"The House of Lords debated how history is currently taught in UK schools on Thursday 20 October. Could teaching history chronologically be a sensible way to help UK schoolchildren to make sense of the world?"What would we do without them, eh? Given the Groundhog Day nature of the state schooling debate, I feel justified in repeating what I always seem to be saying. The problem with state education is the first word in that term: state.
To me, it goes without saying that history should be taught chronologically. Indeed, it makes no sense to teach it any other way. The only reason not to want to teach the subject chronologically would be if you wished to dispose of the subject known as history and put in its place some other discipline, disguised as history as part of a covert gramschi-inspired subversion of traditional educational principles.
What is now taught under the name of history is more accurately described as historiography. From the Wikipedia page of that title:
Furay and Salevouris (1988) define historiography as "the study of the way history has been and is written — the history of historical writing... When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians."Now, some note should be made of the above issues within the teaching of history. No one should be taught to believe without question. I suspect, however, the balance has gone way off-kilter, and that rather than imbuing their charges with a healthy scepticism with which to survey the record of the past, modern history teachers have sowed a cynical relativism, whereby nothing can be known for sure, and thus any historical knowledge must be viewed as arbitrary, random, designed to deceive rather than enlighten. In such circumstances, the traditional, chronological approach to history is taken out of the realm of objectivity and becomes instead a specimen for our budding historiographists to dissect, with the added danger that the impression is given that one is free to believe or disbelieve whatever one wants.
Some of the common topics in historiography are:
- Reliability of the sources used, in terms of authorship, credibility of the author, and the authenticity or corruption of the text. (See also source criticism).
- Historiographical tradition or framework. Every historian uses one (or more) historiographical traditions, for example Marxist, Annales School, "total history", or political history.
- Moral issues, guilt assignment, and praise assignment
- Revisionism versus orthodox interpretations
- Historical metanarratives
As I always say, the state-run centralised system is the problem. Getting rid of it, and enabling the schools to be independent and heterogeneous is the solution. Much as I personally love history, I do not wish to impose this love on everyone else, nor do I want anyone else to have such power over the nation's school children. That the anyone else are so often woolly-headed quasi-marxoids only strengthens the point.