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Thursday, 22 September 2011

School History: A reflection

Since I posted my last somewhat exasperated comments I thought a bit more about this.  I'm not saying that there is no purpose to straight factual, chronological knowledge about the past - what I called Pub Quiz General Knowledge.  Surely it does enrich one's life to be able to look at one's surroundings and know that that church is older than the manor house, which is older than the factory.  or to have some idea about the periods in which they are built.  And if - as it surely is - education is to some extent about enhancing one's cultural awareness, then there is important value in that.  I suppose what I am wondering is a: whether this sort of thing ought to be compulsory; b: whether it needs to be examined; and c: the extent to which damage is done by trying to weave this sort of thing into some sort of 'Our Island Story' narrative.  I think that this basic 'cultural awareness' sense of history is more than slightly sullied by its insertion into some nationally-determined, compulsory curriculum.

When it comes to what I think history REALLY is, when we get beyond knowing who came first out of the Romans or the Vikings, we don't need any of this.  The real, socially and culturally valuable skills of History proper can be taught regardless of the place or period under study - they are all equally 'relevant' if one has a more sophisticated understanding of what relevance might mean.