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How should history be taught?

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How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:48 pm

First topic message reminder :

Well, this could have gone in the "Health and Education" section, but given that that section is more health than education, here it is.

I woke up today and read this:
A California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.

What the hell? Okay, rant inbound.

This really peeves me on many levels because, as a former history teacher, I know how hard this subject is to teach. Even when I was in high school during the 90's, the teaching of history was like spreading too little butter over too much bread. There is simply too much history to cover in a two year period. I say "two years" because in the US, American history is covered in a two year course. There were things I had vague notions of and even more things I knew nothing about. For instance, I never knew or understood what Watergate was all about. So I patiently but eagerly awaited the time when we would be taught all about Watergate, our involvement in Vietnam, the Iran hostage crisis, the end of the Cold War, etc. But we never got that far. The 1960's was all about the Civil Rights movement, MLK, racial equality, and the hippy counter-culture. Oh, we were taught about the protests against the Vietnam War, but we were never taught just what the Vietnam War actually was.

And then the school year was over. Done. And I still knew nothing about Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon's presidency ... or Carter's ... or even Reagan's. I can't help but think: If teachers couldn't cover anything beyond the 60's, how are they going to find the time to teach the 70's, the 80's, the 90's, and the first 12 years of the 21st Century? What happens when we hit the year 2100? Will teachers still be teaching up to 1960 and then nothing?

History is a peculiar subject because it never sits still. Every year that passes adds another year's worth of information that will someday need to be taught. Our present will be the next generation's history. In just four more years, students will be entering junior high who have no memory of 9/11. It will be history to them, not a memory. How will teachers ever get to 9/11 if they can't even get to Vietnam before the school year is over? Yet here comes California asking our schools to make room for gays and the disabled when we don't even have room for Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama.

California demands that teachers shoehorn into the curriculum the achievements of gays and the disabled. How? And at what cost? If there isn't enough time to teach the facts of history as they currently stand (never mind 20 years from now), teachers will have to include gays and the disabled as a focus point regardless of whether their particular contributions were truly historically significant. And how will that change how FDR's presidency is taught? Sure, FDR was disabled, but will the lessons focus on Roosevelt the disabled man with polio or will it focus on Roosevelt the president and war leader? Which, historically speaking, is the most important? If we have to focus on Frank Jones, the inventor of the bubblegum wrapper, even for just one class period, simply because Frank Jones was gay, what or who is bumped out of history in exchange? Will Thomas Jefferson then take a back seat to Frank Jones, the gay bubblegum wrapper inventor? And just what, precisely, will kids take away from that lesson? Will Frank Jones be "significant" because of his invention? Or because he was gay? Will FDR be significant because he was a president and war leader? Or because he was disabled?

But it doesn't end there. Now it bans teaching any history that reflects poorly on gays or a particular religion. Really? So here's a sample lesson on 9/11 in the year 2050 (assuming it even gets taught):

Teacher: "On September 11th, 2001, a group of terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed over 2,000 people."
Student: "Why?"
Teacher: "Well, they were bad men."
Student: "Okay, but what actually made them decide to fly planes into the buildings?"
Student 2: "Yeah who were these bad men?"
Teacher: "They were, ah, from Saudi Arabia and, ah, they didn't like America."
Student: "Okay, but why didn't they like America?"
Teacher: "Because, uhm ...
Student 2: "If they were from Saudi Arabia, were they Muslims?"
Teacher: "No! Yes! Well ... sort of. I really can't talk about 9/11's connection with Islamic terrorists, even if that is the root cause of the issue, because that would reflect poorly on Islam. In fact, kids, contrary to what you may have heard, terrorism never actually happened. Don't believe everything you see on the internet. The Saudi men who flew those planes were atheists - because atheism isn't a religion - and they were angry that someone had set up a Nativity Scene in one of the break rooms ..."
Student: "But my grandfather said they were radical Islamic terrorists."
Teacher: "No, they weren't. They were just disgruntled airline workers going bonkers because their pay had been cut. Kids, 9/11 had nothing to do with religion at all. Nothing. And your grandfather is senile. Wait, your grandfather is white, male, straight, and atheist, right? Good, then I can call him "senile" without losing my job."

