Teaching the History of the English Speaking Peoples

founding_fathersThe first week of June is one of those weeks that we will spend a couple of days talking about history, of course most of you know that I wouldn’t feel bad if we talked about history every day. It’s my favorite subject and for that reason we do a lot of it here, and I should note that Jess is nearly as fond of it as I am. But there are problems in history, and especially in the teaching of it, both in America and in Britain. So we are going to talk about that this fine Monday.

Our friend over at Practically Historical published an article the other day about history charlatans like Oliver Stone and the fabrications they are trying to sell as American History. Here’s a bit of it.

American history education needs fixing…. but it cannot be in the form of foolish revisionism.  As the educational community looks for answers to this problem, hucksters and con-men will attempt to make a quick dollar with their dubious products.  American filmmaker and woefully amateurish historian, Oliver Stone, is attempting to sell his new history book to anyone willing to listen to his highly contentious view of American history (He “blogs” for Huffington Post with purchase information prominently displayed.)    Why aren’t more high school students exposed to his ludicrous revisions of our history?

Uncle Joe was really a wonderful guy

Continue Reading Go Shill Your Revision Somewhere Else.

I couldn’t agree more with him. I’m not a professional historian but I do know this, lying is not history. Jess’s co-author Chalcedon451 is a historian, and a very good one, and he has commented that when the Soviet Union died, a friend of his in the British Universities was helping the Russians to try to write their history because they had no idea of what was Russian history and what was Soviet propaganda. I don’t think we want to go there, do we?

I also note that the author of Practically Historical is a major proponent of Charter Schools and I agree with him. In truth, I agree with almost anything that will inject a little free market common sense and rationality as well as local control into education. And one thing that definitely means is the defeat of the so-called common core standards that, look to me to reduce education to indoctrination and to continuing the dumbing down of American Education.


Dr Suzannah Lipscomb

 Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, who is a friend of Jess’s and if I understand correctly a  protegé of Chaldedon451, and has even said a couple of nice words about this blog, is Head of History at the New College of the Humanities in Bloomsbury, London was profiled yesterday in the £ Daily Mail.

Amongst the other information passed along she also has some very important thoughts on the teaching of history, which is under review in the UK as well. Here’s some of that.


She has a contagious love of her subject and, like many other historians, has serious reservations about Michael Gove’s new national curriculum which will teach history chronologically and with a greater emphasis on British events.

Suzannah says: ‘I understand why he wants to teach chronologically. He wants to give an overall picture – but obviously I don’t really think we should dispense with the 16th Century before the age of 11. I have my own axe to grind, a dog in this fight as it were.

‘And I’m also not sure that we should abandon all non-British history. I think it’s really important to have a sense of us and our place in the world. It’s often very good to know that, historically speaking, we’ve been part of something greater.’

For Suzannah, the key is not how history is taught but how much it is taught. She believes it should be made compulsory up to the age of 16.

‘If we don’t have more hours of history then it doesn’t matter what you do with the syllabus, it’s going to be a mistake,’ she says. ‘As it is, it’s almost impossible to do because of the almost minimal time that’s given to it. I know history teachers have students who aren’t that enthused by it but ultimately there’s something in the study of history for everybody because it’s everything that’s ever happened. It doesn’t get bigger than that, does it really?

‘I suppose young people always think, “Why should I be burdened by all this rubbish about the past?” The answer to that is because everything that we do is built on the rubbish heap of the past.

Everything we encounter in our lives, be it the boundaries between countries, enmities, territories, our ideas about things, the very concept of how we think, our superstitions – everything is a product of the past and our specific past.

‘We are the people we are today because of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment – so our very minds are shaped by what’s happened to us.

‘It’s the story of who we are and how we’ve got to be there. So it’s fundamentally important in our sense of ourselves. We’re not free from it because we don’t know it. In fact quite the contrary – you can’t understand it. And that means you can’t point out when history’s being used badly.’

She says politicians, in particular, will use history to their own ends if we allow them to do so.

‘After 9/11 Blair made a speech in New York and said that during the Blitz there was only one country that stood by us – and that country was America. That is an appalling piece of history,’ she exclaims, waving her arms in emphasis.

She does not agree with Michael Gove’s plans for teaching history, and thinks that it should be compulsory until 16

‘Many other countries in Europe and the forces fighting from India, Australia and New Zealand were on our side, too. In fact, the only country that wasn’t on our side at the time of the Blitz was America – which was very profitably enjoying staying out of the war at the point. So it’s a piece of sophistry and it was being used for a purpose.’

Mr Cameron, she says, is equally guilty of rewriting the past for his own ends.

‘In one of his speeches about why we’re so great he said that England had fought off every invader for over 1,000 years, essentially since 1066.

‘That’s simply not true. Up until 1485, there are countless examples of England being invaded and to say otherwise, it’s just hyperbole and just not true.

‘But if people aren’t informed you can argue whatever you like. The ignorance creates gaps into which political messages and agendas can be voiced. Those examples aren’t particularly pernicious but I think history can be used perniciously. It’s worth remembering totalitarian regimes tend to be those that shape their history books in such a way.’

Suzannah’s dialogue is peppered with fascinating historical titbits. A conversation about Prince William and wife Kate somehow leads to the revelation that the Home Secretary used to be present at every Royal birth until 1931.[…]

Emphasis mine and read it all at You’re history, Dr Starkey! TV’s new telegenic academic tells ‘sexist and grey-haired’ older rivals that ‘Genitalia do not help anyone understand better’ | Mail Online.

And so, Two Professional Historians, Two Countries, with the Same Problem. We need to help make sure these problems are solved properly.


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8 Responses to Teaching the History of the English Speaking Peoples

  1. Pingback: Immigration: a Problem? | nebraskaenergyobserver

  2. Pingback: Immigration: a Problem? | nebraskaenergyobserver

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  4. I am trying to establish an online Great Books program for students of all ages to be conducted online…serious, serious learning. I first encountered them when I was going through a rough patch and everyone seemed to be kicking me while I was down. Can we work together to make this happen, given that you and I seem to share the same approach?


    • NEO says:

      I’m of course interested, so let’s at least explore it. There is a lot of knowledge out there that is not being propogated well, or at all, really.


  5. Pingback: From Daggers to Archers to Cannon | greatbooksdude

  6. Wayne says:

    Matthew, John, Acts. Genesis, Job.

    Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde.

    1984, some crazy guy the progressives read.

    Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

    Rules for Radicals, Alinsky: http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2012/04/13/12_ways_to_use_saul_alinskys_rules_for_radicals_against_liberals/page/full

    Good start ….


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