to think History is more than famous white men, the monarchy and wars?

(112 Posts)
kim147 Sun 30-Dec-12 21:22:29

New curriculum - Churchill, Cromwell, Nelson, wars and battles.

Still at least suffragettes get a mention. And slavery. Hope more important developments get a mention. It's not just wars that have shaped us.

IneedAgoldenNickname Sun 30-Dec-12 21:45:50

I saw the same story in the mail today. I wonder how they decide who is worthy of learning about, the people they are taking out of the curriculum are worthy IMO.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 21:48:20

YANBU. This is a bizarre way to teach history and incredibly stupid.

Btw 'returned' ... since when had Churchill gone away? It must have been a very brief absence since I tutored someone doing A Level last year who'd done the GCSE WWII option!

Anonymumous Sun 30-Dec-12 21:49:04

YANBU. It is also about Shouty Men.

OTheYuleManatee Sun 30-Dec-12 21:51:40

More facts, more connected narrative, less 'skills' that are useless without a grounding in facts - I fail to see what's not to like here.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 21:51:44

"History" as a subject in school (to me at least) was less about learning about things that happened (and memorising them for pub quizzes) than it was about learning how to find out about things and how to assess evidence.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 21:53:12

For example I don't need to remember the pieces of writing that we read, but I use every day the ability to look at something that is written down and think:
who wrote this?
who was their intended audience?
what did they hope to achieve by writing it?
what assumptions did they make, and do I agree with them?

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 21:54:52

How can you know what are 'facts' if you never learn how to assess historical documents? I agree with trills.

HollyBerryBush Sun 30-Dec-12 21:56:42

History is subjective, it is written by winners, not losers - look at poor old Richard III, totally dissed over by the Tudors, who must have the medieval equivalent of Max Clifford doing their press releases!

kim147 Sun 30-Dec-12 21:59:52

I just think they should watch Horrible Histories.

Events are fascinating - as are the people behind them. I just think that it's the wars and the Monarchy that get looked at rather than the progress made in social change.

The role of the Church, the development of science understanding, Renaissance, impact of technology. So much to cover. Development of democracy.

mathanxiety Sun 30-Dec-12 22:00:49

Yes of course there's more to it, but children need a framework they can fill out with more subtle evaluation, or with social or economic history or the history of ideas later in their school careers.

The 'connected narrative' approach Gove speaks of makes absolute sense to me (it is about the only thing he has said that makes sense to me I must add). For children to understand history and place trends in context they need to see a general drift and that involves facts and a sense of chronology, a beginning, middle and end (or arrival at modernity if you will).

This is how history was taught in Ireland, and I sometimes have a suspicion from threads here on MN that I know a heck of a lot more about British history than many Brits thanks to the 'beginning with the stone age and working your way forward chronologically' approach.

MsElleTow Sun 30-Dec-12 22:01:17

I wonder how they decide what gets taught and what doesn't?

I presumed Churchill was being taught about, because DS1(18 Yr13) knows so much about him, and History in general, but I have just asked DS2 (16Yr11) and he said they aren't taught about him. I guess DS1 must have read up about him, which fits really because he wants to do Histroy at Uni.

I wish History was a core subject, I think there is so much to be gained from learning about it, and how it influences what we are and how our lives are today.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:03:15

I think the chronological approach suits those whose brains work that way. Other approaches suit others. It should be possible to find a combination that's broad enough to suit everyone, and IMO this isn't it.

mathanxiety Sun 30-Dec-12 22:03:47

You can learn the more advanced skills when you are intellectually ready to do it. Document based teaching is wasted on primary age children. Enough at that phase to know that documentary and other evidence is the way 'history' is compiled.

mathanxiety Sun 30-Dec-12 22:05:02

The chronological approach works well because of the subject, imo.

kim147 Sun 30-Dec-12 22:08:44

I think it's what's covered that's important - but I have learnt a lot more about history since leaving school than at school.

And DS is teaching me a lot more thanks to HH.

The role of the Church seemed to be left out when at school - especially the more controversial aspects of its role.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:11:48

I know what you mean, math, but I think that it should be possible to give a sense of chronology, but not have it be bound to 'stories of famous men'.

I saw a proposal recently saying it'd be helpful to look at, for example, themes that run through history in different countries. That'd be chronological in part, but would also show how Britain has a lot of points of comparison with other countries.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:14:39

FWIW, I am a medievalist and I still have no idea why Henry II's dispute with Becket is terribly significant. I know why Tories and the Telegraph think it is - because it's one of those nice stories, like King Alfred Burning the Cakes, that they learned in the 50s. It has significance, but it would be much more useful to teach about continuities than about small snapshots of 'important people'.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 22:16:52

Many of my historical "facts" come from reading Phillipa Gregory.

