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Is history just a load of old words?

(29 Posts)
learnandsay Wed 17-Apr-13 14:15:18

Does it matter if they learn about an exploding William the Conqueror's corpse, or Charles II the Party Prince or Edward II getting unregal things shoved in unregal places? ala Horrible Histories

Isn't the point that they get told the story. It doesn't really matter how long the story is, how fast paced or undetailed it is or what's in it particularly. The point is that they hear it and enjoy hearing it. (It's all a bunch of lies and half truths anyway.)

History is a set of lies agreed upon. Napoleon Bonaparte
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Karl Marx

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. Winston Churchill

FriendlyLadybird Wed 17-Apr-13 14:44:36

I suspect that you are being deliberately provocative!

There are lots of stories in history but it is not about stories. The study of history aims to get behind the lies and half-truths.

However, a good way to get young children interested in history is by telling them the stories. And Horrible Histories does that very well indeed.

treas Wed 17-Apr-13 15:06:45

As the children progress through school you'll find that they will study historical evidence and evaluate whether it is reliable or not

LindyHemming Wed 17-Apr-13 18:15:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RustyBear Wed 17-Apr-13 18:18:23

"As the children progress through school you'll find that they will study historical evidence and evaluate whether it is reliable or not"

Not if Gove gets his way, treas!

Mondrian Wed 17-Apr-13 18:43:10

Socrates declared "the unexamined life is not worth living" hence setting a trend in examining life - Hegel and Marx advocated historical self-consciousness, Freud introduced psychological self-consciousness, Darwin genetic self-consciousness ..... What and who we are is a consequence of history.

learnandsay Wed 17-Apr-13 23:28:32

Socrates was talking about morality, not history. Hegel was concerned with recurrence. (I think Marx was simply concerned with Hegel.) About Freud and Darwin I don't know, but as far as very young children are concerned they're still all only talking about stories. It seems to me that the famous adults are worried about whether or not we're paying attention to those stories. I think all of the mentioned scholars would admit to interpretation. But it's whether or not we're paying attention in the first place that it seems to me that they're worried about. If I'm right about that then Horrible Histories is on the money. (It doesn't much matter what the story consists of as long as you tell it.)

PastSellByDate Thu 18-Apr-13 02:00:08

Like any subject I suspect history teaching in primary school benefits from a good and imaginative teacher.

It's about the origins of the community you live in

Your communities' role in various periods of British (Welsh/ Scottish/ English/ Northern Irish) or world history

It's about understanding the divisions in communities/ religions

It's about understanding why parts of the town/city have the names they do - or even the origins of the name of your town/ city

It's about connections beyond your town/ city elsewhere in Britian and beyond

(If you live in York - do you wonder how New York came into being? - it's all related to the spice nutmeg you know!).

It can also be about appreciating and celebrating rich histories of other regions of the world (as part of teaching in languages/ literature/ science/ mathematics/ music/ etc....)

History isn't just rattling off the names of Henry VIII's six wives and memorising divorced - beheaded - died/ divorced - beheaded - survived.

At primary level something fun like 'horrible histories' isn't belittling or dumming down - it's capturing imagination. Many of us enjoy the gruesume details and gossip and if told in an entertaining way, it somehow is more memorable. To be fair to them - a lot of what they present is well researched. History isn't straightforward and may best be thought of as an onion (I'll come back to this later) - you start off knowing gross details (x happened when) and they you may find out more about the individuals involved, the reasons which lead to the event or the repurcusions of the event.

History includes 'story' and really we all have to recognise that it probably is written by the 'winners' or the 'educated elite', but that University level research (worldwide), historical societies and things like archaeology are all working to make history as much about ordinary people as the proverbial great men.

How many children are excited by and enjoy bonfire night (even go to schools where they put on a bonfire, food & fireworks) but their school's fail to explain the story behind it all?

For me as well, it also is about teaching my DDs that many of the things they enjoy as rights now (education, the right to vote at 18, the right to go the University, etc...) weren't always the case in the past. It's about explaining that GCSE's are there because in the not so distant past the majority of children didn't go on to University. It's about explaining why peopel where poppies in November or at 11 a.m. on the 11th of November people stop in the supermarket for a minute.

Our words

Our food

Our place in Britain

Our place in the world

all owe much to decisions/ actions in the past.

Christmas dinner to many people includes turkey, Brussel sprouts, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce.

Tureky/ Cranberries - US foodstuffs introduced post 1492
Brussel Sprouts - as the name implies introduced from Belgium ?16th cent

Chestnuts -possibly introduced by the Romans (certainly walnuts were introduced by the Romans).

History is all around us - whether we chose to recognise that and celebrate it is of course an individual decision.

