Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

What a Complete and Utter Muppet! Best Seller's Anger at Researcher

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

What a Complete and Utter Muppet! Best Seller's Anger at Researcher

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Brown Reporter m.brown@ncjmedia.co.uk

HORRIBLE Histories author Terry Deary said a teacher who apparently blamed his books for the "dumbling down" of school textbooks is an "utter muppet."

The work of the County Durham author - including more than 70 children's titles, including Blitzed Brits, Groovy Greeks and Slimy Stuarts - was accused of inspiring "cartoonish" tomes designed to appeal to "the supposedly minimal attention spans" of pupils.

But while declining to comment in depth on the criticism, the Sunderland-born scribe, who has previously said school's only purpose "is to keep kids off the street," said think tank researcher Robert Peal was a "muppet" for making it.

The history teacher and research fellow at the think tank Civitas, writing in the Time Educational Supplement, seemed to blame the award-winning franchise, which has captivated the imaginations of a generation of children, for encouraging youngsters "not to think about the past but to laugh at it".

Mr Peal pointed to chapter titles such as "Was Henry VII a gangster?" an introduction to 1588's Spanish Armada entitled "Match of the Day: England vs Spain," and a cartoon of a sheepskin- coated John Motson figure commentating on 1066's Battle of Hastings as evidence that textbooks are not as "immersive" as their 1970s equivalents.

He also highlighted a book aimed at GCSE pupils in which schoolchildren are shown a CSI-style investigation into the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in 1170.

Mr Peal said there was a particular problem with history textbooks for 11 to 14-year-olds, which suffer from a "lack of narrative".

"You would be hard-pushed to find a stretch of more than 200 words that is not broken by a cartoon or a snippet of 'source material'" he wrote.

"The layout often resembles a magazine, not a book, with short chunks of boxed text designed to cater to the supposedly minimal attention spans of today's pupils.

"The aesthetic owes much to the Horrible Histories series, with children encouraged not to think about the past but to laugh at it."

He called for a return to "immersive" Penguin schoolbooks from the seventies and those written by historians such as RJ Unstead, which featured elaborate illustrations of events and figures.

"Far from being dry and boring, they are lively and beautifully illustrated. And, crucially, they do not make concessions in content and detail," he said.

After his comments appeared in print, Mr Peal took to Twitter to try and defuse the situation. …

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