The Decline And Fall . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in | Comments (22) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Forgetting one's own history through sheer laziness is bad enough. Forgetting it willfully is incomprehensible:

Britain's World War II prime minister Winston Churchill has been cut from a list of key historical figures recommended for teaching in English secondary schools, a government agency says.

The radical overhaul of the school curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds is designed to bring secondary education up to date and allow teachers more flexibility in the subjects they teach, the Government said.

But although Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Joseph Stalin and Martin Luther King have also been dropped from the detailed guidance accompanying the curriculum, Sir Winston's exclusion is likely to leave traditionalists aghast.

A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said the new curriculum, to be taught from September 2008, does not prescribe to teachers what they must include.

But he added: "Teachers know that they need to mention these pivotal figures. They don't need to be instructed by law to mention them in every history class.

"Of course, good teachers will be teaching the history of Churchill as part of the history of Britain. The two are indivisible."

Sir Winston's grandson Nicholas Soames, also a Conservative Member of Parliament, described the move as "madness."

"It is absurd. I expect he wasn't New Labour enough for them ... this is a Government that is very careless of British history and always has been.

"The teaching of history is incredibly important," he added.

"If you're surprised that people do not seem to care that much about the country in which they live, the reason is that they don't know much about it."

One is, of course, aware that Churchill had to fight to make himself heard and credible in life when people thought that he was a know-nothing, washed-up loser. Apparently, despite the awesome legacy he left behind and the special and glorious place he carved out for himself in the remembrance of humankind, he is nevertheless obliged to fight to make himself heard and credible again--and this time, from beyond the grave.

A sense of sanguinity in reaction to this astonishing news is partially restored with the hope that Churchill's legacy will allow him--even from the Great Beyond--to place himself anew at the forefront of the thoughts of his compatriots. It's a pity though that this should have ever been necessary in the first place.

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Yep. He couldn't possibly have contributed anything.

And they're also dropping all of the other main figures from the middle of the last century. I am shocked at the exclusion of the people of color.

I'm pretty speechless.
CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

"Among the few named figures that stay in the new history curriculum are William Wilberforce, the British law maker who was instrumental in efforts to abolish the slave trade."

If they are going to axe figures like Churchill from the state-mandated curriculum, then why even have "a list of key historical figures recommended for teaching." While they are at it, why not just dump the whole state-mandated curriculum and let the parents of each school district decide what needs to be taught.

They claim this is to "allow teachers more flexibility in the subjects they teach." Sorry, but I am highly suspicious of any attempt by liberals to make anything for flexible or give more control of anything to the local level.

Evil prevails only when good men do nothing.

The article says this is for 11 to 14 year olds. That's roughly fifth grade to freshmen year of high school in the U.S. (I am admittedly not all that familiar with the British system), taking into account that students' ages vary. I don't know about you, but I definitely didn't learn all that much about World War II until later in high school.

If this was curriculum for older students, I would agree 100%--you simply cannot teach World War II and the Cold War without Churchill. But did you really learn all that much about the Battle of Britain or the Iron Curtain in Middle School? United States students typically don't learn about FDR or Truman at that age, so why the necessity of Churchill at that age in Britain? Again, if this were 15-18 year olds, I would totally agree with you, but it's not. Those are complex and advanced topics usually reserved for the later years of public education.

When public schools were still worth something in America, while I was in 7th grade at age 12, I wrote a 7 page report on Winston Churchill for my second-semester History class, which was a continuation of our first semester covering the history of the 20th century with a special focus on Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations, WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict and the Cold War. All the students were given a wide choice of subjects they could investigate and I chose to write about Churchill's speeches. I opened with a few of his early speeches and centered the report around his "Their Finest Hour" speech of June 18, 1940 to the House of Commons:

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

As an American I was given considerable leeway in terms of the choice of my subject, but my teacher nevertheless encouraged me to pursue that report with enthusiasm once I had expressed interest in Churchill.

So in answer to your question, yes, I did learn about the Battle of Britain and the Iron Curtain in middle school. And although I don't know whether those were legally mandated parts of the curriculum in my home town, I'm very glad my History teacher realized how important those subjects were to young people, particularly precocious and intelligent young people.

And as far as pedagogy is concerned, I think those subjects are completely appropriate for students 11-14 years old. The amount the students can absorb is directly related to the competence of the instructor but the subjects themeslves are fascinating and compelling. What could be more important to teach young people than the history of the 20th Century by exploring its major conflicts?

Of course, I had an "old school" History/Social Studies teacher who was a real stickler and used to make us do long and detailed, sometimes tedious outlines of the organs of various world goverments from a variety of sources, some of which were probably a little "advanced" for us at the time, but he helped us along. I also benefited indirectly because I used to sit right next to a girl whose parents had emigrated from Russia: she was amazing when the subject was something like the Russian Duma. You'd be surprised how much 12-year-olds can do when they're motivated. Mr. Amato was his name, and he was tough.