It's positively nonsense. How in bloody hell can we teach our kids an accurate portrayal of history if we can't teach any event that "reflects poorly" on a particular religion? Does that mean the Inquisition, the Crusades, international terrorism, the Holocaust, the Conquistadors, etc. etc. will disappear from history in this country - or at least in the state of California?

And how can we teach kids a complete version of history if we're constantly bogged down with triviality just to make sure gays, the disabled, and every other subset of American life feels included? The cold, harsh reality is that much of Western history was created by white, straight, non-disabled men. It's that simple. Re-writing history to make other groups more important than they are is merely teaching kids a big, fat lie. I am so glad I got out of the teaching business early because I could never stomach the thought of teaching this trashy version of "history." One may as well substitute a history textbook with transcripts from the effing Oprah Winfrey Show. Yep, this really pisses me off.

And now we're going to have generations of kids with horrendous gaps in their historical knowledge. Yeah, just what we need. And then people wonder why our schools are failing.

Maybe I should have written this in my blog, instead. *shrug*
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astradt1 on Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:53 pm

How about teaching History in a truthful way..........


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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astra on Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:03 pm

Heh Astradt now we hit a dead end

Take Edward the First's sacking of Berwick upon Tweed round about 1200 AD!

The Scottish Chronicler - Blind Harry, a Monk, who was not blind, put the number of Scottish dead at some 18,000 souls

English records say "it was only 6,000!

Modern assumptions assess the figure to be around 12,000 to include Flemish and German merchants and their families! The rulers of these countries were not content as the modern parlance would have it.

How many times have we seen differing numbers of civilians killed in Iraq or Afganistan? the sufferers bump up the figures and the attacker plays them down


How on earth is the incident to be reported accurately, if evidence is played with?

Last edited by astra on Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:18 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:15 pm

History teaches us not to believe everything we read in the papers.

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The problem of content

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:40 pm

Did you know that Nelson was good for you? It is imperative that all young people study him. Michael Gove is very keen on Nelson and only Winston Churchill is more popular. If you study either of these you become (apparently) more proud to be British, more versed in the ways of the British Empire, more conscious of the steely grit of the British people. We have not yet reached the point when it will become compulsory to study individuals but I foresee that day coming.

The State has tried in the past to use the curriculum a weapon of moral reform. The Victorians more or less invented our present Boudicca myth as "one in the eye for the Roman Empire". Check out the boasting on Westminster Bridge next to her statue

"Regions Caesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway".

Perhaps you thought that, is she was anything, she was anti imperialist ( a doubtful proposition anyway!) but not according to the Victorians. Mr Gove would love to use Nelson and Churchill in the same way, as a form of military service for the mind. Even if this was a good idea, which it isn't, it is not possible.

I could, if I was as ideologically partial as Mr Gove and as naive about the power of content to change minds, invent a totally new Churchill.

"Pampered spoilt child pulls strings to go on a jolly war adventure, recording his school boy japes in highly partial newspaper articles. Eases his way into Parliament, changes sides twice, teams up with crooks like David Lloyd George, completely messes up the exchanges rate, breaks strikes and accidently becomes PM after collapse of cowardly appeasers and hangs on long enough to get the superpowers to win the war for him"

This is not the Winston Churchill Mr Gove wants. Who is to decide which version appears in the curriculum? Will he dare to "spell it out" in the new version. coming God knows when? If he does order up "Churchill -war leader" isn't that just propaganda?


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The problem of assessment using the National Curriculum

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:00 pm

There are state inspired levels of assessment in the English key stage 3 History curriculum and they just about work. However, it has taken a great deal of ingenuity on the part of teachers in the country to make it so. There are 8 levels of achievement, each one being an intellectual advance on the other; they have in their core words like “describe” “explain” “analyse” and these make sense (although you do get a lot of umming and erring when you ask around for the meaning of "analysis")

What does the statements in the level descriptors actually mean? There are too many of these to mention, so let’s just stick to one.

“They are beginning to recognise that there are reasons why people in the past acted as they did”

How do you begin to realise something? How much prompting counts as acceptable before it is deemed that the teacher “began to do the realising” What does “recognise” that there are reasons actually mean? Does it mean that you know some reasons and can articulate them? If you say them does it count, or do they have to be written down? Nobody seems to know for sure

I love seventeenth century History and I feel that I am beginning to recognise some reasons why the Puritans mostly sided with Parliament. Do I achieve this level? Well I should hope so, as it is level 2 of the national curriculum and should be achieved by about 9 years old at the latest!

