Rose-tinted view of local history

3rd May 1996 at 01:00
Nick Tate's rose-tinted depiction of the relationship between local history and the notion of "community" (History Extra, TES, April 19 ) does little to support teachers who wish to make creative use of the educational resources of their local community.

The chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority's view that communities are places where people live harmoniously together simply neglects the circumstances under which many teachers teach and children learn.

The schools with which I work include those which are attempting to promote learning against a background of economic decay, social dislocation and racist violence.

They are located in communities characterised by inadequate housing, which have been devastated by ill-conceived planning decisions, and by the environmental consequences of industrial collapse. Against this background, the comforting vision of local history buttressing a now all but non-existent "community spirit" is laughable.

Of course pupils need to be helped to develop a sense of their own and their forebears' identity, but as often as not that identity has been forged through poverty, exploitation, conflict and struggle.

We have been told that Mr Tate spends his leisure time reading Latin authors and bemoans the decline of classics teaching in schools.

As the schools for whose curriculum he supervises struggle to define a curriculum for the 21st century, to offer to disaffected and deprived youngsters an educational experience that will allow them to participate in a rapidly changing society, the prospect of the chief executive of the SCAA calling on their teachers to celebrate the bucolic innocence of lost communities calls to mind nothing more than the prospect of a Roman emperor fiddling while his city burned.

CHRIS HUSBANDS Reader in education Institute of Education University of Warwick Coventry

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