Protect children from 'jingoistic and xenophobic' interpretations of the First World War

11th April 2014 at 01:00

NUT members have hit out at “jingoistic, xenophobic and nationalistic interpretations” of the First World War that they say are being promoted in the centenary year of the conflict.

A motion to be debated at the union’s annual conference in Brighton next week calls for children to be given “access to a range of different views about the war, using a wide range of evidence in order to ensure a rigorous and balanced account of the conflict”.

Disagreements over interpreting the war have already hit the headlines this year, after education secretary Michael Gove hit out at the “left-wing myths" he argued were used by university academics. He also criticised the hit television comedy Blackadder (pictured).

“The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths,” Mr Gove wrote in the Daily Mail earlier this year.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt hit back at his opposite number’s “ugly” comments, accusing him of using the centenary of the war to “sow political division”.

Mr Gove’s comments also drew criticism from Sir Tony Robinson, who played the character of Baldrick in Blackadder. The Labour party member and former actor said that Mr Gove had made a “very silly mistake”.

Now the NUT is also set to wade into the row. The motion cites the “failure of the secretary of state’s highly personal plans to reform school history in 2013 after widespread opposition was mobilised by a range of groups”.

“It is important children are educated about the events of the ‘Great War’ and their effects on soldiers, their families and future generations,” the motion says, adding that students need access to a range of views on the conflict.

“There is a danger that government-sponsored commemorations could fail to capture the breadth of experience and range of different viewpoints, lapsing into jingoistic, xenophobic and nationalistic accounts of the war," it says.

The motion calls on the NUT to encourage debate about the conflict by organising a national conference to discuss the war with “a range of historians, history organisations and the Defend School History group”.

The union, it adds, should “call on the government to ensure that commemorations are balanced and avoid encouraging jingoistic, xenophobic and nationalistic interpretations of the war”.


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