Here is the problem. The Levels descriptors gain their meaning not from what they are describing but what Level they are placed at. This statement will be modified by teachers to fit what a nine year old can do. So, the levels are not advising the teachers, the teachers are giving meaning to the windy words of the level descriptors by using their own experience and skill.

They all work because teachers have reached a rough consensus about their meaning. There is also a rough understanding of how much input needs to be provided, how often a level should be reached, how much of this should be assessed formally and how much formally.

It is rough. Intellectually it is a joke. Teachers to the rescue again!

The apparent success of this rickety and over-rated set of pretend certainties is due to the fact that teachers know what progress in History is. Because teachers know what progress is, we do not really need these levels. As a summative tool they are tolerable, as a formative tool they are next to bloody useless.


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Why do the Right want to make History compulsory for 14-16 year olds?

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:57 pm

There is a move to make History compulsory in the 14-16 curriculum and this needs to be resisted at all costs.
The main reason is the political motivation of those who wish to do it. Most people see voluntary History as a way of allowing students to do something that really interests them instead. It is the mostly conservatives and Conservatives who are pushing for compulsory History 14-16. They are doing it for a number of reasons, all of them spurious. The main one seems to be the further attempt to impose “Our Island Story” on the potential rioters and benefit scroungers in order to turn them into flag waving patriots. This course has not yet been written but will be a whiggish concoction of “the benefits of capitalism and the growth of democracy through good solid British common sense” and young people will hate it.
They will hate it because it will be boring, clearly tendentious and taught by either teachers who love history and loathe what they are doing OR by non specialists who do it badly and then loathe it.
The move to this is also linked to a dissatisfaction with 11-14 History.  Many of the courses do not go much further than 1945 and this is a shame, but this a direct result of the time allocation and the other roles given to school history. The new system will allow students to get to about 1900 by year 9 and then do all the stuff you can mould young minds with in the later years. There is a little bit of irony here, as it was Kenneth Clark who introduced the 20 year rule in one version of the National Curriculum. He was afraid that leftie teachers would teach a warped version of the recent past to inculcate revolution. At one point in my career I taught the Vietnam War but was gagged by the National Curriculum to disclose how it ended.
Despite changing their mind and now seeing teaching History as a way to mould character, the truth is that the Tories were wrong on both accounts. No period of time is any better for propaganda. And if there is one, it would not work- because at the moment our system does put some emphasis on independence of mind.
Teachers can be trusted to develop a system that will tend to produce informed, reflective individuals.However we cannot guarantee  what conclusions students will come to. That’s fair enough, isn’t it? We live in a democracy, don’t we? Doesn’t the National Curriculum deal with that on pages 23-45?

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Teacher quality and recruitment in England 1500-1870

