The importance of teaching the ‘real history’ of Britain
While Cranmer is wholly supportive of this headmaster, he is a little puzzled by the inference of a pedagogical revelation, and also by the suggestion that this constitutes a minor revolution in private education, for private schools have never been bound by the limitations of the National Curriculum, and have never therefore been obliged to conform to any ‘PC syllabus’.
Headmaster Richard Cairns said children ‘loved being told historical stories’ but the ‘official curriculum had reduced traditional subjects to a collection of “bite-sized” topics and skills’. Again, the ‘official curriculum’ is denigrated, while a very great deal would be down to individual teachers. ‘Bite-sized’ teachers tend to deliver ‘bite-sized’ lessons, and it is poor teaching, not the ‘official curriculum’, which is to blame for the fact that ‘around a quarter of children believed Winston Churchill was a fictional character and many more were unable to place countries such as Afghanistan on a map’.
And so Mr Cairns’ new curriculum is called ‘From Nero to Ground Zero’, and intends to cover ‘the broad sweep of history from zero AD to the 21st century over six lessons a week’. We are told: ‘Geography and RE would be introduced for example through studying volcanoes while covering Pompeii or Jewish immigration to Britain in the 19th century’.
How can teaching on volcanoes have ever been ‘PC’? Is the flow of lava subject to gender? Was Vesuvius portrayed as a judgement on the homosexual orgies of Pompeii? In geography, Cranmer is more concerned with the brainwashing of the nation’s children against capitalism, the reams of free ‘information’ being poured into the nation’s schools by the EU with an unquestioning adherence to the CAP, the warped perspectives of ‘child exploitation’ in the third world, and the exaltation of the green agenda with the ‘truth’ of global warming. Geography teachers tend to be pathological Europhiliac, U.N.-supporting Socialists, and any questioning of their learning is met with derision.
Cranmer agrees with Mr Cairns when he observes that too many children ‘have no sense of their history, no sense of their past and no sense of the historical landscape that surrounds them every day’. He observes: ‘We go to great lengths in England quite rightly to understand the culture of others who have come to England but don't provide as much time as we should for children to understand our own culture. We should stop being ashamed of being British. We very hesitant about talking about the past because obviously in the past in every society people did things we would not do today. Slavery existed - that was wrong. But Britain had an important role in the development of the world for good or ill.’
And is music to the ears that he has the support of the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Michael Gove MP, who suggests ‘trendy 1960s and 1970s teaching theories were still prevalent in schools and even gaining ground in subjects such as history and science’.
He observes that too much teaching was ‘child centred’ and failed to pass on to pupils core bodies of knowledge. Children are ‘instead being encouraged to master "skills" and empathise with historical characters’. He states: “Part of the problem with the way the history curriculum has developed is that it doesn't give people a proper understanding of how this country has developed. The history curriculum doesn't give people the opportunity to take pride in this country's story. I don't think there has been such an emphasis on narrative and causality because there has been too much emphasis on empathy and skills."
And all of this Mr Gove attributes to ‘progressive educational theories’ which have ‘damaged the prospects of generations’. And yet these are ‘still in favour across much of the so-called "educational establishment".’
And his remedy is that ‘children needed to be taught knowledge as well as skills so they could "truly become masters of the best that's been thought, spoken and written".’
And it is this ‘knowledge’ which will present problems, for there are so few teachers familiar with the notion of epistemological tensions that they genuinely believe that their opinion is fact, and they are blindly content to dispense the perspectives of one textbook (or the degree they earned 20 years ago) as if it were revealed scripture. And when one reads accounts of the conferences of the National Union of Teachers, it is certain that something needs to be done, for it is indeed the ‘educational establishment’ that will hold back much-needed reform in education.
Is there just a hint in Mr Gove’s analysis that he is considering abolishing the National Curriculum, and that he intends to take on the National Union of Teachers in the same fashion as Margaret Thatcher took on the National Union of Mineworkers?
One lives in hope, and that hope certainly keeps one joyful (Rom 12:12).
And Cranmer wishes all his readers and communicants richest blessings on this glorious Whitsun (the significance of which is also no longer taught in the nation's schools, though all children will doubtless be familiar with Eid and Diwali).