Luckily I have the grounding in figuring out what is accepted as true and what's made up for effect.

trapclap Sun 30-Dec-12 22:18:21

The Black Development Agency used to run a summer-school where we live, which gave history from a black perspective is so eurocentric in schools

And I couldn't agree more...history at school was so boring, I learnt nothing...tis not till later I realised how interesting and relevant it is

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:20:15

You should come to Ireland hmm

History =

1. The nasty English subdue us
2. We rebel, and all the rebels (usually led by a priest) are shot/deported/whatever
3-8. Same as 2.
9. The famine
10-15. Same as 2.
16. We ignore WW1
17. Same as 2
18. We get our independence
19. We fight each other
20. We ignore WW2.

The end.

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:23:00

Personally, I think the most important thing is looking at one's own country in relation to all the other countries at the time.

I think our children need to learn about different persectives - how the attitude of the time was to American "indians" and Australian "aborigines" and to slavery and other social disasters.

We can't clean up history and we shouldn't try.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:28:08

I agree! I think that is really important.

(While, you understand, feeling a deep sense of guilt about what my mum's ancestors did to my dad's ...)

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:28:08

I agree that Henry II's implication in the murder of Thomas Beckett is a bit of a non-story, but it does make a nice tale to tell, and keeps people coming to Canterbury.

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:30:08

I also think History is important from the perspective of ordinary people. Its much more interesting to lean about William Davies, a factory worker from London who took part in the D-day landings than it is to learn about Churchill's experience of WW2.

kim147 Sun 30-Dec-12 22:32:59

And I bet a lot of the real Churchill does not get taught. He's a very complex character. WW2 could have been very different.

Will Middle East history be taught? The role of the UK in that.

Delalakis Sun 30-Dec-12 22:33:08

I think this is just Gove trying to appeal to his perception of Daily Mail readers by going back to History teaching as it was 60 years ago. It will bore children into giving up history at the earliest opportunity, and will deprive them of the opportunity of learning decent research and analytical skills, let alone understanding properly how we got to where we are today. But hey, so long as it furthers Gove's political ambitions, what does any of that matter?

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:33:34

Oh, God yes. We should all feel a tad guilty about what our ancestors did.

The thing is, though, that if they hadn't done it we wouldn't exist, because it was the survival of the fittest in those days.

My various family branches changed religion almost every generation in order to survive in Ireland. I'm sure various ancestors did dreadful things.

Vag, I agree that learning about ordinary people is interesting for children. But as they get older they have to be able to put those ordinary people into context, and therefore learn about the wider historical events. And also, it would help if William was a real person, not just a made up name.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 22:34:16

When I go to museums I'm far more interested in everyday paraphernalia than I am in ceremonial vases and paintings.

I want to know what people ate and how they cooked it and what time they got up and where they went to the toilet and what they did all day.

(hence my liking of Jean M Auel's books - they are ridiculous but at least they acknowledge that humans have periods)

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 22:35:16

I don't see why we should feel guilty about what our ancestors did.

We might say "that was a bad thing to do and they should not have done it" but we shouldn't feel guilty, we didn't do it or have anything to do with it, we didn't exist.

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:36:18

I bet they brush Churchill's involvement in Gallipoli under the carpet.

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:37:28

I agree Trills.

I get very cross when Prime Ministers/ Leaders say sorry for things that they had absolutely no control over. They can express regret, or remorse, but it feels like a hollow apology.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:37:35

That's true - all our ancestors probably were a mix of good and bad. Studying it helps people realize we're all connected.

I agree about learning about ordinary people and putting it into context.

The issue with doing 'chronological' history as a list of events that happened to 'great men' is that it doesn't teach you what life was like for ordinary people, so you're not equipped to realize what decisions people could realistically have made back then.

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:38:23

Yes, actually, guilty is the wrong word.

It's hard to teach history without putting it in context though. Especially Irish history, which is so tied up with religion. There is so much "right" and "wrong" and putting people into boxes.

whathasthecatdonenow Sun 30-Dec-12 22:38:33

Meh, History teacher here, only bit we would have to add is the War of the Roses. Being Lancastrian, that wouldn't be a hardship! I think what a lot of people forget is that the maximum time History gets at KS3 is 2 periods a week for 3 years. Some schools that is 1 period for 2 years, or even worse a carousel approach with the other Humanities subjects. It is all a bit of a squeeze, so we can't do justice to it all as we would like. History is a powerful political weapon, so it is no surprise that it exercises politicians quite so much. I'd much rather teach the kids to see through spin than to recite the Kings and Queens of England in order (btw, I can do this myself, even though I was never taught it).