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:17 pm

Teacher Recruitment-a permanent crisis?  1500-1870
Before the sixteenth century reformation in England, the Church dominated
education. The pastoral role of the clergy included the teaching of the young with a  
strong emphasis on moral and spiritual aspects. Any educational ambitions beyond
that were for an elite group of boys, most of whom were destined for the priesthood.
Thus there was never a shortage of those with a moral duty to teach, but they were not
"Teachers" in the way we would consider the concept today. Teaching was merely
one role of the priest, and the reputation of those who did it full time, in hundreds of
church schools round the country, was lower than these part-timers;-it was not seen
as a profession. Sir Thomas Elliot, speaking in 1550, noted that their standing was
much less than lawyers, doctors and writers and that often "the name of schole master
was moche had in contempt"
Some teachers were graduates-like Chaucer's Clerk in the Canterbury Tales, but those
who had a qualification would have a license to teach granted by the church. This
License was a guarantee of morals as much as intelligence. Some individuals would
try to pass this off as a university degree but few were fooled-there seemed to have
been no interest from the universities in producing teachers who were not primarily
priests. However redolent these conditions are of modern teacher recruitment, there
was at least no recruitment crisis or problem with morale. The Church saw to that.
The pillage of the religious institutions in the I550's changed the nature of schooling.
Much religious influence was lost when the monasteries were dissolved and chantries
forbidden, and in exchange the rising Tudor middle class endowed " grammar
schools" to fill the gap, ironically often with the rental income gained from the
cheaply-purchased monastic lands. The great number of schools endowed by the most
zealous Protestant of them all -Edward VI- is testament to both his concern for
education and contempt for "popery". The schools recruited teachers who were scholars
of the second rank on a fee-paying basis but who remained respectable because of
their link with organised religion. Education was an activity for the few, and this
elitism guaranteed some status in society. The curriculum was dominated by Latin
and Greek and, despite its apparent irrelevance to us today, was highly prized and part
of these idea of being a "gentlemen". Learning brought respectability, so there was a
steady stream of teachers even if it was not their first choice profession. In Worcester
(1520) only 20% of those who classed themselves as teachers were full time-many
were waiting for something better
Unlike other professions, teachers did not regulate entry into the workplace, had no
recognised qualification and did not control the fees paid to them. It was a vocation
rather than a profession. However, there was a little problem and status of teacher
may have risen in the puritan dominated early seventeenth century. Already it can be
seen that the supply of teachers depended on factors such as the nature of training and
qualifications, relative salary levels, competing occupations and the status of teachers
and learning in society.
Education was not regarded as an obligation of the state until 1833 when a grant
equal to what was spent on the King's horses was given to two religious societies to
fund schools. Outside these two societies-one Anglican and one Nonconformist
teaching was an unregulated and unrespected business -some hopeless dame schools
run at best as childminding institutions or horrors such as Dickens's creation
"Dotheboys Hall". In these institutions there was nothing that could be called
recruitment because there were no standards of training. Nicholas Nickleby was
recruited from a meeting in a disreputable London Public House.
Low status came from the nature of recruitment. The great majority were apprenticed
as pupil-teachers at 12 or 13 and could be called teachers by 15. The monitorial
system allowed teachers to work with classes of over 100 by using such classroom
assistants. It is hardly surprising that status was low in what was called elementary
education but there was no shortage. Suitability for the profession involved
possessing the correct moral attitude, mastering a large but finite body of knowledge,
and learning practical tips about dealing with children. It was not seen as difficult.
Perhaps this view has not changed so much.
The former Factory Inspector James Kay-Shuttle worth, who had met too many
illiterate teachers in industrial schools, set up the first teacher training institute in
Battersea (1840). His innovation created the first shortage of trained teachers, not
only for the logical reason that you need to have standards to have shortages, but
because he discovered that the more talented pupils were tempted away into more
lucrative occupations. However, as these schools merely trained pupil-teachers it
probably enhanced the status and supply of teachers, although a very small
percentage attended one
In 1858 the General Medical Council was set up and was allowed to control entry into
the profession and the standard of medical qualification was increased. In 1870
competitive examinations were introduced for the Civil Service and standards raised
for admission into the officer class of the British Army. A year earlier, the Newcastle
Commission had rejected the idea of specific teaching qualifications as curtailing the
economic freedom of individuals in the market. This is a perfect example of the
differing attitudes to law and education. This belief in the inferiority of teaching
made recruitment easier but did not enhance status.

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Teacher quality and recruitment 1870-1987

