Editor's comment

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Tonight is Burns Night, which seems a good moment to take stock of how Scottish our schools should be at the beginning of the 21st century.

As our survey of subject experts this week shows (p10-11), this is an issue that reaches beyond the teaching of Scottish history. It is hardly surprising that the SNP Government should want schools to reinforce an understanding of our nation's past. This may be dismissed, rather too easily, as mere "nationalist" dogma, but it should not blind us to an essential truth: that every nation ought to expect its schools to equip pupils with an awareness of their heritage, whether this is forged by history, literature or, indeed, science and maths.

But Scottish history is totemic in our approach to the broader curriculum. It is commonplace to hear adults complain that they only know about Scottish history from movies like Braveheart, from books they have read since leaving school or from doing homework with their children - anything but knowledge acquired at school. Such national ignorance is a national disgrace and cannot be perpetuated into another generation. The inclusion of a compulsory section on Scottish history in the Higher will, hopefully, have a trickle-down effect and allow the subject to take hold.

But history teachers are only too well aware that a diet of the Wars of Independence and some of the hackneyed approaches of such teaching as does take place will be too much to swallow. As Duncan Toms points out in his contribution to our subject survey, "we have to be selective, while retaining coherence and chronology". And, as teachers are also well aware, Scottish history will have to fight for its place at a time of curriculum choice and teacher autonomy. Something has got to give - and that cannot be our past.

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