The issue isn't whether they're appropriate, Kowalski, but whether any specific figure is so necessary during those three specific years that you need to write a law to prevent any exceptions.

We know so little about the subject to begin with...this topic is just fodder for curmudgeons.

I'd like to think that Winston Churchill and everything he did (including the mistakes and the foibles) is such a compelling figure in history that nobody would have to make a law *requiring* that he be taught. As one of the Giants of the 20th Century, you'd think it wasn't necessary, but in this political climate I wonder sometimes. My point in the previous posts is that even without a law, he's such an important person that ignoring him would be a little like someone in a graphic arts department not teaching about Cyan when discussing CMYK color, and that even "kids" can handle it.

As far as being curmudgeonly is concerned, I have to tell you that the older I get the more I appreciate curmudgeons. Could be a birds of a feather phenomenon, but then again even Dostoyevsky wrote about how important it is for the youth to learn important facts and history when they're young, as difficult as it might be for some of them. Mr. Amato could be a very curmudgeonly figure but when I reflect on the people who taught me in middle school and high school, he was in retrospect one of my best teachers.

Always go to the source, and in this case, the government agency has put up the new guidelines on the web. If you look at them, you'll see how terribly slanted is the original news story. (It's in PDF form at the top)

It's only 4 pages long, and contains general goals like "Analysing and explaining the reasons for, and results of, historical events, situations and changes." What they did is cut out all mention of specific individuals, leaving only two as an example--William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano are mentioned in the same sentence in the "Explanatory Notes" section. That's it for specific names in the whole document.

Angus, If you are trying to counter an emotion-rich story with dry facts which contradict it, GOOD LUCK!

Indignation, or feeling offended, is emotionally satisfying in a way that digging deeper into the real story--or nonstory--rarely is.

Good Job... ect. ect. ect.

...the United States. Eighty per cent of all Americans living today can't tell you what year WWII ended.
Memorial Day is "The day we celebrate taking the covers off our swimming pools." for certain high school graduates.
Maryland high school graduates can speak 'ad nauseum' about the Japanese Internment, yet can not give you either WWII president, a single general or battle of that period.
It's all done with the objective of inculcating "Freedom isn't free? Whoever heard of that!?" into the minds of our young people, although the schools, especially in the state of Massachussetts, take great pains to make sure their students know all of the techical details involved in 'fisting' and 'munching the carpet'.
Freedom and Democracy have ceased being teaching priorities in the schools today.

of neoliberal education reform. So long as our children know how to read, write, and do math why should we bother with such minutia? Children can read about the expoilts of historical figures at home, if they choose to do so, in their free time. Bothering with such dribble distracts students who need to be figuring out how to add to the economy.... and pass tests.

It was the precious Progressives, darlings of the left, who turned public schools into efficiency factories, and still do.

Run like Reagan!

not, strictly speaking, progressive. Modern liberals call themselves that, but its not true. The progressives existed in a certain time and place and consisted of people who were both liberal (as we define it), and conservative.
They were superceeded by the New deal, socialists and modern day liberals.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

So long as our children know how to read, write, and do math why should we bother with such minutia?

We should all be THRILLED if our kids know how to read, write and do math. Are modern-day schools don't teach ANY of those basic skills.

They are too busy teaching sex education and anything is permissable -- and turning our schools into a social experiment.

Reading, Riting and Rithmatic? Fahgetaboutit!

Okay, no Churchill, Hitler, Gandhi, Stalin, and Martin Luther King. What historical figures will be taught to these kids? John Lennon? Dick Branson? For an American, Andrea Dworkin?

Isn't he the guy who came up with a disasterous invasion of the middle east that completely destroyed his credibility and political influence at home?

is now in the ashcan of pre-Islam.


...the Dardanelles. Yes, he was washed up after that debacle, 250,000 dead Brits and Anzacs, with nothing to show for it. He was on the verge of becoming the British Prime Minister when he found himself booted from the Admiralty, his future political prospects, gone.
Every time any WWII American commander sent troops over the sides of a ship, the military disaster that occurred in the Bosporus Straits twenty seven years earlier, gnawed at the back of their minds.
It was partly from that bleak period that he derived the inspiration for his "Never Give Up! Never Give Give Up! Never Give Up! Never, Never, Never give Up!" attitude.
The "Nanny State" no longer allows such hardships, and the temperament and leadership thats evolves subsequent to enduring trials like his to occur.

The only reason that Churchill got a second chance was because of the desperate times the country found itself in. If things didn't get so bleak, he NEVER would have been given a second chance. NEVER. NEVER, NEVER

..purposefully left unsaid. The mental set, "Never Give Up" was a large part of what kept England alive, in spite of being totally alone in the conflict against Hitler, June 5,1940 to June 20, 1941.
"We shall fight on the beaches....; and never in the history of human conflict has so much been owed...." are part of Churchill's legacy, formed in no small part by experience of the Dardanelles disaster. It's one of the reasons this web site and all the other American websites exchange their thoughts and ideas primarily still in the English language today.

Dare I ask you your opinion of Mrs. Thatcher?

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