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The Prince of Wales Summer School 2003


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#16 Richard Drew

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 06:31 AM

I invite other members of the forum who disagree with this interpretation to post their history of the struggle for the New History. If they have not got enough information to do that, maybe they could highlight some passages where they suspect I have been guilty of inaccuracies.

I should also point out that Stephen’s account of the conference is also an interpretation of what took place. I am sure if I had been at the conference I would have seen it very differently.

if i could play the role of a house of commons committee for a moment. i do not think that anyone would seek to imply that anything stated by anyone else is inaccurate, perhaps it is better to say that based on our own interpretation we all give certain factors:

"undue prominence".

indeed this is a phrase that will become a unseful part od my vocabulary when we are covering interpretations in lessons from now on :D

a couple of other points:

~ can you imagine the government getting so heated about the contents of other subjects? can you imagine the teachers getting so heated about other subjects?

~ i love the idea about the bailiff's acoount John - excellent stuff.
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#17 alison denton

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 08:09 AM

John - you've come up with the answer to your own question:
an enquiry entitled: 'What image of the Empire do we want to perpetuate?'
Loads of directions there!

#18 John

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:10 AM

The image of the Empire I wish to pertuate is it's correct universal image, or should be for every rational living human being. The Empire was evil and still is evil.
I am really in a spirtual depression over this subject. Most of the history teachers on this forum use the 'tag' at the bottom of their post "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it" or some other paraphrased tag such as this.
Well here we are, we have learnt. We as history teachers know the grim reality of history, and I'm willing to say do not teach our children, that rampaging around the world is good way for our country to act. We now know how to treat people in the world.
We have learnt, but fail to act.
Let me also say, that we should not teach our children to look for good points in the Empire. It is disgrace to allow this happen. We can find other ways of teaching our children to learn history 'skills' other than looking for positives in a blood bath.
When government say the 'story' of history is being lost, they mean their story in not being heard anymore. The story they wish to perptuate for their own ends. The story Charles wishs to perptuate, so he can claim 3 million pounds of the tax payers money per year, to go skiing and wizzzing about the world, giving duff opinons about achitecture and helicoptering into highland conferences. While meanwhile the eighty nine year world war vet, is forced to eat cat food, because it is all he can afford.
This is the Empire's mentality. Send the lower classes of to war to they can sit back and take our tax money and do nothing of any value. Really nothing of any value!
There were 1.5 million people on the streets of London not six months ago. If the crowd had turned ugly because they were truly agrived then we would have a revolution on our hands. People in power know this, and they can't put us workhouses anymore, so they have to be slighty more cunning. Slightly more persuading to educationalists, Slighlty more persuading to the infotainment business. They must work all the angles these days.
History teachers hold the key this changing these domininating ideas. Historians hold the key. I can say this in honesty because you all taught me. Six years ago I sat my G.C.S.E in history, you were my teacher, you were the person who was were covertly subverting my ideas to my current viewpoint. You were the person was covering the syllabus in detail, but was still adding those historical tit bits, historical hooks which made me think. Now, as product of that system, I say that New History is the only way forward.

Edited by John, 08 July 2003 - 10:17 AM.


#19 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:59 AM

History teachers hold the key this changing these domininating ideas.  Historians hold the key.  I can say this in honesty because you all taught me.  Six years ago I sat my G.C.S.E in history, you were my teacher, you were the person who was were covertly subverting my ideas to my current viewpoint.  You were the person was covering the syllabus in detail, but was still adding those historical tit bits, historical hooks which made me think. Now, as product of that system, I say that New History is the only way forward.

You are right there, John. History teachers do "hold the key" - and that's why we are such dangerous people. However, if it is not right that we teach the story of 'white, middle class men' and that the 'Empire was a good thing' it is also not right that we exclusively teach the opposing view.

Children are not empty jugs to be fillled - Gradgrind fashion - with 'facts' that are of our own chosing. (chosen to suit our own political view point). They deserve to be allowed to form their own views. That's what education means, doesn't it? (To lead out) If they reach different views from those that we personally hold then so be it. The important thing is that they have been given the opportunity to consider a range of evidence.

