is offering for credit during the spring and summer sessions and teaching a class for sixth-graders offered through the county school system's gifted and talented program.

He believes it is the lure of tradition and stability that accounts for the popularity of his classes.

"People want a base for their lives, and this provides that -- it gives them a bit more flesh on the cultural bones," he says.

In his classes, students gain a sense of lifestyle and develop a method to impart those lessons to their families.

"A lot of people tell me they want to learn how to tell stories to their children and grandchildren so they can bring them up with old Irish values," Mr. Bladey says. "These families want to cook Irish at home and not just go to festivals. They want to make it their lives."

He bills his classes as "learn to grow your own culture at home," and uses Irish food, live music and storytelling to make his points.

This semester's "Irish Culture" course focuses on Irish saints, whose stories provide insight into the character of the Irish people as well as historical information, Mr. Bladey says.

Saints' days also embody specific Irish customs, such as leaving soda-bread baked in the shape of a cross, with butter and a piece of cloth, on the doorstep for St. Brigid, who is to said to stop by with a red-eared cow and bless the food.

She is a carry-over from a fire patron originating with the Celts, says Mr. Bladey, who studied Celtic archaeology in Germany. It was those studies that led him to Irish culture.

When students begin to savor the taste of the Irish -- from music to food -- they absorb themselves in a slice of culture relevant for our time, the professor says.

"People want programs to help them regain their sense of identity," he says. "This is a good place to start."

To register for one of the Irish Studies courses at Anne Arundel Community College, call (410) 541-2510. For course content information, call (410) 789-7329.

To inquire about the Irish culture class being offered for sixth-graders, check with your local elementary school.

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