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David Cameron and History Teaching

John Simkin

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David Cameron has claimed that he wants to make history a compulsory subject because he is concerned about young people's knowledge of the past. It seems he did not get a very good history education at Eton. In this interview yesterday he said that the UK was the "junior partner" under the United States against Germany in 1940.


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There has been concern about the coalition government's plans for History teaching in English schools among those who might have to 'deliver' their version of history:

My link

A more useful History lesson to be learned from 1940 "junior allies" might be "a Fiat CR.42 crashed in a field near Orfordness lighthouse" - there's quite a good picture on Google images: just search for "italian+Orfordness".

Edited by Norman Pratt
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The British Secretary of State for Education, Mr Gove, wants to set the content for the History syllabus in English schools. He denies that he wants to dictate how teachers teach History, but at the same time he has made clear that not enough facts are being taught.

An alleged wish-list of Mr Gove's preferred topics may be found here http://waugh.standard.co.uk/2009/10/michael-goves-history-list.html and may be compared to Simon Jenkins' preferred list in The Guardian yesterday. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/20/michael-gove-stalin-history-politicians

Mr Gove has created a feeling that 'something has to be done' about History teaching. This has implications for all children at school. But the group probably most affected would probably be the 11-14 year-olds who 'drop' History at 14 in order to do a different subject. Mr Gove has made clear that a primary function of History is to encourage patriotism.

At the moment the content of the History taught to 11-14 year olds varies from school to school, but has to come within prescribed limits, and is generally focussed on British (particularly English) History. The fact that different schools appear to give students a different experience of History appears to be one of the things worrying the minister.

So Mr Gove wants there to be 'a big story' - to tie the content of the History syllabus together - and this he believes should be in the form of a narrative. He has recruited Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama - presumably to provide the story which History teachers will then be obliged to teach.

Apart from refusing to take the poisoned chalice - what advice could members of the Forum give to these gentlemen to make an interesting syllabus of, say, 300 teaching hours, over 3 years? Contributions from other countries would be particularly welcome as the arguments 'in-house' seem to be going in circles.

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