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Should the history & process of British Politics be part of our Education System

(71 Posts)
Bridgeit Wed 14-Mar-18 10:37:08

I have often wondered why such an important subject is not a formal part of state education. Is it time that it was? With such diversity in standards of living & education throughout the country surely the least we can do is to make sure all of our schools teach the historical political facts of this country.

M0nica Wed 14-Mar-18 10:52:49

They do not do 'history' as we did. Start with the Normans and work through consecutively, when I was taught this way what you want children to know was inherently part of the syllabus. Now it is just topics, leaping from WW1 to WW2 to 'Vicorians', to Tudors.

DH is a university lecturer in history and archaeology and is regularly appalled by how little history his new students, most with History at GCSE and A level, actually know -as for having any sense of chronology or sense of how attitudes and opinions developed over centuries.............

SpanielNanny Wed 14-Mar-18 10:57:55

History in today’s education system is terrible. My dil frequently jokes about the A she received in GCSE history. They studied three main topics, the history of UK farming, the introduction of the welfare state and medicine. Her knowledge of history mainly come from her father who is a huge history buff.

jura2 Wed 14-Mar-18 11:19:22

Yes, absolutely. Kids to have a few weeks of 'citizenship' ed as part of PSE- but not sufficient at all.

MaizieD Wed 14-Mar-18 11:36:03

As far as I could see, the secondary school I worked at did a chronological gallop through English history (yes, it was Anglo-centric) but history is such a huge and wide ranging topic that I'm not sure that the significance of past events in shaping the way we are today really sank in.

Yes, we did get taught it chronologically back in the day but had I turned up at uni in the late 60s with my modest grade 3 GCE history O level I doubt if MOnica's DH would have been any more impressed with my then scanty historical knowledge than he is with today's students.

As for teaching politics in schools, I wonder how many teachers themselves have enough knowledge of our constitution and political system to be able to teach it to their pupils? This isn't to say that I don't think it's a good idea; I do. But it would be difficult, I think.

(for a long time I really learned all my history from historical novels....grin)

jura2 Wed 14-Mar-18 11:46:13

Surely those teachers who teach history and humanities should be required to have such knowledge !!!

One of the problems in the UK, is that the Curriculum becomes very narrow very quickly. On the Continent (and to some extent in Scotland) - every single student who continues post 14/16 edu HAS TO continue to study all subjects, including history and geography, that will include citizenship/politics (as well as all sciences, maths and 2 foreign languages). The UK 6th Form system is ridiculously and dangerously narrow, with only 2 years in 6th Form instead of 3 on Continent- and only 4 subjects in Year 12 and 3 in Year 13- and currently not even General Studies on top. (I used to be a 6th Form specialist). Moreover, students tend to choose all 4 then 3 subjects in same study area, all sciences, or all design/IT, or history/geog/English - and increasingly all 'soft subjects' like Sociology, Business Ed + 1- instead of classical hist/geog/mod langs... Far too narrow at far too an early age.

Welshwife Wed 14-Mar-18 11:55:57

We started with the Stone Age at the grammar school - and I can remember the teacher saying to us that we would not spend long on that or the Iron Age etc etc but it was just to put it in context. We did quite a lot about the Romans and went on from there.
For the O level we did English and European history from 1832 - 1914 ending with the causes of WW1 - a tremendously interesting period I found - all the reforms and the industrial revolution and the good people who made such a difference to the lives of following generations.
We also did the Parliamentary system and how it came to be and the beginnings of the modern police force etc.
This was in the 50s so WW2 was too current to be studied but we read all the books and notes that DH’s youngest son had when he did do some history of WW2. We learned a lot there as well.
Last Sunday the programme ‘The Big Question’ was about sugar and obesity etc. Not one person mentioned education about food and what we eat. Domestic Science needs to be taught again with the knowledge about calories etc. That came into DSc lessons - I did not do O or A level just did it for 3 years but I had a grasp of it - my friend who did it to A level can still tell you how many calories in things.
Give people the tools to make informed choices.

MaizieD Wed 14-Mar-18 11:56:32

Surely those teachers who teach history and humanities should be required to have such knowledge !!!

You would think so but as most of them have come through our scrappy system themselves what chance will they have had to acquire such knowledge?

I don't know how uni History courses are organised these days but when I did my degree (History/Politics) in the 90s it was a question of choosing topics/periods to study in depth. It would have been perfectly possible to have gained a pure History degree without having studied anything later than, say, Mediaeval history or the Reformation. Not a good grounding for knowledge of modern politics.

MaizieD Wed 14-Mar-18 12:01:19

I think our O level syllabus covered much the same ground as yours, Welshwife except we started a bit earlier with the Industrial and Agrarian revolutions. I found it dreadfully boring - perhaps we just had poor teachers, because it should have been fascinating... ( I do think it is now...)

tiggypiro Wed 14-Mar-18 12:17:59

I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the OP but if I had £50 for everything that someone has said should be taught in school over the years I would feel wealthy indeed.

