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Rewriting history

(14 Posts)
MiceElf Sun 06-Jan-13 14:12:21

Some months ago I read a fascinating article in History Today

Today I see that the theme has been taken up by a Daily Mail columnist called Peter Hitchens, although he is selective in what he has chosen to use and he also makes points about the National Curriculum being used to project a particular point of view.

I would be interested to read the views of any former or presently practising teachers or nurses on this matter, and if indeed, children have been presented with what seems to be an unhistorical account for reasons which which have little to do with properly evidenced and researched primary sources.

FlicketyB Sun 06-Jan-13 21:00:41

Education will always reflect the values of the society providing it. It is impossible to draw up a totally objective societal valu free curriculum for any subject and the curriculum for history and the past will always reflect how socity interpretes the past or wants to interprete it.

I have a been involved in amateur archaeology for over thirty years and when I did evening classes one of the things we used to discuss is how changes in archaeological events has been interpreted over the years. For roughly the first half of the 20th century changes in culture were always seen in terms of 'invasions'. Culturally 'advanced' cultures invaded and took over from 'less' advanced cultures. Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age etc etc, The new invaded and got rid of the old.

As the Age of the British Empire ended and the Age of European unity came in invasion as the catalyst for change was dropped to be replaced by a belief in cultural change coming in through contacts between different cultures through trade, intermarriage and a smatter of immigrants. There are those who will now almost argue that no Anglo-Saxons ever came to Britain. Just contact between trading partners and some intermarriage.

Peter Hitchin's dismissal of Mary Seacole was rather silly. I am not aware that she has ever been compared with Florence Nightingale. Before Christmas I was looking out for books on her, Florence Nightingale and Grace Darling, all people my 5 year old GD had learnt about at school. None of the books on MS placed her on a level with FN but it is clear that when she returned to England a number of people who knew of her work rallied round to support her and Queen Victoria sent her a letter of commendation so her contribution to the welfare of soldiers in the Crimea was significant.

nanaej Sun 06-Jan-13 21:49:51

One of the things I understand the current government now want to reduce from the history curriculum is the comparison of sources so that students understand that there are different interpretations of one event !

It appears that the new curriculum is to focus less on social history and more on the history of royalty, their dates and acts of parliament but with less focus on the social context.

I read the link and I suspect MS rejected her black roots because of the racism /snobbery that was the norm at the time. She wanted to fit in, be seen as an equal.

eGJ Sun 06-Jan-13 22:21:49

Having lived through the "re-discovery" of Mary Seacole and having witnessed the literature described in the article and the way it was pesented to children at first hand I can see just where Peter Hitchens is coming from. Suddenly Seacole good; Nightingale bad. Overnight our teaching, we were told, had to change. The books that appeared did not use the primary source of Mary Seacole's writing, but a sanitised version to make Black History Month the centre of our teaching year. The revololutionary "Nightingale" wards, the distance between beds, the cleanliness of wards was forgotten. I do hope the newest "new" History curriculum using reliable sources and also tries to give children a chronological view of event.......................World War 2 followed by Queen Victoria, then First world War, then Sixties in my Primary School.................AAAAHHHHH!

vampirequeen Mon 07-Jan-13 09:47:31

Returning to King lists and date lists will make History dry and dusty again. The current system needs changing. As eGJ there should be some sort of sensible chronology. Children need to be engaged and it's impossible for the younger ones to grasp the abstract. They need something to relate to and social history fits this because they can see what their life might have been like.

KS1 should be about recognising now and the past. Just getting a sense of change over time. Toy, clothes, homes, schools, hospitals fit into this. Children need something they can relate to. Florence could be taught in in KS1 as someone who helped to change hospitals from the dirty, chaotic places they were to the clean, calm places they are today. These sort of topics give children the chance to use a lot of hands on resources and learn through play etc.

Chronological history should start in Y3. The Egyptians is always a good topic as the children have reached an age where they can understand that people can be like us but different. Also it's visual....pyramids, gods, hieroglyphics.....lots to grab their interest and imagination.

Over Y4-6 they can move through time but still keep it exciting. There are so many topics to choose from. Greeks, Romans (esp in Britain), Vikings, 1066, Henry VIII (but please don't say he married Anne Boleyn just because of lust. I admit that was part of it but he needed a son and Catherine was beyond child bearing age), the Plague and Fire of London, Victorian Britain (might be development of the railway, factories, lives of children), WWII, Sixties and a good dollop of local history. The list of topics is endless but they need to be child friendly and grab the child. The amount of time to teach a topic is limited. You know you've grabbed a child when they research in their own time and after the topic has finished.

