Goading analysis;Secondary;Reviews;Books;General

30th April 1999 at 01:00
REPUTATIONS IN HISTORY SERIES. Thomas Becket: saint or troublemaker?. Robin Hood: a good outlaw?. Bloody Mary: cruel queen or good Catholic?. Bonnie Prince Charlie: hero or failed pretender?. General Haig: butcher or war winner?. Winston Churchill: the man who saved the world?. By Josh Brooman. Longman pound;3.75 each.

After 30 OFSTED inspec-tions, I have decided that pupils are more passive than they were when I was teaching; too ready to sit back and let the teacher do all the work, unwilling to challenge received views. Josh Brooman's Reputations series provides the material teachers need to promote the critical evaluation and independent judgment that are the hallmarks of higher level work at key stage 3.

The books present the key sources on which reputations have been built or lost. Coverage is thorough; accounts of Churchill's early misjudgments at Tonypandy and Gallipoli are calculated to sow seeds of doubt and help to fuel the debate on whether he should have been in the War Cabinet. Churchill's career is chronicled in sufficient detail to allow pupils to make a systematic assessment of his success as a war leader for every major event from Egypt in 1940 to the surrender of Japan.

These are not just stories about famous people. Brooman's selection is such that pupils have to grapple with important ideas - Church and State in the 12th century, Catholicism and Protestantism, and the English royal succession. The title on Haig is a masterly attempt to present both sides. This assessment requires pupils to work with inconvenient, even unpleasant, counter-evidence on an emotive subject.

In fewer than 50 pages teachers will find a range of written and visual sources to support the tasks which prepare pupils for the last judgment. These books are ideal for in-depth studies. More importantly, they will breathe new life into the class-room by showing that disagree-ment is part of serious history and what makes some of us passionate about it.

Mark Williamson is adviser for humanities and RE for the London borough of Hounslow

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