Monday, March 04, 2013

On teaching history

Historians attack Gove.  Oh, hang on - they back Gove.  Actually they seem a little divided on Gove's plan to eliminate the Victorians as a topic by recreating it in 21st century English classrooms.  There's even one veteran journalist who embodies this split - finding something a bit Soviet about all this centralism one day and deciding it's a good thing after all the next.  

There has been some rather predictable commentary about the political disposition of Gove's friends and critics - and pretty much all of it, I think, misses a couple of important points.  One is that it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone to ask: what do any of these people - regardless of their political leanings - actually know about teaching children history?  From the names I'm familiar with on the list, I can't identify a single one who has had any experience of this.

Leading from this is the other question: why then are their opinions being sought?  Anyone who answers, "Because they are 'leading historians'", needs to ask themselves on what planet is David Starkey a 'leading historian'?  The answer is, of course, on planet television - and if that doesn't give people pause for thought, it really should.  Those conservatives who are fond of denouncing a degraded culture might want to ask themselves what kind of culture this is that they are implicitly supporting?  It looks like one that lends rather more weight than can be considered healthy to what are, after all, basically just celebrity endorsements for a centrally-planned curriculum.

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