Thursday, 19 July 2007

A nation with no history

Pupils are leaving school with a poor understanding of history, Ofsted inspectors warn today.

The watchdog said the crucial subject was seen as irrelevant and marginal in too many schools.

Instead of giving youngsters a chronological overview of history, lessons had been reduced to a random collection of topics.

This meant that pupils' knowledge of key events and historical figures was patchy or non-existent.

Most primary children were taught history by staff who had barely studied the subject themselves since the age of 14, meaning lessons "lacked rigour".

Secondary pupils are so bored by the subject more than two thirds opt out at the earliest opportunity and never study history when they are mature enough to understand it.

Seventy per cent of pupils drop history before GCSE, according to the report, titled 'History in the Balance'. Ofsted's indictment is embarrassing for ministers. They are already trying to play down the decision to remove Winston Churchill from the recommended secondary school curriculum.

Ofsted said the curriculum from infants onwards needs revamping to ensure pupils leave school with a proper sense of "Britain's story".

But inspectors said many teachers were resistant to the idea of teaching Britishness, even though it could help pupils grasp the country's common values as well as appreciate its diverse cultures.

Indeed. Those who have been reading this blog since its early days may recall that in early April I wrote about Baljeet Ghale, the head of the National Union of Teachers, who, for highly spurious reasons, considers teaching "Britishness" to be racist.

Personally, I consider teaching "Britishness", at least as it is perceived by the government, to be a ridiculous idea. Because the government wishes to boil down "Britishness" into a series of broadbrush "values", such as, according to the former education secretary Alan Johnson, "free speech, tolerance, respect for the rule of law". While these are all valuable, they do not come close to encapsulating what it is, particularly, that makes Britain British.

However, I do consider the teaching of history to be highly important, and believe that history - and by this I mean British history - would ideally be a compulsory subject to the age of 16 - like English and Maths - and that at the very least a majority of children should study history to that age. Because one of the key aspects of inculcating a sense of nationhood in our children, is to teach them where they come from. This is teaching Britishness in a true sense, rather than in the anodyne, multicultural, and ultimately meaningless manner envisaged by the pathetic buffoons of the government. Only when the nation's children have a sense that, not only do they happen to be living on a piece of land that has somehow acquired the name of Britain, but that the people of this land have for centuries past been among the leaders of the world in technology, productivity, morality, and cultural achievement, and that they are heir to a great legacy, only then will they begin to develop a sense of truly 'being British'. Until we are able to do that, we will continue to raise generation after generation of children who believe that, as one schoolgirl put it, they "come from nowhere", and who consequently grow up with no awareness of their heritage, no sense of identity, and no national pride.

1 comment:

AgainsTTheWall said...

British history has no interest to the 20% of schoolchildren who are from ethnic minorities and for good reason - blood is thicker than water and their past lies elsewhere. Teaching them what other people's ancestors were up to is only going to exacerbate their sense of difference (I say hooray to that).

History now has to be tailored to make it relevant to the dog's tail and thats why it will become more international in scope and dwell on the wonderful achievements made by Africnas and Asians.