Back to the future of the past

25th May 2012 at 01:00

I read Neil McLennan's article - "Historians, it's time to fight for the future of the past" (11 May) - with great interest, as the content of history courses concerns me, too.

As a teacher of German and a native speaker, I have found that pupils' perception of Germany and the Germans is chiefly related to pre-1945 German history. When I began teaching in Scotland in 2001, the only famous German person that kids in beginners' classes knew was Adolf Hitler. The Wall (if they had heard of it) was a Berlin Wall rather than a solid border between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR and West Berlin.

In Higher and Advanced Higher, the workload for those with an interest in contemporary German background studies in Extended Reading and Viewing was phenomenal, especially when they had dropped history in S2. The pupils did not shy away from the work but they could have done with more input from history at an earlier stage in their school career.

Care must be taken that the balance between national history and the bigger picture is kept. German as a subject in secondary schools would benefit from some more contemporary German history. Pupils enjoy speaking about their home area and Scotland as a country in my classes - however, their interest in life in the GDR and the events of 1989 is present in my German courses and supports the cross-curricular aspect of Curriculum for Excellence.

Kirsten Herbst-Gray, German teacher, Langholm Academy.

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