I do not subscribe to the view that one should never express a personal viewpoint in the class room, but I do think it wrong to ram my views down their throats.

What credibility can one have as someone whose views as an historian can be trusted if on the one hand one is saying "It's the historian's job to consider the evidence and reach as objective a view as is humanly possible" and on the other presenting a one-sided view of those events/topics where we hold strong personal views?

During a 'baby break' many years ago I went to evening classes to study Sociology. After we had completed a number of topics I commented that I was surprised that anyone who studied the subject was not a hardline revolutionary. The lecturer made the point that this was not the case because the study of the subject tended to confirm the existing prejudices of the individual student. It finally dawned on me then that the same was true of History.

#20 John Simkin

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 11:21 AM

Let me also say, that we should not teach our children to look for good points in the Empire.  It is disgrace to allow this happen.  We can find other ways of teaching our children to learn history 'skills' other than looking for positives in a blood bath.

History teachers hold the key this changing these domininating ideas.  Historians hold the key.  I can say this in honesty because you all taught me.  Six years ago I sat my G.C.S.E in history, you were my teacher, you were the person who was were covertly subverting my ideas to my current viewpoint.  You were the person was covering the syllabus in detail, but was still adding those historical tit bits, historical hooks which made me think. Now, as product of that system, I say that New History is the only way forward.

I fully support Carole’s view that it is wrong for teachers to try and persuade their students to adopt a particular point of view. I not only think this is morally indefensible but it is also likely to be ineffective. For example, John, given your anti-authoritarian views, how would you have responded if your history teacher had try to brainwash you during your lessons.

I once taught in a department with a member of the Communist Party. He was a very traditional teacher (interestingly, not a supporter of the New History) and tended to lecture the students on how they should interpret the past. From what I could see, he was having little influence on his students, who perceived him as both boring and old fashioned. Teachers like him are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I am confident that if we give students the skills needed to ask the right sorts of questions we will end up in the long-term with a more humane society. I for example, believe that the adoption of the New History, in the 1980s, is already having an impact on our society and was a factor in the way people interpreted events during the Iraq crisis.

As that old reactionary Nikita Krushchev once said: “historians are dangerous people, they ask question”. He did not mean it as a compliment. All people in authority take this view. That is why we are the only country in the world where the New History is compulsory. Over the years we will need to defend this approach, whether the complaints come from the right or the left.

Edited by John Simkin, 08 July 2003 - 11:22 AM.


#21 John Simkin

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 11:51 AM

Only minutes after making the above posting I came across this transcript of a radio broadcast during the attempt by the reformist communists led by Imre Nagy, to gain control of Hungary. It was broadcast only 3 days after Nagy gained power and shows just how important they considered history teaching was in this struggle.


Radio Kossuth (28th October, 1956)

The Government has instructed the Minister of Education without delay to withdraw from circulation all history textbooks. In other textbooks, all passages impregnated with the spirit of the personality-cult must be rectified by teachers in the course of instruction.

Edited by John Simkin, 08 July 2003 - 01:01 PM.


#22 Paul Smith

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 12:13 PM

I have been following this discussion with interest.

I am in complete agreement that the role of the History Teacher, I would go further and suggest any teacher, is to encourage enquiry but not to indoctrinate. I assume that John would agree, although I infer that he would argue that the tools with which enquiry takes place are frequently "doctored" by the ruling elites. Whoever, whatever they may be -( I don't intend to be flippant here - I believe that western parliamentary democracy is a sham, since the key levers of power are operated mainly by economic multinationals, but I'd rather live under our flawed, indeed dishonest, system than many of the alternatives - however you may disagree)

What we have to accept is that the questions asked may not produce answers we like?