As an example of history/ language have a look at these fabulous videos from TEDEd about:

Making sense of spelling/ history of words explains spellings - in this case onion:

Why is there a silent 'b' in doubt:

as friendlyladybird suggests - I think you're being deliberately provocative - but I hope my reply gives some food for thought...

PastSellByDate Thu 18-Apr-13 02:06:48

sorry folks - why people wear...

typing whilst having a coughing fit

off for another hot lemony flu drink...

PoppyWearer Thu 18-Apr-13 02:13:45

A good History teacher (as I had) will help children to understand the past, as interesting stories, but also compared and contrasted to our lives today.

At school in the late 80s/early 90s I learned as much about Thatcher's government of the time as I did about Nazi Germany, etc.

I personally think that the history of any country casts a long shadow on the present day and that in order to understand today and tomorrow, we must know what happened yesterday.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 18-Apr-13 03:07:34

PastSellByDate, great post.

Your mention of York/New York reminded me that shortly after the September 11 attacks, the Queen sent a member of her family to express sympathy and condolences to the people of New York. Many expected her to send Prince Charles, but instead she sent her second son, the Duke of York. For people who knew the history, it was a fitting reference to the much earlier duke for whom the town was named and a touching reminder of the shared history of two nations.

Mashabell Thu 18-Apr-13 07:26:04

(It's all a bunch of lies and half truths anyway.)

I certainly found that when I took a closer look at the history of English spelling.

noramum Thu 18-Apr-13 09:52:48

I love history and we try to teach DD history above what she learns in school.

Yes, they are good stories for her and obviously for a 6 year old kings and queens are easier to imagine than a poor farmer. Also his belongings haven't survived as good as the content in a large castle. When the interest is there you can go into more details.

When you understand history you understand modern development. You can understand why there are tensions between certain nations, you can understand the poverty in Africa, why there are black people in the Caribbean etc. All this is deeply seated in history.

What I love is the way the English (and Scot and Welsh) show history. Most historic sites do lots of children activity, hands-on to keep imagination alive. Compared to Germany where I come from museums are boring places, full of stuff you can't touch, hardly any activities. So sad and DD commented on it last year when we where on holiday there.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 18-Apr-13 10:06:42

It's certainly not just words, it's very multi-sensory the way they do it at my dcs' school. They're helped by being near the Yorkshire Museum of Farming which has reconstructions of houses of different periods and a Roman fort. They've done Roman drill, Viking sword fighting, Saxon pottery making, and all kinds of dressing up and historical food cooking and eating.

Horrible Histories is wonderful. It's a mistake to dismiss it as just yucky stories - it cunningly sneaks in chronology (the kings and queens of England song), concepts like revisionism and bias (Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole arguing about who is more important, Richard III's song about how he was misrepresented by the Tudors) and history as myth (the It's Not True song).

It is fabulous and makes me very happy. History at my primary school wasn't anything like as good, with the exception of How We Used To Live on tv and Mr Parry telling us about his childhood in a Welsh mining village and what it was like to go on holiday for the first time when the Holiday With Pay act came in.

PastSellByDate Thu 18-Apr-13 14:16:57

Hi there:

talking to a friend at work who said if you want to see how history/ language and math are all linked and explain why we use 'x' in equations look at this:

Lovely 10 minute story - all well researched and explains a lot about why we do things the way we do today.

Bramshott Thu 18-Apr-13 14:36:46

I'm not quite sure your question is confused?

If it's "is there a problem with teaching primary age children some of the more 'colourful' episodes of history in order to engage them with finding out more about the past and the story of the world around them?" I'd have to say "no - not in my opinion".

Manchesterhistorygirl Thu 18-Apr-13 14:44:05

Obviously OP I agree with you.

Pyrrah Thu 18-Apr-13 15:16:00

I was brought up doing the whole rote learning of dates and battles etc and although I loved history I never really understood much of how certain bits worked.

My knowledge of the Wars of the Roses generally involved involuntary shudder and memory of large list of dates and battles.

This year with all the hoo haa about Richard III I picked up a few historical fiction books like 'The Sunne in Splendour' and got totally hooked. Not only that, but I started checking the internet to see if certain bits were true or not. I now understand the W of the R in a way I never did as a child despite spending a whole sodding term on it!

Horrible History's is the same - it piques the interest and encourages kids to delve a bit deeper (plus who doesn't like the gory bits) without boring them senseless.

I do wish certain TV series - ahem The Tudors - would respect historical accuracy. They are really guilty of gross misrepresentation and confusion. Not helpful and doesn't even make a better story IMO.