GadaboutGran Mon 07-Jan-13 10:13:52

I do think the baby was thrown out with the bath water when dry learning of facts in history (Capital cities, capes & bays in Geography) was discarded in favour of understanding sources etc. Such facts shouldn't be the point of a subject but they are often useful anchors in learning & can still be part of learning in interesting ways. As a Geographer, I despair that so many younger people haven't a clue where places are because location is a crucial factor in so many things. Even at a 50s Grammar school I never learnt kings & queens but since I acquired a ruler with a list of them on it, I've found the names & dates are helping me make sense of things I read about, or see in plays & exhibitions. Learning them as I go to sleep is also more effective than counting sheep! But I'm almost 66 & do it freely, not 5 & force fed.

annodomini Mon 07-Jan-13 10:19:55

vq, grabbing the children's interest is important. My GS, aged 6, was so taken with the Vikings that he wrote a thank-you to his teacher at the end of the year using runes which he found in a book. Goodness knows what the teacher made of it. I wonder what he'll do with hieroglyphs!

nanaej Mon 07-Jan-13 11:18:02

I agree that chronology is important. I have little knowledge of huge chunks of time ..I liken it to my knowledge of London..i know certain areas through living and working there but have muddled knowledge of how the areas all link up !!

The best history topic I taught was about toilets and bathrooms with a bunch of 6-7 yr olds. They loved the idea of pots under the bed for grown ups! They got really into research and we did a big time line to show how things developed to modern day (well we never got to wet rooms they were not popular when I was teaching this!!) we added kings/queens to the time line too.

We also linked it to some geographical work and looked at places where running water was still not the norm and this linked to personal/social development lessons when we talked about what we needed to be grateful for and what could we do to support people still needing running water etc.

I think it is important that developing countries are not seen only in a deficit light so important to look at the history of other places too and the interaction with Britain. Some people do not like this because it means we have to look at the impact of colonialism through 21st century eyes and it never looks that good! Slavery and the wealth that grew out of it is also a bit of uncomfortable history.. but cannot be ignored.

I think the sanitation of Seacole and demotion of Nightingale was a clumsy attempt to redress an imbalance in the history books. Both women probably made a contribution..Nightingale may have been made more of a saint than she was and the same for Seacole..but there is room for both stories /lives! Think the important thing is they were both women!!

GadaboutGran Wed 09-Jan-13 19:00:09

nanaej - re connecting bits of London: if you & grandkids are in London, I've found a great way to link up different areas is to take them around on the top of buses, getting off one & changing to another without any advance plan - or just walk in any direction. Getting lost is also a good way to understand the relationship of one place to another. I had an out of date map when walking from Canada Water tube & had the most enlightening walk in the wrong direction past heron & other wildlife ending up at the Thames path & turning west into fascinating Rotherhithe.

Grannylin Wed 09-Jan-13 19:48:01

gadabout I've just spent a couple of days in this area.DS is selling his flat and I've been exploring the Thames path, walking around Surrey Quays and getting the Clipper at Greenland Dock into central London different and exciting when you've come up from Devon!!

FlicketyB Wed 09-Jan-13 20:15:25

It always seems to me that the best way to introduce history to younger children is through local history and archaeology. Let children get a sense of time by going backwards; for example when was the school built? what was on the site before the school was built. What sort of community do they live in what is the history of that etc etc. It is immediate, local and ties into something they know. Use archaeology, where they can handle and examine artifacts from previous ages. Most museums and archaeological units have an outreach unit that will visit schools for no charge.

DS is an archaeologist. His interest started with him digging up some broken patterned victorian fireplace tiles in the back garden when he was 3 and asking me what they were and how they got there. A few months later we visited a Roman fort which had a small museum showing items that had been excavated there and DS saw the link between these and what he had found in the back garden and the rest, as they say, is history (sorry, archaeology). DGD, aged 5 has picked up the history bug and is currently fascinated by Victorian schools like the one she goes to and is always dressing up as a victorian girl going to a victorian school.

DS, at primary school, loathed the way history was taught. Victorians this term, Tudors the next, Romans the term after. Even at 8 he wanted to learn history chronologically and couldnt wait to get to secondary school where, in his words, he would be taught history properly.

grannyactivist Wed 09-Jan-13 20:15:45

Grannylin I also love spending a few days in London; but after three days I can't take any more and I'm usually raring to get home to Devon by the fourth. smile

Grannylin Wed 09-Jan-13 21:00:50

I agree ga.I was in the middle of Oxford Street and a wave of nausea came over me!
Also agree with Flick about catching a child's interest with local history.We took an eight year old DS1 to a Sealed Knot re-enactment and he became obsessed with the Civil War and Oliver Cromwell-still issmile

cheelu Wed 09-Jan-13 21:27:59

Your so lucky gs living in Devon, you really are...