Try this - Britain is occupied by the Nazi's in 1940 - How would Britain have responded? Initially most bluster about resistance, heroism etc. etc but try a hotseat exercise where the local resistance leader attempts to recruit when 10% of the class has been "wiped out" in retaliation for a previous act of "heroism".
(Better still - just let your two Bosnian refugees explain how their former friends and neighbours turned away and did nothing - through fear and desire to survive!)


However I see a moral dilemma. I do have a moral dilemma. At what point is it acceptable, if at all, for your personal beliefs to overcome our desire to impartially stimulate the enquiring minds of our students.

I hold everything the BNP stands for as totally abhorent, indeed evil. I have campaigned against them and would like to think that all members of the forum believe the same.

I teach at least two students who are active members of the BNP. They know my opinions as they started to express theirs, outside of lessons. When another student, innocently?, asked me about the BNP's policy, I happened to have a poster from the Anti-Nazi League showing the impact of the BNP's policies on the England football squad. I gave him the poster. (Some testament to the rural England mentality that what really got him going was the exclusion of Beckham - Jewish grandparent, rather than the loss of Campbell, James, Cole, Sinclair etc. etc.)

Morally I believe I did the right thing - but pedagogically ,I think, perhaps not.
Cassus ubique vale

#23 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 03:36 PM

This is a fascinating debate and is reaching the epic proportions of the heroes in history debate (and echoes alot of the sentiments put forward then). I have been holding forth for one main reason and I (rather selfishly) hope that contributors haven't burned themselves out - check out the virtual seminar that I will post tomorrow that will be discussing the teaching of Black and Asian British History in schools. A timely discussion of what should be included in the HIstory curriculum and even a bit of 'empire' thrown in to boot!
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
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#24 John

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:14 PM

Really good comments from everyone here on this forum, which I will take to heart in my classroom methodoloy. I have found teaching IB history this year, that more left wing interpretation I was putting into my lesson, the more students would react to this and crystalise their viewpoint to the right of my own. I started teaching the course with the idea, I am going to impart my political preference to my students, but ended with the conclusion, it would have been much more effective not have fallen into that trap, as students began to argue with my over small issues. It created a culture of arguements in my class.
The hard left is often criticised for selective factual evidence, however, this being my first year, I have had read a selection of texts and have decided that criticism is unfair and some of the best historians in the world are left leaning. Noam Chomsky is my personal favourite, he has arguements so watertight it fantastic to read and teach his material.
What really can we do? I'm small part in even smaller wheel, we really are insignificant when it come to history. But if I was impartial teacher that had right wing sympathisers in my class, I would make it my mission to try and change their view, by an fair apprisal of right wing idelogy, it is quite reasonable to say this part of the role of teacher. To teach history that conforms to higher goals. We are afterall trying to impart some form of indoctrination, even if it keep the status quo, it is all some form of ideology.
I think good teaching is to impart an interpretation of history that doesn't fall into the trap of making students see the 'good' elements of rightwing ideology, or other such abhorent practices.
I would like to think that working in education and especially history teaching is working to a utopian goal, a freer, more eglartarian society. Yet I could be wrong. Realistically we're probably wasting our time. I just read the lastest Martin Reese book, and he reckons we only have hundred more years left on this planet.
On our smaller scale I know our country is trouble if we continue with our current social and political practices we are doomed. Imperialistic view points are soooo twentith century. I fear everyone on this forum agrees with me on that account.
Anyway - I'm in the middle of Thailand trying to drink away the misery of these comments. But thank you for your thoughts they have been really interesting I probably will change my methodoloy in the classroom due to them. A thousand history teachers can't be wrong, right?

Edited by John, 08 July 2003 - 05:26 PM.


#25 Richard Drew

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 07:25 PM

The image of the Empire I wish to pertuate is it's correct universal image, or should be for every rational living human being.  The Empire was evil and still is evil.



I think good teaching is to impart an interpretation of history that doesn't fall into the trap of making students see the 'good' elements of rightwing ideology, or other such abhorent practices.