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:28 pm

The political climate turned in favour of education in the last decades of the century.
The economic success of Germany in was attributed to its superior educational
system. After the 1870 Education Act, schooling rapidly became a compulsory and
free and therefore a mass activity. This massive expansion of teacher numbers-similar
to that of the 1960's -was easy to achieve by an increase in pupil-teacher numbers and
a moderate increase in the training colleges. There was no crisis, as there was a
continuing recruitment source, and in any case lack of training was the norm. The
1902 Education Act suggested that 75% of all teachers in elementary schools had no
training beyond that of a pupil-teacher apprenticeship.
Endowed Grammar schools and public schools improved their reputation from a low
base by the end of the nineteenth century. They were saved by the growth of a new
bourgeoisie who wished to ape their betters, the flourishing of the railway system,
and the conspicuous success of Headmasters such as Arnold at Rugby. This system
existed in parallel to the elementary system partly financed by the state. The former
had teachers with university degrees, who enjoyed much more status than the
elementary school teachers. Even the most accomplished elementary school teacher
was not allowed to become an inspector; those jobs seem to have been monopolized
by people with no practical experience of what they were passing judgement on.
By 1900, the National Union of Elementary Teachers (later the NUT) was an
influential trade union/Professional Association, real wages were rising, and the first
teachers were elected to Parliament. Status was rising, but there was a real lack of
well-trained and/or middle class recruits. In 1921 only 1.3% of teachers were
graduates3. However, these low standards ensured a continued supply of people
wishing to do the job, and being accepted.
The twentieth century after world war one is the story of higher status and better
training for teachers A national pay scale and pension scheme was introduced in
1925. The growth of secondary school demanded, and produced, teachers of
specialised subjects. Secondary education also killed off the apprentice pupil-teacher.
Adequate training institutions-mostly colleges running a two-year non degree course
were provided by the LEAs, were established in which 70% of the lecturers were
graduates by 1938. In the same year 7.3% of teachers were graduates of a university
(as opposed to a teacher training college) in a period when Higher Education had not
expanded as much6. Teacher recruitment was improving- but the gap with the "real"
professions was just as great.
Teaching became a respectable middle class occupation in the years after World War
Two. A wide number of opportunities were created by the 1944 Education Act The
educational divide continued with different levels of status for the grammar school
and the secondary modern, both for the pupils and teachers. Real wages rose in the
50's and early 60's but this was a general phenomena, and the was a trend for
teachers' salaries to be eroded in comparison to other non manual occupations.
Despite the tight labour market there was no shortage ,and a reasonable amount of
respect for a service, which had achieved some political and public consensus for its
aims and objectives. The birth-rate was rising and teacher training colleges were
producing better trained individuals . There were still concerns .The Robbins Report
on H.E (1963) commented on the " mad" economics of teacher training-far too many
of the trainees never saw the inside of a classroom, despite he increased government
expenditure. The consequence of the Robbins Report was a vast increase in the
number of H.E. institutions and therefore the number of graduates. This expansion
bears some resemblance to the boom of the 1990's and had similar criticisms made of
it. The Robbins expansion produced more teachers-which was a major difference with
the situation today. Teachers did improve their level of qualification; Hopkins points
out that in the period 1957-1972 the number of teacher training places rose five fold
but the average A level score of entrants actually fell. The " more means worse
argument" is one which was used during the Robbins expansion and is still used in
today's increase in numbers. Its validity will be discussed in section later
It seems that the improved qualifications of new teachers did not keep up with the
general improvement. The NFER7 (1972) reported that only one in twenty new
recruits on to new B.Ed courses had the university entry average of CCC (18 points).
A NUT report of 1969 concluded that only 50% of those in training were committed
to the profession.
In the early 1970's there were complaints from both teacher unions and politicians
(those not in power) that the DES were playing the numbers game and admitting to
the profession some weak individuals. The James Report (1972) came to this
conclusion and suggested that one remedy would be the introduction of a four-year
degree level course that could replace the three-year non-graduate training. The
training colleges were consigned to oblivion quite quickly in the 1970s and the
training was transferred to Polytechnics and Institutes of Education in Universities.
Graduate entry had reached 37% in 1979 and 55% by 19968. However, in this area
teaching recruitment did not keep up with the number of graduates produced, which
doubled during this period. All new teachers after 1992 are hoped to be graduates,
and while this is a good development it may exacerbate the teacher shortage when
there is so much competition for graduates.
Pay has always been an issue in recruitment-declining real wages were a result of a
regular squeeze of public spending in the regular economic crises from 1966
onwards, and teachers suffered with the rest of those on the government payroll. This
is not a new problem-Boyson comments that the earlier period 1938-1964 saw a 10%
reduction in purchasing power relative to manual jobs. The Houghton Committee
introduced significant rises in 1974 as a result of political pressure, recruitment
problems and trade union action . These were once again slowly eroded by lower
increases later, and large increases handed out to other groups by the 1974-1979
Labour Government. The Houghton rise increased the trend towards a graduate
profession-20% in 1970,as did the introduction of the one- year PGCE route, which
became popular in the 1970's.
The middle 70's saw a reduction in the birth rate and an end to the fall in teacher
pupil ratios, which had fuelled earlier expansion. Depression in the economy
stimulated recruitment and stifled the demand for "more teachers". Critics of the
profession have argued that this slogan is the standard union response to any
changes in education.
Shortages appeared again in the 80's, first in London and then in the South -East, as
house prices spiralled out of the reach of the newly qualified teacher. Certain subjects
such as MFL, Science and Mathematics suffered national shortages By the late
1980's it was deteriorating, and another large rise was conceded by the government in
the 1987 Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act, but this time with changes in working
Since this 1987 increase the earlier pattern has continued-real wage gains have been
lost and recruitment is still a problem, and one that seems to be getting worse. Some
of the details will be explored in the next chapter, but one disturbing aspect is the way
in which teacher recruitment dries up in times of economic boom and recovers in
times of depression. There are unflattering conclusions to be drawn about the nature
of the education service and the people attracted to it. It seems that teaching has been
a last resort for many and that this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed the point of this
historical overview is to pinpoint patterns and highlight themes that show the nature
of the problem

