Monday, 30 July 2007

History in the Balance

The publication of the Ofsted report on history teaching and learning provides an excellent summary of the state of history teaching in schools today. The report evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of history in primary and secondary schools. It does so at a time of changing contexts and lively debate on the future of the subject. The Every Child Matters agenda to maximise pupils' potential raises significant questions about what is taught and how. There is also much public and political interest in issues of citizenship, the understanding of British values and social cohesion. In reflecting on evidence from inspection, the report considers how history teaching might respond to these challenges.

The critical question is where is history in schools actually going? Concerns that it is being squeezed in primary schools are nothing new but there seems to be a growing trend to condense Key Stage 3 into two years. History should be savoured not force-fed! There also seems to be a revival in the issue of the relevance of the subject to the world today. If that means providing a historical context for things that are going on now, then that's not a problem and is something history teachers have been doing for centuries. If, on the other hand, it means joining the 'political correctness brigade' and accepting all the ideas expressed by that benighted corp, then that flies in the face of history as a critical consideration of past and, by extension current events. Take, for example, global warming. Should historians be considering it in their lessons? Certainly. Should we be looking critically at the science and whether global waarming is a result of our actions or merely a change in weather patterns similar to others that have occurred over time? Definately. While scientists may be right about the causes of global warming, there are individuals who disagree and, as history teachers we should be examining this. We should be doing what all good history teachers do: consider the evidence critically before coming to a conclusion and recognise that conclusions in history are, by their very nature, tentative.

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