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Lack of Women's History?

Discussion in 'History' started by jagohn, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. jagohn

    jagohn New commenter

    Hello everybody.

    I am currently writing my dissertation as a third-year history undergraduate.

    I chose to carry out a project which has predominantly involved designing an educational website for Key Stage Three pupils which allows visitors to learn about influential historical women.

    After gaining some experience in a secondary school during my second year studies, I started to notice that barring Queens and the Suffrage Movement, pupils at the school where I was at were taught little history which exclusively regarded women.

    Obviously, I have been doing quite a lot of research into the subject in an attempt to establish whether this was the case across the board in education in England. So far, I believe I conclude that there is seemingly a lack of women's history being taught.

    I just wanted to know what the people of TES think about this? And if you agree with me, why do you think this is the case?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.

  2. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I'm retired, but when teaching I would hope to have included some study of women (& children!) as part of the standard curriculum*, especially focusing on 'social' history. Call a topic 'women's history' and I'd argue it is tokenism...o_O

    *Boudicca, Mary 1, Elizabeth 1 etc.
    DYNAMO67, peter12171 and sabrinakat like this.
  3. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

  4. jagohn

    jagohn New commenter

    Thanks for your reply Frank, it's much appreciated.

    Obviously, I have noticed that I was not very clear with what I was trying to do in my previous message. I was simply trying to offer an overview.

    It is not my intention to incorporate a topic named 'women's history' as I could not agree more with your statement, this would be tokenism. However, what my argument essentially is that women are not fairly represented during the topics which are already studied in secondary education. For example, when studying the 'the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain 1066-1509' during Key Stage Three, I have witnessed that Empress Matilda is rarely referred to. Even though you could argue she played a crucial role in the 'topic' which the government wants its pupils to study.

    Whilst I understand I cannot over-generalise based solely on my observations, as I don't know exactly what every school in the country teaches it students in Key Stage Three. Obviously, some schools may chose to study Matilda. Nevertheless, I believe that the government should more explicitly note that women deserve equal attention during the teaching of history.
  5. Roy_Huggins

    Roy_Huggins New commenter

    An interesting research project, I would largely agree that women's history is often left out of the school curriculum. I put it down to several factors. Firstly, time - its very difficult to cover everything you are supposed to in depth. Many schools have reduced the amount of history down to one period a week at KS3, so topics like the Holocaust are fighting for time alongside subjects and themes such as Black or Women's history. Secondly, although there has been an improvement in the amount of resources that are available on the topic, there are still quite a few holes in several periods, which is partly due to the general lack of historical evidence anyway. I've tried to plug a few gaps with some of the resources that I've uploaded to my TES shop. Thirdly, CPD on the topic is very poor. Schools are cutting their budgets for CPD and with so many older teachers leaving the profession at the same time as many younger teachers are being burnt out within a couple of years of qualifying, means that the knowledge and experience pool for teaching this topic is in critical decline. Fourthly, the changes to the exam board syllabuses means that as depth studies on topics like votes for women have been dropped, then the relentless drive to drive up results and teach to the exam means that it just doesn't get covered or taught in as much depth as folks focus on helping kids get the grade for their performance management targets. Finally, it should also not be forgotten that 75% of teachers today are women. You have to ask the question, why are they not doing more to promote Women's history?
    FrankWolley likes this.
  6. peter12171

    peter12171 Star commenter

    An interesting thing that was done during one of my PGCE seminars was for the students to list five historical figures that all students should study. The vast majority of course were white and male. This was a deliberate ploy by the lecturer of course, showing how history has been dominated by this group. Whilst we do need to address this by covering other groups, we also have to admit the dominance of white males over time, which will of necessity mean that more time and study is given to them.
  7. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    I've never thought of History divided in boxes such as 'Women's History', 'Black History' etc. I thought we studied British History and the events and characters who created and influenced it.
  8. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    Not even British in my classroom half the time.