However, History is an incredibly popular option subject at my school and we have well over half of the year opting, in 2014 we will be entering 180 students for GCSE History. Gove likes to tinker because he hates teachers and needs to be seen doing 'something'.

uptheamp Sun 30-Dec-12 22:38:40

new curriculum looks like it will bore the arses of the majority of children.

i'd prefer if our kids could learn recent world history instead, american civil war reasons why china is becoming a global leader, russia's recent history and communism etc.

we need to get children interested in history by getting them excited by things they see around them all the time. The recent shootings in the US, why america has such gun laws etc.

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:39:01

Yes, LRD, Governments saying sorry is just silly hmm.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:39:22

I didn't say that?

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:40:40

I can recite the kings and queens and the dates of their reigns too - its my party piece :D

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:40:49

I was agreeing with you about guilt.

I don't think guilt is always about saying 'yes, I was directly to blame'. It's sometimes about accepting that we've benefitted from something in the past that wasn't fair. Sure, we didn't ask for it, but we got it. So where is the harm in admitting that and saying we're sorry it happened?

InExitCelsisDeo Sun 30-Dec-12 22:42:59

It might seem like a bad thing to us now, but at the time it probably seemed like the right thing. Everything has a context, and the context needs to be appreicaited.

It is interesting to look at Joe Bloggs' experiences of the D Day landings, but WWII could hardly be studied without reference to Churchill surely confused

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:44:15

But WWII never has been studied without ref to Churchill? Has it? If it happened, it was so quick I blinked and missed it.

Daft to say he's being reintroduced when he's been part of the curriculum for so long.

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:46:23

I dont mean that Churchill should be left out, not at all, but he shouldnt be the only focus.

When most of us studied ww1/ww2 at school, most of us would have known someone who had lived during that period, but that may not be true for much longer, so we need to work harder to put a human face onto what has happened.

The same is true for now too. It is much better to learn about the war in Afghanistan by evaluating a source from a soldier who has served there, than David Cameron's opinion on it, or the part he played in it.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 22:46:29

I am sorry that this happened
is different to
I apologise for this


Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:47:16

That's the right way to put it LRD. I'm sure there is a better word than guilty though confused.

We are all the descendants of survivors. And to survive in the past you had to be prepared to do some pretty nasty things. I can't regret the fact that my ancestors might have done some things that kept them alive, when others died.

I can, however, feel regret at what happened to some other people - one of the most horrifying things I ever read was the story of the Spanish conquest in South America, where they wiped out an entire race. But that doesn't even appear in most history books.

I'm going to buy "World History for Dummies" and see what's in it.

whathasthecatdonenow Sun 30-Dec-12 22:47:40

Gove might have a fit if he came to see me teach about Churchill. We explore all of the evidence and reach our own reasoned conclusions in my lessons. They aren't usually positive conclusions. (Well, unless it is period 6 on a Friday and then they just repeatedly say 'Miss, what do you think?' as as way of trying to avoid work).

I also teach my Year 13s that both Phillip of Spain and Elizabeth I thought that God sent the wind that wrecked the Armada. This year they interpreted this as 'God farted and the Armada was defeated'. Hotbed of academic perfection in my classroom.

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:48:03

Actually that is a rubbish comparison.

Its better to learn from a person who has served on the ground that from Mike Jackson for example.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:48:10

I think that's right, trills, but IMO it's graceless to split hairs when you're speaking from a privileged position. And also, I think in some political positions, you are speaking not just for yourself but as the figurehead of a nation.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 22:49:04

maryz, did you see my post? confused

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:50:29

You are right about knowing someone who lived through it Vag.

My parents went in and spoke to ds2's class about ww2. Both my parents were in England during the war, whereas most Irish people don't know much about it.

My mum brought in a tray with rationed food (a week's worth of butter, cheese, meat etc).

The kids simply couldn't believe it. They had been told about rationing, but didn't realise what it meant.

But in another ten years there won't be any first hand memories of WW2, and the holocaust and many other historical things.

Everything will have to be learned through books or online.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 22:50:46

I'm not talking about splitting hairs, I'm talking about saying something that makes sense and means something.

Someone expressing regret can do so from the heart.

