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History Curriculum and Political Correctness

John Simkin

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Michael Howard told the Welsh Tory conference yesterday that he plans to review the National Curriculum if the Conservatives are elected to office. He plans to appoint Chris Woodhead to take charge of this review. Both Howard and Woodhead have been quick to point out that one of the objectives of this review is to purge the curriculum of “political correctness”. So far it has not been made clear what things they have in mind. In history I assume it means an attack on things like teaching black and women’s history.

On the surface it seems a strange decision. There is little respect for Chris Woodhead in the teaching profession. However, I suspect that Howard is not after the votes of educationalists. Nor is Blair, hence his rejection of the Tomlinson Report.

The harsh reality of Britain in the 21st century is that the political parties are not interested in the voting intentions of educationalists. In fact, Blair and Howard are only interested in shaping their policies to appeal a small minority of people. These are the floating voters in marginal seats. Both parties use “focus groups” that are made up of this category of voters. Overwhelmingly this group believes in the retention of GCSEs and ‘A’ levels (the famous Gold Standard). They also think that Chris Woodhead is a good chap who dislikes teachers and cares passionately about standards. This is the reason the Blair kept him as head of Ofsted for so long. Howard is employing the same tactic. This is a ploy to win the support of voting voters at the expense of what is good for education.

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I have a copy of The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook on my bookshelf, compiled from authentic sources by Henry Beard & Christopher Cerf (Grafton/HarperCollins 1992). It includes terms such as "negative patient outcome" = "death" in hospital management jargon, and "siblinghood of persons" = "brotherhood of man". For "black" substitute "member of the African Diaspora". For "woman" substitute "person of gender".

Yes, these are all authentic terms, taken from the press, and US government documents.

Seriously though, I think John makes a couple of good points.

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