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Is it time we pushed for compulsory History?

Discussion in 'History' started by BRENHELL, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. While I am fully supportive of making history compulsive for every studen, I cannot understand the priority given to the Russian Revolution.
    I am a German history teacher, currently teaching a bilingual set of Year 9 students (yes, German students at a normal state school doing history lessons in English). We did a short unit on the revolutions and I think they will be able to use their factual knowledge as a point of comparison to other forms of government. Thus, they will be able to have informed discussions about the value of freedom, democracy or social vs. private ownership.
    The German approach to teaching history is mainly based on working with sources. I refuse to accept that contributors to a history teaching forums would dismiss it as superfluous. The process of decoding sources, debating their value and the perspectives expressed is the core business of history lessons.
    This debate, however, explains why I spend hours producing worksheets instead of using English course books: The average length of written sources in most of them is three sentences. Sure - those sources cannot lead to students developing a critical historical awareness (sorry - stillhaven't found a good translation for Geschichtsbewusstsein, the key didactical term here) and won't be able to motivate them either.
    Please let me know if you can make sense of any of these points,

    btw: How would you rate the chances of a recently qualified German history teacher when applying to English schools? (BA English, History; MEd English, History)
  2. I'm in full agreement with Frau Franziska. Critical thinking, source analysis cannot be disregarded.

    I teach the MYP in an international school so do not follow any GCSE requirements, in response to the earlier post.
    MYP is a very interesting and forward thinking model for curriculum design that so far the UK has not shown too much interest in. Reference to Russian rev was just a single example that had worked well using a conceptual framework for curriculum design. The same approach can be applied to any time period, event etc.
  3. Morninglover

    Morninglover Lead commenter

    There is no such priority - many schools don't teach the Russian Revolution at all (mine included), others opt to choose an optional Unit on it at GCSE (14-16 years old) or A Level (16-18) - often linked to either earlier or later Russian History. Personally I think it is an interesting topic students find both informative and enjoyable - and links in well with the Cold War (if that is studied - another option).
    Difficult to say, but I've met & worked with a number of foreign trained teachers not teaching their own language but another subject, so why not? Incidentally the more flexible you are, the better your chance - so if you can look all over the country, and offer German as well as History it will improve your chances.

    Good luck.
  4. Yes the October
    Revolution, was just an example. The way ‘in’ to this discussion is that there
    is some chance that a Conservative government might ‘buy’ the idea of
    compulsory History: ‘compulsive’, FF, would not be easy.

    (It is not
    polite to mention the fact but this proposal would mightily improve employment prospects
    for History teachers.)

    It will
    only happen if the ‘offer’ is attractive. That, to be realistic, means something
    the public will buy. One might ‘sell’ our national story as building civic
    society by concentrating on the core myths of the English-Speaking peoples.
    Problem is that the professionals are all tied up in peripheral issues of sources,
    research, critical thinking and historiography and they refuse to change that

    (It is not polite
    to mention the fact but there is a
    suspicion that they do it because many didn’t actually go to a Russell Group
    university or do a ‘straight’ History degree – and so would struggle to deliver
    Magna Carta or Conditional Restraint of Annates, let alone use the VCH

    Fans of inflicting
    the utter irrelevance of the October Revolution on English sixteen-year-olds
    are also likely to be politically suspect to the, basically Russell Group,
    people who would, in the real world, have to agree to making History compulsory. Too much
    enthusiasm for the October Revolution makes teachers suspect of being fans of,
    in today’s German context, the Purple Witch.

    You will
    never, GFF, get an idiomatic English word for ‘Geschichtsbewusstsein’.
    English cannot run words together like that and the native tradition is wary of
    continental intellectual concepts: gibbering about ‘Hochkonjuktur’ always sounds
    like bringing Marxism into the Historical Tripos. The English don’t much care for it. That doesn’t
    mean, FF, that you would not be able to contribute in British schools and as an
    EU citizen you are entirely entitled to apply: you would be well-qualified for
    English or History but not (oddly perhaps) German MFL.
    (It is not polite to mention the fact but although you could teach in England, many Scottish jobs are subject to discriminatory religious tests.)
  5. I mightbe running the risk of engaging in an discussion I have no place to be in [​IMG]
    I see how compelling such a curriculum might be to politicians. Could one model it in a way for Russell Group educated historians to support it - i.e. not a sheer narrative of Britain's glory - while still labelling it "our national story" for the "buyers"? Maybe this is just the usual German uneasiness with the "national story" concept.
    I'd also like to pick up on the point of "utter irrelevance": I experienced that a lot in the Year 8 groups I taught during teacher training. They are supposed to understand and take an interest in enlightenment thinking? Really? This is imho one of the core problems of teaching history to asolescents. We've got tons of reasons why we think they are learning invaluable lessons for life, while not getting through to them at all... Alas, that would be a new thread.
    So, where are you going in terms of compulsory history? Everybody given up?
  6. (It is not polite  to mention the fact but there is a suspicion that they do it because many didn?t actually go to a Russell Group university or do a ?straight? History degree ? and so would struggle to deliver Magna Carta or Conditional Restraint of Annates, let alone use the VCH intelligently.)

    I went to a Russell Group university and I still disagree with you. BK is very good at pretending to know what he is talking about while making generalised attacks on the history teaching profession. Unfortunately, his attitude is not uncommon. It seems to stem from a few news reports where people have expressed shock and dismay that their son or daughter cannot recite some dates that are supposedly core knowledge. I agree fully that the curriculum at present is patchwork (e.g. Tudors and Nazis). However the solution is not simply the telling of a national story. Students need to be able to do history in a practical sense so they should be equipped with good quality skills that can be applied across other disciplines as well. Local history is a good example of where these skills can be built. They also need to gain conceptual understanding of topics studied, so for example when studying the Magna Carta this could link to a wider inquiry about power. Conceptual understanding allows them to make connections across history topics and links to the contemporary world. BK seems to think these ideas are half-baked and trendy but they are widely endorsed by the IB (who draw upon research from top universities worldwide).
  7. Morninglover

    Morninglover Lead commenter

    Persoanlly I have no problem with that, having seen other subjects rise & fall on political whims over 30 years...and the employment prospects of the teachers alongside. But - at my stage - it will have no effect on me, one way or another
    You, just like Mr Gove, seem fixated on the Russell Group - a self-created organisation with a wide range of Universities and certainly no monopoly on History or any other subject. There is no such person as a 'Russell Group' person...
    You are now being silly - few, if any, teachers have a particular enthusiasm for this - except as a fascinating part of 20th C History - and, as I said above - usually taught along with pre-Revolutionay Russian History (e.g. 1900-1924) or the Soviet Era (1917-53, say) - jsut as valid as teaching Weimar & Nazi Germany or the USA in the 1920s & 1930s (or post-War). I've taught all these topics at GCSE or A Level in different schools in recent years; all are interesting, engaging and - in the widest sense - educational.


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