Magazine article History Today

From the Editor

Magazine article History Today

From the Editor

Article excerpt

In July the Historical Association organised a debate at the Institute of Education (IOE) in London entitled 'History in Schools: What is the Future?' Before a packed audience of schoolteachers and other interested parties, a distinguished panel of historians and educationists, ably and wittily chaired by Professor David Cannadine, discussed such worrying concerns as why some British students are abandoning history at the age of 13 and the fact that barely 30 per cent of schoolchildren now go on to study the subject at GCSE level.

It was all very illuminating, but one recurring motif left me feeling slightly unsettled: 'relevance" that dreaded word, repeated like a mantra throughout the afternoon. If history isn't relevant, apparently, it's not worth teaching. One speaker proposed that schoolchildren in Newcastle-upon-Tyne should not study the Great Fire of London, as it all took place too far away and, therefore, had no relevance to their lives. Such bizarre utilitarianism seemed to go down well with her fellow professionals. The teaching of history in the North East of England should, presumably, be restricted to the study of coal mining, shipbuilding and the brewing of brown ale.

Later, a member of the panel, Chris Husbands, Professor of Education at the IOE, expressed surprise that on a visit to a secondary school in Tottenham he witnessed students being taught about monastic life in the Middle Ages. Not relevant to their lives, apparently. …

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