Out of curiosity John, where did your views on the empire and rightwing ideology come from? did they come from being told them by a teacher and by absorbing them, or did they come from studying the evidence and reaching a mature view based on your own morals and the weight of the evidence?

i am confident that it is the latter. and if so, surely we should be offering our students the opportunity to develop their own views through the same process.

teach them the facts - the quotes, the dates, the events, the figures, the images; but don't teach them an opinion, however overwhelming the evidence for it is, and however sure the vast majority of the world are that it is right, as a fact.

if the evidence is so undeniably in your favour your pupils will reach the same interpretation as you, and it will be so much more valuable because it is their own opinion reached by themselves when they were ready to reach it.
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#26 Stephen Drew

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 07:36 PM

I think you need to seriously consider the extent to which you are being fair to the young people in your classroom John.

Your seeming inability to even recognise that there is anything good in political ideologies other than your own is worrying to me as a History teacher. There are good and bad elements in all ideologies from the left to the right. All have been responsible for perpetrating evil and damage to our world in the past centuries, and this is what we need to make students recognise.

We are not here to peddle our own agenda as if we are on a mission to indoctrinate. That is not what education is about in my view. This is old ground that has been trodden over by the members of this forum on a number of occasions, and I do not want to go there again. However I think you really do need to consider whether political activism on the radical left (or right) is a suitable motivation for teaching History to young people.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#27 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 08:19 PM

We are not here to peddle our own agenda as if we are on a mission to indoctrinate. That is not what education is about in my view.

Surely this is precisely what old jugg wars wants us to do - different agenda to John's though!
I would be delighted and stimulated to be in John's classroom - passionate commitment to a wider social goal beats flabby "pseudo neutral" conformity any day of the week! At least I'd be interested.

I have also long held the view that if I wanted to turn an innocent child into something as nasty as a Tory the best method would be for me to foam forth socialist rhetoric. Kids are not empty vessels for us to pour our own feeble ideas into. They do however require stimulation, challenge and inspiration. My best teachers were not frightened to talk about ideas.

#28 Richard Drew

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 08:52 PM

Kids are not empty vessels for us to pour our own feeble ideas into. They do however require stimulation, challenge and inspiration. My best teachers were not frightened to talk about ideas.

techers should talk about all ideas, and challenge pupils to explain them all. what is more challenging that asking pupils to study the evidence and then explain how someone reaches a viewpoint that is totally the opposite of their own from the same evidence.

we are all passionately committed to our own beliefs, and i for one have enough confidence in my own to feel that if i give my pupils access to the all of the evidence they are likely to reach similar conclusions, and if they do not i am more than happy that they have reached their own viewpoint in an environment where they have been challenged, stimulated and inspired. and as i mentioned previously this opinion will be all the more valuable and real because the pupil has reached it by themself after access to all viewpoints and evidence.
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#29 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 08:58 PM

we are all passionately committed to our own beliefs, and i for one have enough confidence in my own to feel that if i give my pupils access to the all of the evidence they are likely to reach similar conclusions, and if they do not i am more than happy that they have reached their own viewpoint in an environment where they have been challenged, stimulated and inspired. and as i mentioned previously this opinion will be all the more valuable and real because the pupil has reached it by themself after access to all viewpoints and evidence.

Get the bunting out Drew the Younger - we are in agreement :woo: :woo:
(best not tell big brother though eh? :whistle: )

#30 Andrew Field

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:07 PM

I must admit some of my best teachers at school were the raving lunatics who you knew held particular views and thus could challenge them accordingly.

I think it is essential to make sure that students are comfortable and willing to challenge viewpoints - including all others in the room - as long as they can similarly respect the rights of others to hold and defend a viewpoint. Knowing the teacher holds a viewpoint allows students to identify they have a viewpoint too.

Yet, as has been gone over before, the teacher needs to be aware of his or her much greater skills to defend their own viewpoint and not foist these upon the students. If however, they are the ideal teacher, they will have suitably equipped their students with the skills to challenge and defend viewpoints anyway!

I fundamentally believe the the best teachers are raving lunatics. This must mean Mr Walker is up there at the top. :D :D


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