    Some women what we study (chronologically):

    Eleanor of Aquitaine
    Catherine of Aragon
    Anne Boleyn
    Jane Seymour
    Anne of Cleves
    Catherine Howard
    Katherine Parr
    Jane Grey
    Mary Tudor
    Elizabeth Tudor
    Mary Stuart
    Sojourner Truth
    Florence Nightingale
    Mary Seacole
    Harriet Tubman
    Aisin Gioro Cixi
    Millicent Fawcett
    Emmeline Pankhurst
    Christabel Pankhurst
    Soong Mei-ling
    Jiang Qing

    Some in quite a lot of detail (A-level courses on Civil Rights, 20th Century China and the Tudors) others not so much (Boudicca in Y7, Nightingale in Y8) Empress Matilda? With one lesson a week at KS3 we don't have time. Our "development of church, state and society 1066-1509" is basically "Cathedrals, Magna Carta, Black Death, any questions?"
  9. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    That's interesting, @varcolac. Shouldn't British schoolchildren have a good grounding and overview of British History? What do you think?

    The test which people have to pass to gain British citizenship includes a pretty reasonable knowledge of British History and its chronology and I've heard people who were born here, and who have been through the British education system exclaim, "I would never pass that test!"
  10. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    I said "half the time."

    There's no such thing as purely "British" history. It's all interconnected. So when we cover the Reformation it's not simply a case of Henry VIII and his marital and financial woes: it demands being placed in a wider European context. The British Empire is impossible to teach well without comparison to other empires (contemporaneous or otherwise). We cover some bits of British domestic history but again, there's comparison. If you only learn your nation's history to the exclusion of all else that sets a dangerously close minded precedent.
    FrankWolley likes this.
  11. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    From what I've read the citizenship test is to history what the average pub quiz is to a PhD. In other words a randomly collected spread of 'facts', some of which can be shown to be wrong, and most of which are meaningless without a contextual knowledge.

    I'd hate to base a curriculum on that.
  12. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    I wouldn't agree with that. Having read the citizenship 'textbook' myself and being in the same house as someone who took the test, it gives a basic overview of the history of Britain, its major events and kings and queens. If the majority of school-leavers had such a foundation of basic historical knowledge I think it would be a good start.
  13. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    [QUOTE="ViolaClef, post: 12108276, member: 3915712" it gives a basic overview of the history of Britain, its major events and kings and queens. If the majority of school-leavers had such a foundation of basic historical knowledge I think it would be a good start.[/QUOTE]

    Why? What advantages do you think this would have for either the individual or the country?
  14. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    My lot do for the most part. Obvious exceptions - behaviour, attainment, the kid who's never in - but the most of them know their facts. I resent the implication that schools don't give their students at the very least a basic foundation of historical knowledge.

    Also kings and queens are in the main part ancillary to the other developments. They'll know their Edwards and Harolds and Williams and Henrys and Victorias, but only because of the other stuff that's going on around them.
  15. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Speaking as an ex-teacher with 30+ years of experience in teaching the subject (and a couple of degrees in it), I'd like to point out that the subject isn't just about learning 'facts', but is about learning the skills inherent in the subject as well.

    The bottom line is that people forget much of what they learn in school in the years/decades afterwards, but they are less likely to lose the skills they have acquired and practised. For example thinking of next Thursday (8th June) the skills of weighing evidence, assessing bias etc.;)
    varcolac and peter12171 like this.
  16. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    I think that knowing something of the history of the country you live in or have chosen to live in helps you to understand how that nation has come to be where they are now and why. It means you are an informed individual and if you are informed it can affect the choices you make.

    If some of the 'powers that have been' had been more knowledgeable and better informed about the History of Education I think some of the choices and decisions would have been different.
  17. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Look, I'm not against people learning and 'knowing' the story of the country they live in - and over my 30+ years of teaching history that is the focus all the schools I worked in had (more than 10, as it happens).

    But - in this country - pupils can give up history at 13/14 (end of Y9). Do you think that when they are voting 10, 20 or more years later they rememebr much of what they were taught? I don't.

    But the skills they can learn from studying the subject, hopefully, will stand them in good stead in later years. Even if they have forgotten the finer points of the English Civil War or the Transport Revolution...

    PS If you say 'shouldn't History be taught until the end of Y11', I'd agree 100%.

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