Welshwife Wed 14-Mar-18 12:35:05

Yes - I do think I was lucky enough to have had a good inspiring woman. When the Suez crisis broke she marched into the lesson the next day, slammed her file on the desk , and announced not to bother opening our books as we were going to discuss Suez and what it would mean to us and how important it was. Must have been about 14 - the boys found her inspiring too and always did their homework on time!

J52 Wed 14-Mar-18 13:29:15

I taught Citizenship as it was compulsory subject in England for about 4/5 years in the early 2000s.
It was a GCSE and the mixed ability classes generally enjoyed the subject and were keen to learn something that affected their lives.
I have no idea why it then became watered down as just part of PSE.

lemongrove Wed 14-Mar-18 13:45:00

Certainly history should be taught well, but with the subject of politics this could be very biased depending on the political leanings of the teacher.

eazybee Wed 14-Mar-18 13:52:51

Yes it should.
I remember spending a term, round about 1960, learning about the political system, through following the current General Election.
The history syllabus/ curriculum is dire and has been for many years.Lack of chronology and a thematic approach means a topic is studied to death for a term then never developed or referred to again.
It is very difficult to understand how things evolve historically if you have no knowledge, let alone understanding, of what went before.

varian Wed 14-Mar-18 13:59:44

If it is possible for a good teacher to teach comparative religion in an unbiased way ( I agree that's a big if) then a professional politics teacher should be able to present different political ideas without imposing their own views.

When we were at school we held debates, and many schools do mock elections where theories can be pitted against each other.

Nowadays I think children should be taught about the media, compare different newspapers , tv and news websites.

The history curriculum should include some chronological overview, and not just British history.

Cold Wed 14-Mar-18 14:00:33

I did O-level British Constitution and A-level Government & Politics (and O and A level History) so it was possible back in the day.

M0nica Wed 14-Mar-18 14:06:41

Way back to the top, I said DH was university lecturer, doh! I meant DS, who is currently a lecturer so dealing with students coming out of school at the moment to study the past.

Mamie Wed 14-Mar-18 14:10:26

This might help people understand the current History curriculum.
history.org.uk/ha-news/news/1715
As you will see History is now taught in chronological order.

I don’t know if anyone else has a grandchild doing GCSE History, but I am pretty impressed by what my GD is doing. She has, for example, a very good command of the Weimar Republic and events leading up to WW2. The teaching in her comprehensive school is outstanding.
As far as politics is concerned, yes it is important, but the problem is that people are always keen to find things to include in the curriculum but never say what should be left out. There is already huge pressure on the children in our schools.
In my opinion the new GCSEs are hugely detailed and challenging (I am a retired teacher and inspector). There is stuff in there that I certainly didn’t do until A level. Do others think differently?

Bridgeit Wed 14-Mar-18 14:25:57

Thanks for sharing this Mamie, this is good news, factual, chronological etc. Just to be sure are you saying all state schools have a duty to adhere to this?

Mamie Wed 14-Mar-18 14:38:52

Yes absolutely. It is the statutory National Curriculum.
The new GCSEs and the 1-9 grades were in place for Maths and English last year and all other subjects this year. GD is doing English Lit this year and nine more next year. Her work load is huge.

Luckygirl Wed 14-Mar-18 14:40:24

Never mind history, they need to know what the current political system is: how parliament works, how local government works, elections, comparative electoral systems etc. etc. How the social services, police etc. work and are financed. I could go on.....and maybe even how to wire a plug!, take out a mortgage, work out how much paint you need for a room - all the things that will be useful to them rather than the nonsense narrow curriculum that the likes of Gove work out on the back of an envelope to hark back to their boyhoods.

Mamie Wed 14-Mar-18 14:44:08

Here are the statutory programmes of study for Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4. (Secondary schools to 16).
www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-citizenship-programmes-of-study

Mamie Wed 14-Mar-18 14:48:25

Crossed post Luckygirl but you will see that much of what you have said is already in there. Personally I think that wiring plugs and other life skills are the responsibility of parents, though Food Tech certainly covers healthy eating.

paddyann Wed 14-Mar-18 14:52:28

Sadly Scottish history was kept on a back burner but we all knew about the Battles of Hastings and Waterloo and the Tudors ....we also learned about WW11 ...all in Primary school.Come secondary we did a bit of Scottish history ,WW1 the Russian Revolution .We did Modern Studies in high school which covered politics and economics as well as recent history so not a bad cover of subjects.Nowadays I believe theres a bit more of our OWN history and a bit less of Henry V111 and Elizabeth of ENGLAND .Thats a good thing ,we should know the roots of our own culture,our own religion including John Knox,our Auld Alliance with France and the sharing of our Queen with them and the FIRST Scottish wars of Independence ,The Bruce and Wallace ...not the Hollywood version but the facts.The Scottish inventions,discoveries and innovations that shaped a modern world ,all things Scots should be immensley proud of

Bridgeit Wed 14-Mar-18 14:52:45

Thanks Mamie for the informative link. My GC are not at this stage yet, but I am relevied to read that future generations will be receiving eduction in these subjects.

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