The Use of History in Making Myths

Gove most Indignant

Gove most Indignant

He’s done it again.

This post will first off start by looking at recently proposed changes to the English national curriculum, focussing on the proposed changes to the history to be taught at key stages 1 through until the beginning of key stage 4. For all readers not initiated into the manifest vagaries of British government terminology, this translates into more normal terms to be the history taught from ages 5 through til 14 where the children then would choose which subjects alongside compulsory ones to study. anyway, the proposed changes faced a torrent of criticism and when I look at some of the proposed measures the reader should surely see why these criticisms have been levelled against the curriculum. Charges have been issued that the curriculum is all of the following things:

  • The content is not age-appropriate (in a non porn way);
  • The content was politically motivated;
  • The content was decided by a senior politician instead of educators, a senior politican who has inevitably brought his parties racist, classist, sexist and homophobic biases into the mix no less;
  • there is lack of any history focussing on other parts of the non western world for large parts of children’s education. This pro western bias carries on into other subject areas too, in geography for example Asia and Africa dont officially exist as far as this Goveoid curriculum is concerned until children are 11, a nonsensical proposal considering the fact that the landmasses of those two continents combined makes up 49.9 % of the earth’s landmass and the combined landmass of all the other five continents only just make up a slightly larger amount of the earth’s surface;
  • There is an insistence that the topics are taught in linear order so there is a sense of narrative to the lessons which doesn’t really benefit the very young.
She can't yet comprehend shape it seems ... so why the wonderous Goveoid expects her to comprehend the corn laws I don't know

She can’t yet comprehend shape it seems … so why the Wondrous Goveoid expects her to comprehend the Corn Laws and Democracy I don’t know.

After offering my rebuttal of the proposed ideas, picking up on those I find most ridiculous. I will then  proceed for some more light hearted (in tone if not content) and gentle reading  to offer some things I think should be taught in history lesson in place of the bizarre hymn to Engerland that Grand Lord Goveoid has shat out and christened a curriculum. To begin with I shall look at the few proposed ideas put forth for the curriculum at key stage 1 (ages 5 -7). The overall aim of the curriculum at this point seems very much to be to establish a good grounding point for further study which as a stated aim I can’t really take fault with. However when the stated aim involves trying to teach children who have only just recently begun proper schooling the meaning of abstract notions such as a civilisation or a parliament I do take issue. The best example of a word I don’t believe a 5, 6 or 7 year old is mentally equipped to  comprehend, let alone to understand yet has made it into Von Goveoid’s plans is democracy. I’m bias in saying this I do admit, by the fact I know far too many people in my own locality who wouldn’t be able to explain the meaning of democracy who are are more than five times older than the children learning this notion. The idea that any child is likely to grasp such a complicated notion at such an early age as opposed to picking and/or flicking their nose is nonsensical really. The other laying of fundamental groundwork for a historical education that is proposed which is equally as troublesome is the teaching about the lives of several great Britons such as Brunel, Wilberforce and Newton. This is all very well as these individuals all undoubtedly have had a tremendous impact on many all over the world however their names are tied again to concepts children of this age are highly unlikely to fully understand. It is all very well teaching a child of this age about the role Wilberforce played in the ending of slavery but surely teaching a child who is just a few years older who actually has a functioning understanding of freedom and a lack of it would make much more sense. As for the rest of the curriculum at this stage there isn’t a great deal to pick holes in as there is very little, which I’m inclined to say is appropriate as after all these children would have only just finished pre-schooling. The only thing that makes me doubt my own judgement in this case is knowing the length of the list of things they are required to remember in the next two levels of education which lead me to believe that no actual teacher would ever find it possible to provide enough training to children of such an age to ever make sense of the list of things they will soon be expected to understand.

