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Is it time for Hitler and Henry to make way for Cromwell?

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posted on Jun, 30 2010 @ 11:15 AM
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Secondary school pupils are being taught too much Hitler and not enough about subjects such as the English Civil War, a conference of history teachers has been told.

The claim came in a keynote address to the history section of Prince's Teaching Institute annual conference as ministers prepare for a radical revamp of the curriculum.

Lord Wilson, the former Cabinet Secretary and historian, who made the claim, put forward plans for a more methodical and chronological approach to history. "No one in public life should be in a position of power unless they have some grasp as to why we are where we are," he said. Wilson argued there should be a sharper focus on subjects such as the 1832 Great Reform Act, which paved the way for today's democracy, and the English Civil War (1642-1651). - www.independent.co.uk...


I would have to agree with this article.

I'm 21 years old and I spent all of my school life studying history, right through GCSE's and into A-Level, so I was influenced more than most by the teaching methods of history in schools.

During the first few years of school I was taught about Henry VIII (Divorced beheaded died, Divorced beheaded survived
) and the other periods of British history like the Tudors, Edwardians, Stuarts etc. These lessons were very minimal in their content - merely just remembering names and dates.

Other topics that were skimmed through were events like the sinking of The Titanic, The Great War, the African-American Civil Rights Movement and some very basic ancient history.

When I chose History for GCSE level I was hoping for something more in depth...and I was right....

Nazis.
Nazis.
Nazis.

Don't get me wrong, it was a fascinating topic, but two years of learning nothing but the rise and fall of the Nazis can become tedius.

At A-Level is was pretty much the same. Topics consisted of 'Life in Nazi Germany' and both the Vietnam and Korean war.

It was only the second year of A-Level when I started to learn about issues and events in my own country - in depth. Women's suffrage being one topic and Educational Reform in Britain being the other.

But it's not just what we are taught but also the way we are taught it...


Mr Gove has already indicated that he would like the historian Niall Ferguson to play a key role in reshaping the history curriculum. During a recent address at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, Mr Ferguson lamented an apparent obsession with "Henry VIII, Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King", arguing that we need, "more of a sense of narrative history – of how [these figures] fit in with the rest of history".


I found that when learning a specific topic not enough attention was paid to how this event did or did not effect the narrative of history. It seemed that History teaching was very one dimensional - learn this name, learn this date, learn this fact, learn this figure - without studying how it fitted in with other historical events happening at the same time.

I always assumed (and I could be wrong) that in America history lessons focused very much on American history.

Declaration of Independence.
Founding fathers.
The Constitution.
Revolutionary War.
Civil War.
US Geography (States)...

...and so on.

While I am not a huge fan of nationalism I can see how beneficial it would be to have generation after generation of people who are highly educated in their countries historical background.

Here in the UK you would be hard pressed to find someone who could reel off the names of the last 10 Prime Ministers or pinpoint a specific UK city on the map.

Yes, Great British history is vast and long-spanning but that only means that there is so much more variety we could be teaching in school. I think our history lesson could do with a bit of Americas patriotism.

But there is also a huge importance in learning World History - discovering new cultures and ideologies helps to create more understanding and a allows for a more rounded perspective of the modern world. But herein lies another problem...what to teach? From the article:


Dr Natalie Zacek lectures in Latin American and Carribean history at Manchester University.

It would be good if students knew more about the early modern period – what historians call the great divergence, when the West began taking the lead in technology and imperialism. I still have quite intelligent students coming to university thinking that Africans were a bunch of savages before British colonisation. They should learn more about China and India because they're important players in global politics. We don't equip young people to comprehend our globalised world by teaching that Hitler and Stalin are the only important things to know about.


However, Bettany Hughes has a differing opinion...


Bettany Hughes presents 'The Ancient World' on Channel 4. She is working on a book about Socrates.

We can only understand history if we start at the beginning and work forwards. I have just got back from Siberia, investigating Bronze Age cities decorated with swastikas. I can only understand the power of that symbol because of thousands of years of history. I was recently on the Iraqi border and some dirt-poor children came up to me and gave me the names of Plato and Socrates. I think we'd be hard-pushed to find 10-year-olds doing that in Britain.


It wouldn't be an easy decision but I still believe that a different approach to the teaching of history needs to be taken in the UK - maybe all over the world.


Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it




After all, it doesn't seem to be working.

(All extracts taken from this article)




posted on Jun, 30 2010 @ 11:39 AM
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reply to post by LiveForever8
 

Quite right, people need a sense of history as a continuous narrative, instead of picking up isolated stories here and there. Nearly everything that happens in history is caused by what was happening previously.

I have seen the suggestion that the period between Henry and Hitler has gone out of fashion for political reasons; that one of the things happening over those centuries was the growth of the British empire (in my father's time, school history books could have that as the main organising theme). And since eveybody has decided to agree that the British empire is nasty and wicked, they can't teach people about it.






[edit on 30-6-2010 by DISRAELI]



posted on Jun, 30 2010 @ 11:42 AM
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For my history GCSE all I learnt about was Russia and Vietnam. Sure, those are interesting topics but sometimes I would like to learn about my own countries history. Not to sound ignorant or anything.



posted on Jun, 30 2010 @ 02:26 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Thanks for the reply



Originally posted by DISRAELI
I have seen the suggestion that the period between Henry and Hitler has gone out of fashion for political reasons; that one of the things happening over those centuries was the growth of the British empire (in my father's time, school history books could have that as the main organising theme). And since eveybody has decided to agree that the British empire is nasty and wicked, they can't teach people about it.


Well that just makes no sense; replacing the 'evil wicked British Empire' with the wonderful, delightful Nazi Regime


The thing is, every period of history has it's dark sides, and it's important to present everything - the good, the bad and the ugly.



posted on Jun, 30 2010 @ 02:36 PM
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reply to post by LiveForever8
 

There is another argument in favour of teaching about the empire;
There are so many children in schools today whose ancestors only came to this country because their home country had been brought into the empire.
It would make sense for them to learn how the connection developed in the first place, what it was that took the British to India and the West Indies and what they did when they got there. It would be a way of "including" them in the history.



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