Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hitlerisation of History

Once again, there is a kerfuffle beginning to break out over the teaching of history post-14, particularly focusing on the teaching of German history. A new "unit" has now been introduced that covers the whole of 20th century Germany, including the struggle to rebuild Germany and the effects of partition.

All well and good, I say, although most of the complaints about the Hitlerisation of history are wide of the mark. The A-Level curriculum is wide and varied, but schools pick "safe" topics, especially the Nazis, especially Russia, especially 19th Century Britain, because the teachers know it, its been taught for years, and there are loads of textbooks available to buy on the subject.

The problem I have with discussing the history syllabus, however, is that when most people say "this period" or "this subject" should be studied, what they mean is that they want a period to be studied that suits their own political viewpoint - today's Guardian was a case in point. Max Hastings was arguing for a study of the Empire to prove that our Anglo-Saxon heritage is great; Georges Monbiot wanted to argue that the Empire should be studied to show how bad capitalism is.

That's all complete rot. History is valuable because of its approach; what it teaches you in thinking skills, analysis, and depth of study. Insofar as any period should be studied, it should be studied to encourage people to find out the truth about the period for themselves - not to push any sort of particular line of thought.