Someone apologising for something that they had no control over can't possibly mean it - they either don't understand what they are saying or they are lying or trying to say what sounds best without thinking about the meaning of the words they are saying.

whathasthecatdonenow Sun 30-Dec-12 22:53:46

Vagaceratops it depends what you are trying to find out. Soldiers on the ground can tell you about their experiences, but it you are looking for motives etc then other sources of information might be more useful.

Maryz Sun 30-Dec-12 22:54:04

LRD, I think we are cross-posting all over the place blush. I'm a few posts behind all the time.

My post should have been "yes LRD, I agree with you".

And separate sentence "I think governments saying sorry is silly".

I'm a bit slow tonight.

I could blame the internet. Or not, maybe wine

Vagaceratops Sun 30-Dec-12 22:56:00


I agree with you.

What I am trying to say is that it shouldn't be about one or the other, it should be a mixture of both so that children can learn about experience as well as theory.

whathasthecatdonenow Sun 30-Dec-12 22:58:17

That's the thing, it is already. Gove is tinkering where no tinkering needs to happen.

I'm going to cry into my schemes of work now. The ones I had to change and resource 3 years ago.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 23:03:36

Sorry! Thanks for clarifying maryz.

trills - I take your point, but I think it's not honest either for people to claim they can't apologize for something they have benefitted from.

Trills Sun 30-Dec-12 23:04:30

Maybe we're just disagreeing about what we think "apologise" means.

LRDtheFeministDude Sun 30-Dec-12 23:06:21

Could well be.

Pantomimedam Mon 31-Dec-12 00:14:30

I think it's fine for governments to apologise for the actions of previous governments - the government as an institution carries on, even though the people involved change. I'm not sure anyone holding office in the Australian government today had anything to do with systematically kidnapping the children of Aboriginal Australians but it was the Australian government of the time that was responsible (which may implicate the UK as well). So it makes sense that it is the government that apologized, even if it took decades. Especially as many of the victims, both parents and children, are still alive.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:31:32

I think it's important for history lessons to inform us of how the modern world is.
The development of Islam in the Middle East and beyond.
Empire building and its relevance to today.
The rise of the Far East.
The impact of WW1 and WW2.
The Middle East
The role of religion
Superpowers and conflict
Social changes

So much to cover - how relevant is Henry VII and the Vikings to today - apart from making younger children interested in how things used to be.

Maybe it should focus more on why things are the way they are?

soverylucky Mon 31-Dec-12 09:51:55

The new scheme of work isn't actually that different to what I have been teaching for well over a decade. Luckily our department never switched from chronological to thematic as we knew it would switch back again. They are always changing and tinkering with things!

What is required is the teaching of skills within a chronological framework.

I do think that Gove wants to go back to learning names, dates and dry facts. I think this will make the subject boring. I have lost count of the number of parents who say to me that when they were at school (60's, 70's, 80's) history was so boring - if you had a good memory for dates you were ok. There was very little understanding of the significant and impact of the events they were learning about.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 13:03:14

I think Henry VII and the Vikings are relevant, because if you study them, you learn that we're not a country that's stayed the same for hundreds of years, but we've had influxes of immigration, we've had violent upheavals and coups and civil wars, and we're not really so different from other countries where these things are happening now. I think that's important to learn.

But I agree people need to learn about why things today are how they are. I remember at school making a suggestion about what was going on in Iraq being linked to what Britain did in the Middle East in the past (granted it was 2002 so it was a hot topic), and my otherwise very good history teacher absolutely shot me down and wouldn't let anyone discuss the possibility anyone except the Iraqis were responsible.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 13:10:19

The thing about history is it's all so subjective. Unlike science or geography, history is open to interpretation. Which is what makes it so fascinating. The world we are in today and attitudes are shaped by our past and how different countries perceive historical events.

The role of Britain in the Middle East, why we have the EU, the UN - it's a minefield. Critical analysis and discussion are good tools for children to learn - rather than merely learning the facts and propoganda.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 13:19:50

I think geography is open to interpretation too? I'm only saying that because a mate of mine is doing her masters in it and I'm gathering from her comments that it's a very different subject from what I thought it was based on lessons at school back in the day.

But I totally agree it's fascinating.

mathanxiety Mon 31-Dec-12 13:51:42

It is subjective when a student becomes intellectually capable of making it so. Until then, teaching a chronology gives the basic context that is necessary in order to start asking the important questions when the time is ripe.

I agree the names, dates and dry facts approach is not good, but there can be much more to teaching chronologically and even focusing on British history than those elements.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 13:59:32

That makes sense math.

