Charge Ahead for Our British History; EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Daily Mail (London), June 20, 2006 | Go to article overview

Charge Ahead for Our British History; EDUCATION NOTEBOOK


Byline: BEN JEFFREYS

THERE can be few topics more exciting or relevant for GCSE students than British history. Yet this is sadly lacking from most of the history exam syllabuses around.

The three Edwards, who ruled England from 1272 to 1377, seem forgotten.

Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, bashed France and Wales before establishing the Model Parliament in 1295, which initiated Britain's modern political system.

Edward II was gruesomely murdered by his consort who locked him in a tower, surrounded him with corpses and, when this failed to kill him, had a red-hot poker thrust into his entrails. A useful lesson for Gordon Brown dealing with Tony Blair.

And Edward III's long reign saw the Hundred Years' War and the Black Death, an early forerunner of bird flu, some might say.

Our history bubbles through 2,000 years with the stories of Alfred the Great; Oliver Cromwell; and the role of the East India Company in building an empire.

Aged 14, students can choose to gain their first history qualification by taking it for GCSE.

Exam boards OCR, Edexcel and AQA offer topics such as the Russian Revolution, Hitler, Stalin, Vietnam, the League of Nations, American history, Russian history, Chinese history and German history - all from the twentieth century. But there is little British history. OCR's study of Britain 1906 to 1918 appears like a sideshow, one twentieth-century paper buried in an international mound.

There is no all-British, alltime option; nothing regal, military, imperial, Dark Age or medieval. Why?

The main argument is that British history is not as exciting as modern international topics.

History departments take the easy option of Hitler and Stalin to attract pupils. The subject is dumbed down, and students end up watching simplified videos of Hitler ranting and raving.

Another is that, today, history is valuable primarily for building up the skills of critical thinking and evaluation-The content, therefore, is less significant. …

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