A lot will also come down to the individual teacher - making history come alive is the best way, not lists.

learnandsay Thu 18-Apr-13 17:37:56

Past, very, very interesting perspective. Of course if you live in London, Bath, Colchester or St Albans you have a better chance of being inspired by the history of your locality than if you live in Milton Keynes or Hartlepool. My daughter has an interest in words which contain the word tele, telephone, television and so on. She knows who the Greeks were and now knows that they contain the Greek word for far. She also uses some Greek letters. But I wouldn't expect her to learn any of this in school. She also made a model of the Colosseum and drew a dead Vespasian in it. But I wouldn't expect her to learn about that in school either. To my way of thinking, regardless of how young you are, there's a difference between incidental knowledge, such as eggs, window and knife have Norse origins and pork, mutton and beef have French ones and more necessary knowledge like what the two world wars consisted of, who Jesus was and why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. It's good too to know why the Union Jack looks the way it does. It's good to know why any of our visible holidays and customs are the way that they are. And I would expect my children to know these things even if they didn't learn them in school. In fact, the more nerdy aspects of history, such as why do we use the letter x in algebra I wouldn't expect my children to learn in school at all. If they ever did find such things out I'd expect them to find them out from me or from the Internet.

My idea of school history (at any age) is to paint big pictures, WWI, WWII, The Wars of the Roses, Queen Elizabeth I (Shakespeare) and the speech at Tilbury, The Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc and so on....

The way I see it is that school creates a historical skeleton. The family, books, TV programmes, holidays, games, discussions and so on and so on fill that skeleton in with rich detail. Horrible Histories being one example of TV programmes. But I see providing rich detail as a totally different job from the one done in school. School history should try not to bore the pants off the pupils but it shouldn't try to compete with a week in Rome with the parents or a couple of trips round the Cairo Museum and a trek up the shaft of The Great Pyramid.

mrz Thu 18-Apr-13 20:03:00

So you haven't heard of the Milton Keynes Hoard or know it is made up of eighteen medieval villages or heard of Bletchley Park. You haven't visited Harlepool's historic quay to see HMS Tricomalee or aware of the Napoleonic connection or that it was the port of Robert Bruce in the 13th C or that in ancient times there was a forest which is now submerged and is a Sight of Significant Scientific Interest or that Bede referred to it as the place where harts drink Heruteu learnandsay

learnandsay Thu 18-Apr-13 20:16:36

Hartlepool has undergone significant renovation (or rather its marina/port has) since I lived there. There was no HMS Tricomalee to see when I was there, just a rather sad fishing museum in a rather tatty cottage and an embarrassing myth about the locals hanging a monkey thinking that it was a Napoleonic spy. The frigate looks rather fetching. I don't know when we'll be there next. But we must look in. All I remember about history from my days there is how depressing it was.

Tiggles Thu 18-Apr-13 20:31:33

"The way I see it is that school creates a historical skeleton."
In reality that is all school does in any subject though isn't it. There will always be more maths you can do, more English books you can read, more geographical areas to study etc etc. School is about inspiring children (And then teenagers) to love learning so that even as an adult you will want to carry on finding out more things.

I am however, constantly surprised by what my children DO learn in school.

lecce Thu 18-Apr-13 20:32:56

What a strange thread. Sorry, OP, I really don't see your point. Why wouldn't you expect your daughter to do things like making models of the Colosseum in school? I thought that was exactly the sort of thing they would do in primary schools - there are some great pyramid models in the Y3 classroom in ds's school.

What I find very odd is this: '[school history] shouldn't try and compete with a week in Rome...' etc etc. Wht use the word compete? Surely, in the best cases school and home complement each other in terms of the knowledge and experiences offered to the child. The average child has enough head-space to take in as much 'rich detail' or interesting 'stuff' as, well, as they find interesting. What if the teacher has a passion for a topic and real expertise and she can tell that the class are hooked by the topic? Should she hang back in case she is treading on someone's toes?

To say nothing of the fact that not all children come from families who are in a position to provide all this 'rich detail', especially if it has to involve expensive holidays abroad, as you imply. I take issue with this. We have recently moved and my ds1 was thrilled to find out that the allotments behind our house are rumoured to be on the site of a civil war battle-field. There's no plaque, no museum but that knowledge from a walk route leaflet has inspired him and now, every time we go up there, he is a roundhead looking for those pesky cavaliers...

mrz Thu 18-Apr-13 20:41:04

Many children will never ever visit Rome Or Athens or even Hartlepool

learnandsay Thu 18-Apr-13 20:51:07

There are so many classical buildings it would be impractical for the children to make models of all of them. Of course it would be nice if the children modelled one or two in school and learned about them (I didn't)

There are alternatives to visiting classical locations, but my own view is that they don't provide the "hair standing up on the back of your neck" feeling that you get from standing in the spot where Kofu's sarcophagus once stood (etc)

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