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The return of simplification

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:55 pm

Geoffrey is back
I remember a lecture at the University of Cambridge in the late 70s, crowded and expectant and one of the four I attended in three years. It was Professor Geoffrey Elton on Thomas Cromwell. His opening lines still haunt me- “I know the full truth about Thomas Cromwell”  We didn’t respond; there was no room for irony; we were meant to believe, just as we all believed that there was a revolution in Tudor government.
He had an uncompromising view of school history too. His pamphlet on “What Sort of History Should We Teach” was similarly monochrome in its  view- tell the exciting stories and leave the evidence handling methodology until A Level, which of course for most people meant “never”. His work was given to me to read a little later, in 1985, and was meant to be a straw man for me to demolish and compare badly with a Schools History pamphlet which encouraged in depth teaching of history with evidence based methodology to the fore. My memory tells me that it was an apparently endless study of the Ulster plantations. At the time I obliged with the required demolition of the Elton thesis and everybody was happy. In depth, transferable skills were the way forward. The subject hardly mattered. It could be six weeks on the death of JFK or a local (but protracted) study of the mock cathedral at Melbourne, Derbyshire. (Guilty as charged to both counts) Why would we want Professor Elton’s stories?
Clearly I was on the right side of the argument and methodology of history and historiography was very much the way forward in the early 80s. The first version of the National Curriculum was prescriptive on both content and “evidence skills”  So we all had the pet obsessions; primary evidence, secondary evidence; bias; watered down evidence handling skills that Elton would have claimed got in the way of a good story. Some very poor teaching resulted from the first NC- the double page spread of History in constant medium detail overview, followed by the smallish undemanding questions meant to hit levels rather than to lead to understanding and knowledge. It did occur to me that Professor Elton may have a point and that this form of intellectual homeopathy was not very valuable.
The crowded National curriculum did kill off the 6 week study of something or other with its promise of transferable skills; it also went the other way and encouraged superficiality, both in content and methodology.  GCSE obliged by phasing out unseen evidence based papers and replaced them with coursework and then Controlled Assessments  with historical skills arbitrarily
selected and sometimes crushingly abstruse.  As the years progressed, and more and more teachers ignored the parts of the NC that they did not like, a less ambitious curriculum developed which missed out much of the over complications.
Now, in Elton fashion, we are being told by Robert Tombs that the History curriculum is over complicated and the methodology “spurious” (http://www.politeia.co.uk/tombs/lessons-history-freedom-aspiration-and-new-curriculum). Tombs produces an uncontroversial list of subjects to be taught in a new, apparently eltonesque curriculum that tests knowledge and understanding. All of his assessment questions seem to be multiple choice http://www.politeia.co.uk/sites/default/files/files/Robert%20Tombs%20Second%20Appendix%20Final.pdf)
Of which my favourite is
 Mark the following as (a) (b) (c) and (d) on this map of Europe in 1500:
a) The Holy Roman Empire
b) Poland-Lithuania
c) Hungary
d) The Ottoman empire
I think he needed to capitalize the last E there but you get the idea. The document itself lays out a reasonable set of subjects to learn “about” and I would not really object to any of them and the rubric does allow for a reasonable amount of interpretation and debate.
Whether I like it is irrelevant. Some form of simplification is on its way; perhaps with the pretentious over-complication of the subject in the 20s this may be a corrective that we need. Whether this simplification will lead to deskilling is another question; although making the location of the medieval Holy Roman Empire an interesting and useful session on a Friday afternoon will take more skill than I have.
Let’s face it. Elton is back. And I don’t mean Ben Elton.

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Re: How should history be taught?

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