Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

What ought to be history

The problem about what history should be taught in schools is that every year there's that bit more to choose from.

We're getting to the stage where, frankly, there's too much of it.

Who to choose then, as the major historical figures we should all know about?

Opinion is divided. For some years the focus has been on social reformers like William Wilberforce, Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale.

But the Tories, led by Education minister Michael Gove, would now like to see a swing back to more traditional figures. The Cromwells. The Churchills. The Normans. The big hitters.

Apparently Mr Gove also feels that too much importance is placed on specific periods such as the era of the Tudors and the World Wars.

Personally, I've always felt that the problem with the teaching of history in schools isn't so much with who we should be learning about. (Or even, in a local sense, whose history we should be studying.)

It's with the chronology.

Shouldn't we start the little ones on more recent stuff and work backwards?

I can still remember the brain freezing boredom the very mention of the word Ethelred used to induce in Form 2. God knows how even more irrelevant oul' Ethelred must seem to today's Facebook generation.

Call me shallow but as a child I was entirely unready for Ethelred. I found it enormously difficult to relate to anyone who was a line drawing not a photograph.

Of course, resources for the teaching of history have changed dramatically down the years.

Even TV now plays a part with any number of series reflecting the life and times of past dynasties such as the aforementioned The Tudors.

But they're not going to show that one in schools.

Umm ... are they?