Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

You Never Know When You Might Need History; AND INCIDENTALLY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

You Never Know When You Might Need History; AND INCIDENTALLY

Article excerpt

TWO THOUSAND eight hundred years ago, an old, blind bard sang tales of long-dead warrior kings. In his rhapsodies monsters stalked the Earth; prehistoric princesses were impossibly beautiful. Written down in ancient Greek, this fanciful, elitist tosh must surely be destined for the bin in the schoolroom marked "irrelevant".

But wait. Read between lines. The archaic epic also tells of an ideological fault-line between East and West; of Middle Eastern ceasefires broken by enraged snipers; and of human universals

pride, blood-lust, greed, desire, mother love and self-sacrifice. It is why Homer's Iliad has been offered up to schoolchildren for more than 2,000 years, and why countless other "outdated" texts have inspired many of the most brilliant and sympathetic thinkers of all time. Yet according to a new report, large swathes of history and literature are being ignored because they are "irrelevant" to modern pupils

or at least less relevant than texts on the Third Reich or 9/11.

History is the story of humanity.

It helps us understand what makes us tick. Indeed the most enlightening history lessons can deal with the distant past

where contemporary political currents don't muddy the waters.

To understand the war on terror, for example, rather than ask 14-year-olds to get inside the mind of a suicide bomber, we could examine our own long history of targeting the "enemy within". …

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