I've got to say, I remember at primary school we were all quite interested in 'was King John good or bad' early on, which I'd say is a kind of subjectivity.

But I'm not knocking some chronological framework - it's just this proposal sounds very like dry facts, and a peculiar choice of 'famous names' to string them together.

skratta Mon 31-Dec-12 14:05:51

I think, although you should obviously focus on the important people in important events (which are usually men, because of the times then), but you can't understand history unless you understand ordinary life.

For instance, DTDs are currently learning about Native Americans (we're in America). They learnt about important men in important tribes, and important battles, but that shouldn't be all they learn. To understand big things, you have to be able to understand the small things, ordinary life, because ordinary life is what shapes a lot of opinions and shows the differences and similarities. Ordinary life for a soldier in the trenches or whatever, they were ordered around by the men we learn about, but they were the ones who made the difference by fighting in WW1. We have a responsibility to learn about the ordinary people and we need to understand ordinary people from the past so we can get a bit of perspective on history and how things change or are changing.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:08:07

I think that programmes like Horrible Histories are good as they challenge conventional knowledge and get children to think.

History is interesting. Understanding how ordinary people lived is also interesting.

But there's only so many lessons and a lot of history to fill in.

skratta Mon 31-Dec-12 14:08:38

Also, just saying, but it sounds a lot like what my children, when we lived in the UK, were learning. They all learnt about Churchill from an early age and went back to it, and I know my friends' older children learnt about Cromwell, the separation from Rome, and the War of the Roses in Yr8 (I think it was the Norman invasion, Black Death and Thomas Becket in Yr7). It sounds like the stuff they're already taught really.

chris481 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:29:42

I disagree with the view that studying history should be about developing skills. What I want from history is to carry around in my head as comprehensive a narrative as I can fit in.

To use an analogy, learning to read is not a substitute for actually experiencing great books. If you can't read, having a book read to you is a good substitute. If you can read, you don't say it's enough that I could read "Crime and Punishment", so I won't bother actually doing so.

The amount of relevant and interesting history is always effectively infinite, so anyone who isn't in training to be a writer of history should using their history hours for content rather than skills.

I have a fantasy in which history teaching consists of handing over a 1000 page textbook at the start and giving access to computerised adaptive testing so people can test and retest their mastery of the material until they meet their target standard.

Vagaceratops Mon 31-Dec-12 14:38:27

I have a fantasy in which history teaching consists of handing over a 1000 page textbook at the start and giving access to computerised adaptive testing so people can test and retest their mastery of the material until they meet their target standard.

That sounds like a barrel of laughs!

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:41:05

<thinks chris481 is actually Michael Gove>

whathasthecatdonenow Mon 31-Dec-12 14:41:44

Well, I'd have a lot more spare time!

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:42:02

'mastery of the material' - what do you mean? Was that just an old-fashioned way of saying 'until they've learned it by rote'?

Why would you do that in a history lesson, when it has nothing to do with history?

TandB Mon 31-Dec-12 15:11:22

I wish I'd had a better old-fashioned history education. I got as far as the tudors at one school, left and went to another school and went back several hundred years, got as far as the Tudors again, and then gave up history at GCSE level.

I have been researching family history for years and actually write for a family history magazine, but I always have to check key dates that I really should know. I don't have an instinctive understanding of what was going on at any given time. For example, it took me ages to work out that some weird comings and goings in 17th century ancestors was due to the civil war!

Itsjustmeanon Mon 31-Dec-12 15:15:14


Lueji Mon 31-Dec-12 15:21:39

It's never as simple as teaching maths.

Young children will be better at memorising dates and events, then begin to try to understand the reasons behind them.

And there's only so much that can be covered.

I have learnt a lot about history from different perspectives since leaving school. And I do biology.
So I still feel that there's still a lot for me to learn.

And by trying to cover all aspects of History it can only be covered superficially.

I mean, the same happens to Biology, for example, as other subjects.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 15:25:02

Is that true? Some children find rote learning very hard, others don't. I'd think it'd depend on the child.

(But then I don't believe teaching maths is simple either so I may be way out. I'm not a teacher and it all seems pretty complicated to me!)

Avuncular Mon 31-Dec-12 15:52:13

Maybe they should include 'Chemical warfare - who started it?' or 'Opium - the involvement of the British'. That would develop inquiring minds pretty quickly.

The sooner a youngster can learn competently to find and follow their own lines of enquiry the better.

Anyway I heard that Churchill was a dunce at school.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 15:58:26

Yes - the Opium wars in China and what we did then.

