History Lessons Need More Than ‘Hitler & Henry’
Posted by Hilary
The teaching of History is a critical part of children’s early experience. As such, this curriculum must be determined by education professionals who can bridge the gap between the stories of the past and the immediate background to our contemporary lives.
The turn of the year is an interesting time to look at History, and that’s just what some reports which came out last few weeks have done.
The Labour MP Gordon Marsden, a former History teacher, argues in a Fabian Society leaflet that the ‘Hitlerisation of History’ has resulted in disconnectivity, a lack of joined-up thinking in regard to our understanding of Britishness and of our European neighbours.
And now the Guardian reports that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has suggested ways in which teachers should cover the Hitler and post-World War II years in early secondary schooling, to support a more balanced view of 20th-century Germany.
Even History has a history
‘Until now,’, says the QCA, ‘an in-depth look at late 20th-century German history has not been a common focus of study …. As a result, there are few commercially produced classroom resources for many aspects of this study…’.
As a very active member in the mid- to late-1980s of the Forum of Academic and Teaching Associations in the Social Sciences (FACTASS) this revelation holds few suprises for me. At that time the (Conservative) Government was intent on removing almost every aspect of social, cultural and contemporary experience from the school curriculum.
One part of this intent was the ‘advice’ that History teaching was to stop at the end of World War II. There was on no account to be mention of the post-war period and the introduction, for instance, of the Welfare State.
The current lack of teaching about contemporary European affairs is probably an unintentional but directly connected result of this directive; for it became a cornerstone of the introduction of the National Curriculum.
Of course there’s more to the content of History and other aspects of the modern curriculum than simply the input of unimaginative and short-sighted people who are antagonistic to parts of modern life. The QCA and Gordon Marsden are quite right to point to the need to turn History around to ensure it’s never again just meaningless lists of names and wars, of whatever era.
But in the end the only way we as citizens can obtain real insights into our modern-day lives is to know the full range of events and circumstances which lead up to the present day. That’s a task beyond any single discipline, historical or otherwise, but a complete and coherent History curriculum is a very good start.
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