I’m fed up.
Since the publication of Gove’s proposed new history curriculum the newspapers, radio and television haven’t stopped with debate and discussion. This is great. I am pleased that the subject I care about so much is this important to others.
But one thing that is getting me down is the amount of negativity in this recent coverage toward history teachers and the content (or perceived lack of content) we currently teach. If you listened to the Moral Maze on Radio 4 recently or read this current article by Chris Skidmore you’d probably think that most of us barely teach any historical knowledge whatsoever. In fact, according to these ‘experts’ all we do is teach ‘skills’ and hate history.
This is far from the truth. Most history teachers I know have a passion for their subject that exceeds most of our colleagues in other departments. We care deeply about the content we teach and carefully choose narratives that we think will be engaging and relevant to our students. We believe strongly in knowledge as ultimately this is why most of us love the subject. Many of us constantly strive to improve our own knowledge by reading books, visiting museums or attending lectures so that we might be able to share this with our students.
This isn’t to say we are perfect. I know personally I’m not and am happy to admit my weaknesses. In the time I have it is very difficult to teach chronological overviews or to impart detailed historical knowledge to teenagers who study a wealth of topics and may see me for less than three hours a fortnight. But I try my damn hardest to tackle this!
Additionally most of us are not resistant to change and would happily admit that we wouldn’t mind a new curriculum, especially if one provided a historical framework that enabled students to progress.
However, the picture I have painted above has not been shared in the media and as a history teacher I am frankly bored of being undermined, humiliated and bullied by ‘experts’ who have little knowledge of how we work. Much of the debate recently has been dominated by experts (the majority of whom are university academics) who clearly have limited or no experience of being in a school classroom or the pressures or difficulties of teaching teenage children. It’s obvious in their arguments or responses that few have even read the curriculum proposal.
This isn’t to say that I don’t think these people should have a say. They should. Everyone should be entitled to their share their opinions. All I am asking is that these people base their opinions on experience and fact, not hearsay.
History teachers work hard, love their subject and try their bloody hardest to make their students think the same. It’s just a shame most people don’t see this.