Alisvolatpropiis Mon 31-Dec-12 16:04:31

LRD it happened at my school.

Studied WWII for four years straight from year 10 to year 13. Didn't even cover Britain in it at all. We learnt a lot about the Nazis though. In depth personal detail even.

British history wasn't really covered at all,except for briefly learning about the medieval period in year 7. I recall studying the crusades related to that and it was very even handed,given we would have been 11/12. No glorifying what we had done or any such nonesense.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 16:07:02

Oh, no, sorry, I meant, is it true what lueji said in the post immediately before mine. Especially 'Young children will be better at memorising dates and events, then begin to try to understand the reasons behind them.'

I don't think this is true of all children. I think some may be good at memorizing dates/events but others will not.

Of course I don't think a bunch of 8-year-olds are going to have as sophisticated a grasp of why things happen as teenagers, but they can still be interested in it and think about it, surely?

Alisvolatpropiis Mon 31-Dec-12 16:08:55

Oops! No it's me LRD

I was answering your question about whether schools really did not teach anything about Churchill with regard to WWII. Didn't realise the thread actually had a couple more pages before I typed my post blush

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 16:09:40


Bear of little brain here.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Mon 31-Dec-12 16:32:36

I think a chronological framework is a good thing as a background. That doesn't mean memorising a whole bunch of dates, or focusing on the doings of a handful of Great White Men. I think it should mean just having an idea, say, that in Britain there were Beaker Folk, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Viking invasions, Normans; conflicts between monarchs and barons/peasants/parliamentarians; upheaval in the church; wars with Spain and France; empire building; social changes; world wars.

It doesn't matter whether you can reel off the dates of the Peasants' Revolt, the Act of Supremacy or the Factory Acts. But it helps to be able to have a sense of the order in which those events occurred, and a sense of the context around them.

I fully see that can only be a broadbrush approach, because (as pp have pointed out) there simply isn't time/space in the curriculum to go in to everything in detail.

But if we can present that kind of broad background, and then (for GCSE, say) concentrate on a particular era(s) or theme(s) within it, that seems to me the way to go. Or am I missing something here?

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 16:37:29

I think the issue with a 'chronological framework' is that it very quickly becomes out of date, and doesn't tally with what historians think any more.

That is fine if you've already learned that history is subjective and about interpretation, but if you start off with the chronological framework, you give people the idea that the order - and the content - you've taught are immutable.

So, for example, we used to think beaker ware travelled over Europe in a particular order, but now we know from carbon dating it didn't happen the way that was thought. That's fine, obviously, but problematic if children are taught chronology as the framework without picking up that there is a fair bit of interpretation, even to chronology.

(I accept it should be possible to do both, btw.)

Procrastinating Mon 31-Dec-12 16:41:09

I teach a chronological history course at university level and it works very well. Once you have an idea of the sequence of events and how they fit together you can start looking at things from below (the ordinary people) and teaching skills in how to be critical and question everything.

My older students (50+) only seem to be equipped with the names and dates idea of history but I don't know if that is worse than all the Hitler I got at school.

whathasthecatdonenow Mon 31-Dec-12 17:01:30

It is very much change for the sake of change, though. Chronology is a key skill in the attainment levels and we do teach in a broadly chronological fashion. The only units I teach that jump about a fair bit are Disaster and Crisis and Rights and Freedoms. However, within these I teach in chronological order and putting these topics in context often means looking back to prior learning.

The biggest problem I have in History teaching is fending off the other departments who have realised how fantastic History is and keep trying to nick our topics to enrich their own teaching.

OTheYuleManatee Mon 31-Dec-12 17:04:46

you give people the idea that the order - and the content - you've taught are immutable.

Totally agree with you that it's vital to be able to apply some critical thought to what does or doesn't get included in the Official History Narrative. But while I agree that the content and inflection of an historical narrative is mutable to an extent, in what sense is this true of the order of events?

Is there some sense in which, say, the Battle of Britain could be said to have happened before the Norman Conquest? Or the execution of Charles I taken place before Henry VIII was born?


LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 17:09:30


Obviously not. But the beaker ware example is properly flexible - people genuinely got the order wrong because they didn't have carbon dating. Obviously the closer to modern times you are, the less likely that is to happen in such a crude way.

But, for example, you get people who think that before the Norman Conquest, no-one in England spoke Norman French, or that after printing, all books were printed. There was someone who once told me kindly that it wasn't possible to study books in medieval times because before printing presses, nothing was written down.

