Accentuate the positive outcomes of this subject

25th April 1997 at 01:00
Christine Counsell expresses concern over the attitudes towards history of certain curriculum managers.

It is sadly true that in life one encounters ignorance at all levels and, as Ms Counsell states, it is necessary to try to disabuse such people of their prejudices. However, we do wonder about the best approach in trying to persuade others of the benefits of a history education at secondary level.

One option offered in the article is to complain of falling standards and the need to maintain the integrity of the discipline. Perhaps, though, this might seem somewhat gnostic to those colleagues, parents and students who have not dedicated three, five, maybe nine years of their life to a contemplation of the past.

More functional, and more urgently required, is a clear statement of outcomes that can be expected for 16 and 18 year-olds from a good history scheme of work.

At our school, we are fortunate in having a curriculum manager - still, thankfully, known here as a headteacher - who believes that all year 10 and 11 students should follow a course in modern history.

The motivation behind this is not the hope that someone will go on to get a First at university, but the recognition that such a course fulfils three vital functions in the curriculum for their age group.

A study of historical events since 1900 gives our students an understanding of the forces that have shaped the modern world. A study of the sources available (from newspapers to video footage) enables them to develop their ability to test the words of others for reliability and usefulness - not, after all, an inherent gift in the young.

And, lastly, our students are asked to use this combination of knowledge and skills to continually investigate the relationship between human words and human actions, especially in the exercise of power.

What other subject on the timetable can better this contribution? What knowledge, and which skills, are more important than these for citizens in a developed, information-rich and tolerant democracy? And which school would deny such an opportunity to their young adults?

MARTIN AND JENNIFER TUCKER 2 Eyreton Cottages Crosby Isle of Man

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