Main content

27/03/2013

Education secretary Michael Gove's history syllabus is the story of Britain in sequence. Is this overdue rigour, or nationalistic rote-learning at the expense of analysis?

George Orwell (who is soon to have his statue erected outside New Broadcasting House) said 'Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.'

Education Secretary Michael Gove is bringing in a new school history syllabus. The story of Britain will be taught in chronological order from the first year of primary school to the age of 14, finishing with the election of Margaret Thatcher. The emphasis will be on facts and dates. There will be no more of those essay assignments that begin 'Imagine you're a slave bound for the West Indies ...'

Is it right to put Britain at the centre of the story and to mention foreigners only insofar as they have impinged upon our nation (and vice very much versa)? Or is it more moral to teach children the history of the planet because we are all citizens of the world?

Should history teachers be aiming to turn out good citizens with shared moral values? If so - whose values? Is it more important to teach national pride or national humility? Is an emphasis on 'cultural sensitivity' just left-wing propaganda in disguise?

And is it right that a politician should be able to dictate the history syllabus in the first place? Some of the precedents for it - in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany and Mao's China - are not encouraging.

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Giles Fraser, Matthew Taylor and Anne McElvoy. Witnesses: Chris McGovern - Chairman, The Campaign for Real Education, Antony Beevor - Historian, Sir Richard Evans - Regius Professor of History and President of Woolfson College, University of Cambridge, Matthew Wilkinson Director and Principal Researcher
Curriculum for Cohesion.

Available now

43 minutes

Broadcasts

The Evidence Toolkit

Check out the claims made in news stories with this interactive tool.

Podcast