Those are problems I think you get when people learn chronology too early and in too rigid a way - they don't get to learn there's also a lot of continuity, and overlap, and that most events don't fit neatly as points on a timeline marking a distinct 'before' and 'after'.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Mon 31-Dec-12 17:12:44

LRD grin, that's a very specific point about beakerware! Perhaps I shouldn't have thrown the Beaker Folk in to the mix (as it were). I was really thinking about your point earlier that these islands have experienced waves of 'invaders'/settlers over thousands of years.

I don't think that a chronological framework does go out of date, if you think of it in terms of a broadbrush background. Especially over the last 2000 years. E.g. we can argue that Roman influence in Britain obviously didn't end in 420 CE (or whatever the date of withdrawal of Roman garrisons was), or we might suggest that Viking influence in Britain pre-dates 793 CE (was that the date of first invasion?), but, generally speaking, I think we'd agree that, overall, Roman influence in Britain pre-dates Viking influence.

My thinking is just that a broadly chronological framework is something on which to pin more detailed study.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 17:15:12

Sorry, I didn't mean to come across nit-picking. blush

I think if you teach historical background as 'broadbrush', yes, it probably does work. But if you teach it as learning dates and big events, I'm not sure it does. And my worry with what's being suggested is that it looks to me like the 'memorizing dates and big events' approach. I think that does date pretty fast.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Mon 31-Dec-12 17:17:50

<arf> at Manatee.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Mon 31-Dec-12 17:24:19

Don't get me wrong; have seen several of your posts before re: historical points and have always admired the fact you seem so in love with (and so much on top of) your subject. But I think here we are talking about a basic framework for history in schools - primary schools, even.

Totally agree about this not coming down to memorising a string of dates or just admiring Great White Men Who Did Big Things (think I did say this before).

Also agree with you about Normans (and the feudal system too, maybe), and about printing - but will keep that for another thread, perhaps.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 17:27:18

Thanks - and I'm not a proper historian so I don't really know what I'm talking about.

I guess I just have a bad sense that what Gove really wants is for primary school children to chant the dates of big battles and the names of famous men. I could be being unfair.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 17:31:26

LRD - I think you're right. Rote date learning and key men.

History is more interesting than that.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Mon 31-Dec-12 18:05:49

History is more interesting than that.

Absolutely agree with this - with the worry about this turning in to just rote learning dates of battles and the names of famous men.

Btw, you know the famous Henry Ford quote, 'History is bunk'? I read once that he elaborated on that to say (paraphrase) he was interested in history in the sense of being interested in finding out what ordinary people did in days gone by. But when he tried to find out more, he discovered that the study of history didn't provide that - it just provided the dates and doings of kings and queens and so on. So from that he concluded that the study of history is 'bunk'. Wonder if that's true? (Haven't Googled.)

riskit4abiskit Mon 31-Dec-12 18:33:29

We have 1hr a week history at ks3 and do a chronological approach y7 and 8, galloping through Romans to end of WW2. In y9 we do themes, e.g significant developments in medicine through time.
Popular with the kids, but very rushed.
Every tom Dick and harry has an opinion.about what should be included, without really realising that our time is so limited, there's only so much we can get through. Also kids are much more interested in everyday life in the past, rather than key figures. Evacuation vs. Churchill, evacuation wins every time.

I also think it is much more of a higher order skill to evaluate the significance of individuals, a level, than just gain an understanding of events, which is lower school.

PolterGoose Mon 31-Dec-12 20:06:56

This debate always brings to mind the African proverb:

"Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter"

Working class, feminist and black historians (and others I'm sure) have fought so hard to challenge the 'traditional' Great White Men history, it feels like a terrible shame to return to that sad

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 20:41:48


Or as the Wife of Bath says, you've got to ask 'who painted the lion', because you can be sure it wasn't the lion himself!

Avuncular Mon 31-Dec-12 23:35:27

BTW who was Jimmy Savile? Suddenly seems to have vanished from the history books. Circa 2012 I believe.

cumfy Mon 31-Dec-12 23:48:00
mathanxiety Tue 01-Jan-13 00:06:56

To me, having been educated in a system where the chronological approach meant learning about the stone age when just starting out at about age 7 and progressing chronologically through to about 1940 by age 12, I can't understand how anyone could possibly get a grasp of the essential narrative if doing the Civil War in Yr 7 and WW2 in Yr 8 (for instance) -- this sort of thing:
I know my friends' older children learnt about Cromwell, the separation from Rome, and the War of the Roses in Yr8 (I think it was the Norman invasion, Black Death and Thomas Becket in Yr7).

ivykaty44 Tue 01-Jan-13 00:27:08

I would like to see local history included, how parishes worked and tithe, courts and coroners, and taxation as all of these things have reference to how the country works today and why we do things the way we do.

