Teaching History

Great post from James Daley about the way we teach History at school in the UK.
The amount of people who’ve said to me “This is so interesting, but I had a really boring teacher at school. Put me off for life.”
The point being, as Anne of Green Gables was always saying, that the way we do History leaves “no scope for the imagination.” I’m trying here to work from first principles of where we live. I think we have to start in Primary School and get the kids to just examine the street where they live. A kind of deconstruction. What do you think?

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4 Responses to Teaching History

  1. James Daly says:

    Hi Ken, thank you for the link.

    Your point about deconstruction is an interesting one. Some years ago when I worked for the local Council’s Youth Service I produced a scoping document for a possible informal learning based heritage project. The two strands I pulled out were ‘time’ and ‘space’ – time being past, present and future, and space starting with us as individuals, the our community, our city, country and the world. I think there is so much potential for ‘history around us’ walks in all communities.

  2. kenbaker says:

    Hi James

    Thanks for your comment.

    I also enjoyed your take on school history with its tiny, mostly irrelevant chunks of facts, (However,we duly note the popularity of Horrible Histories etc). “Time” and “Space” sounds good, though I’d be interested to know of the pick-up from your local youths?? Wasn’t it too subtle for them? In Ireland, where I often work, someone once commented that “We don’t have History, only Current Affairs.” (And it’s true: where else would you see a piece of graffitti reading “REMEMBER 1690”?! Astonishing.)
    Somehow History teaching has to be tied in with contemporasry culture, geography and …well, the whole flow of life developing. Time and space, as you say.
    Cheers now


    PS I really enjoy your blog though I wonder that you have time to be so prolific

  3. James Daly says:

    We didn’t get to put it into practice in the end, for budgetary and political reasons. The few test sessions we did with young people were quite positive, we found the real trick was to take it as far from the normal classroom experience as possible, and make it relevant and let them take ownership. I work in my ‘day job’ for Portsmouth City Museums and we run a Discovering D-Day project for young people, and the same kind of lessons seem to have come from that.

    As for being prolific, I feel guilty if I go a day without a post! I guess theres always something i can write about.

  4. kenbaker says:

    Hi James,

    I appreciate the words “relevant” and “ownership” here. I’ve taken groups of teenagers all over London but somehow the “history lesson” there is too prescribed, too touristified. I had a far more satisfying lesson letting them dig up cartridge casings at the old Munitions factory site near here. Somehow “local history” has a chance of subverting what you’ve rightly called “normal classroom experience.” It’s the precise difference between babyfood and steak.

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