At key stage two children are expected to begin the actual study of history. And it is at this precise moment that the problem begins. Rather than tailor the content according to local, cultural or religious sensitivities or failing that then to tailor it with widely used markers in education, interest and class ability, wise herr Goveiod has decided that EVERYTHING, seemingly IN IT’S ENTIRETY SHOULD BE TAUGHT. At key stage two (ages 7-11) the curriculum appears to have been substituted simply for a list written by Rain Man of events in British history. The list runs from the stone age beginnings of British people onwards through til the Stuart Period of English history. I’ve not replicated the list here as to complain about it and then reprint it purely for my own ease in attacking it would be somewhat hypocritical. For those interested in seeing the full curriculum click here (pp 166-171 for History section). Anyway, the main point of criticism that I and many others have with this section of the history curriculum is that is so one sided in its portrayal of English History first of all as the only legitimate history of Britain and to carry this too its logical conclusions the only legitimate source of history in the world. To what ends I do now know, but Commandant Goveoid has decided that from prehistory right up until the Stuart period of British History that only British History or British tinged world history is worth knowing about. To quantify my statement above, if we look at the list of potential topics that are to be taught at this level and count how many of the total number make reference to somewhere outside of Britain, of the 38 topics on offer only 5 deal with places outside of Britain. This carries on somewhat into key stage three (ages 11 -14) although a greater level of history that occurred  outside of Britain is included at this stage. On the other hand though the history at this stage too that deals with places outside of the comfy exteriors of  reptilian Goveoid’s nest are again viewed exclusively through a British prism rather than as places worthy of study on their own historical merit.

Anyone taking an in depth look at Overlord Goveoids grand plans will see that ultimately this is a highly political interpretation of British history which only really serves to further already existing myths about English superiority rather than convey something that more accurately represents history. in an attempt to remedy the grand reptilian Goveoid’s errors here are my suggestions for what might make suitably interesting and equally appropriate alternatives for a curriculum in the off chance I am ever consulted:

  1. The Persian Empire would in my opinion make for a highly interesting area of study as opposed to usual Greek dominated accounts of early history. It would offer students the chance to study different forms of government to those used in Greece and assess their viability as a means of governance in an age where democracy is proving to be an increasingly troublesome and unpredictable method of ruling. It would also allow the chance for the dismissal of notions of the Middle East as a hotbed of religious intolerance by demonstrating how the Persian Empire was actually a multi-religious one where peoples lived peacefully together.
  2. The Byzantine Empire might offer a thought provoking alternative view to that given to young children of Rome. The Eastern half of the Roman empire after the split lasted significantly longer and was responsible at one point in its history for recapturing significant portions of the land that the Western Roman Empire had haemorrhaged during its collapse. The Eastern Empire offers a great many lessons to the prospective student such as the importance of tax (the empire was able to hold off defeat for centuries possibly as a result of the way it reorganised the method it used to collect tax), the importance of treaties between nations as a means of stemming decline or aiding periods of growth such as the treaties with the Sassanid empire which allowed the Byzantine empire to focus fighting the Arab Caliphate instead. The Byzantine empire could even serve to teach children about the importance of strong leadership as much of the history of the Byzantine Empire throughout the medieval period is the history of strong leaders guiding the empire through periods of prolonged and healthy growth while weaker leaders conceded defeat after defeat against hordes of enemies they had antagonised.
  3. For an alternative approach to teaching the history of empires in the modern age a suitable alternative to the western dominated accounts that history is usually made up of would be to teach the history of the Belgian Congo to demonstrate ultimately the way in which all empires are predicated on the suffering of one population for the gain of a small minority within another population. It would also work as means to explain to children the unsustainable nature of extractive empires that do no return anything to the system from which they extract. Another thing which this case study would be useful for is to demonstrate the rise of the notion of universal human rights as a direct result of the abuses of colonialism.
  4. The last proposal of mine is a short one. It is to teach about the history of auto-erotic asphyxiation so that any future Tories in our schools can learn early their parties favourite past time and therefore upping the chances that they off themselves before ever stepping onto a podium and stealing some innocents well earned taxes.
Gove most Sad

Gove most Sad.


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