HairTodayShornTomorrow Tue 01-Jan-13 01:13:27

Agree with Procrastinating and riskit in terms of chronological teaching and having time to fit all that teaching in.

Also think that ivy and PolterGoose make good points.

I'm one of Procrastinating's 50+s, and I do try not to be hung up on dates as such, but (as I said before) I do like having some overall sense of the order/context of events. Generally, I feel that my primary and secondary schools' teaching of history had a reasonable stab at providing a gallop through 'Britain through the ages', but did poorly at giving us a sense of comparative history. By which I mean we ended with an overview of Romans in Britain --> Tudors and Stuarts --> Britain 's role in 20th century World Wars, etc., but almost no knowledge of what was happening in the rest of the world at the same time.

So I appreciate those timelines you see in children's history books today that tell you things like (for example), the mid 1300s mean not just the Black Death in Europe, but also the Ming dynasty taking control of China from the Mongols and the rise of the Vijayangar empire in south India.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 01-Jan-13 10:29:04

math - I can only speak for my experience, but I think you learn to understand non-chronological narrative very much the same way you learn to understand all the other juxtapositions. Sometimes it's the most important thing to know what happened before and after what you're studying. Other times, as hair says, you really need a grasp of the big world picture.

There's an exhibit at York Minster at the moment, which I thought was brilliant, which has three juxtaposed timelines - one shows the history of the minster itself, one the history of England and then Britain at the same time, and the third refers to wider events in the world, like the building of the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China.

I never got to do anything like that at school because 'chronology' effectively meant 'England, then after 1603, Britain' (as a person with a Welsh mum you can imagine what I thought to that! And it never meant Ireland, either!).

The problem is, chronological approaches tend to pretend to be comprehensive, but they never can be. There will always be something else that needs to be taken into account. It's true of any teaching approach (IMO) that there will always be something else that needs taking into account - but that's why it's better to use an approach that doesn't make claims to being comprehensive, or a 'basis' for the subject.

Avuncular Tue 01-Jan-13 15:11:23

We were in a 'science and technology' stream in the 1960s and AS A CLASS we rebelled and actually went on strike against having to study history at all.

The history teacher wasn't really that bad.

We weren't punished - the HT - an OBE-recognised Scottish educationist -arrived in short order and gave us a lecture I have never forgotten.

He stressed that (paraphrasing) when learning History you are learning information collection, analysis, assessment and management skills which are applicable to any field of work (or play?). [Geography is similar]

So if I were designing a History syllabus, this would be my starting point, and then I would think 'what would be the most appropriate topics for MY cohort of pupils to learn now to help them to understand their place in current society and the world, and to enthuse them for further study later in life?'

I later graduated in Public Health Engineering and an early real-time application was to produce an urgent national assessment of the amount of underground 'dereliction' of water and sewer services.

Double decker bus size holes were regularly appearing suddenly in old industrial city centre streets and there was a huge industrial lobby for Government to spend eye-watering sums to sort things out in the 70s-80s.

Our first port of call was historical records of population growth, of Cholera in the 1800s, and the London 'Great Stink' which closed the Houses of Parliament.

Historical moral:
If you want something done, create a 'great stink' which affects Westminster!

marjproops Tue 01-Jan-13 16:47:55

IM A SHOUTY MUM !!! and I say.......


I've learnt EVERYTHING I need to know from there and Im now in my element teaching DC.

Hated history and its boring (mostly) facts. HH tells it like it is (or Was!!)

and with humour and songs that children and adults learn quickly!!

And they cover everone and everything.

marjproops Tue 01-Jan-13 16:56:12

Ha! Just found you earlier Kim147!!!

Get the HH fans on here!! seriously.

kim147 Tue 01-Jan-13 16:58:30

I've definitely learnt loads from HH. Looking forward to new series.

Pantomimedam Tue 01-Jan-13 17:56:42

Horrible Histories is fab and almost always accurate although clearly it's not its job to give full context and understanding... love the explanation of the causes of WW1, though, one of the best I've seen. grin

I don't think you really get a full explanation of the protestant revolution from learning that Martin Luther liked to have meetings sitting on the bog, though. It's probably the bog stuff that you remember, not the full causes and ramifications...

kim147 Tue 01-Jan-13 17:59:24

HH taught me the basics about the development of the USA - all from that John Snow type presenter - Bob Hale

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