Is Our History under Siege?

Daily Mail (London), January 18, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Is Our History under Siege?


Byline: by Graham Grant

HISTORY repeats itself - first as tragedy, second as farce, according to Karl Marx, the political philosopher and 'father of Communism'. Now critics say the study of history in Scotland's schools is fast becoming farcical, thanks to the SNP's controversial new curriculum.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), a respected cultural think-tank, has warned that history is in jeopardy because of the Scottish Government's Curriculum for Excellence.

Its fears come amid growing concern that the subject is increasingly being sidelined to make way for 'trendier' alternatives in a bid to 're-engage' bored pupils. The Curriculum for Excellence, introduced in secondary schools last year, has been criticised for switching the focus of history teaching from learning key facts such as remembering important dates to pupil 'enjoyment'.

The damning report, commissioned by the RSE's education committee, was drawn up by a group led by Professor Christopher Whatley of Dundee University.

He said: 'The group is concerned that history is in danger of being diluted under the Curriculum for Excellence framework.' While the RSE welcomes some parts of the new curriculum, Professor Whatley said it feared that 'this is at the expense of the acquisition of discipline-based knowledge and the skills that the discipline of history imparts'. He added: 'We strongly encourage the Scottish Government and all in the history education community in Scotland to engage with the main findings within this report.

'We wish to ensure that history remains a prominent and discreet discipline.

'It is important that we recognise the central importance of history in terms of the knowledge and understanding it offers tomorrow's adult citizens of the society and wider world of which they are part.

'History in schools also informs young people how their society has developed, and what has been distinctive about the process in comparison with other societies.' The report stresses that 'factual accuracy and rigour of teaching and learning materials for history are of the highest priority' - another implicit attack on the new curriculum.

The RSE recommends that 'exposure to Scottish history should be an entitlement for every school learner in Scotland'.

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Is Our History under Siege?
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