Richard J. Evans: Make History Compulsory in the UK for the Right ReasonsRoundup: Historians' Take
Richard J. Evans is regius professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge.
The annual dissection of GCSE results, announced on Thursday, is well under way, and as usual, commentators have been wringing their hands about the decline of history as a subject. Conservative MPs have described the situation as "alarming", while the Daily Telegraph accuses schools of "refusing to offer GCSEs in history". They echo concerns voiced by Michael Gove, the education secretary, and historians Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama, who advocate a facts-based approach to a core narrative of British history as a means of stopping the rot.
Much of this alarmism is exaggerated. History has been an optional subject since GCSEs were introduced in the 1980s Then it was taken by just over a third of students; in 2011 by just under a third. The decline in entries this year has been just over 1%. Hardly drastic. And a major reason why more students aged 14-16 don't take history is the requirement to study English, maths, science, religious studies, citizenship and ICT up to school-leaving age, while history is optional after 14.
Alarmists conveniently pass over the fact that entries for history at A-level have been steadily increasing for a decade, with numbers up an astonishing 9.5% this year. So complaints that history is "disappearing from our schools" are misplaced. Nevertheless, there are undeniably problems that need to be faced: most seriously the tendency of some schools to reduce history teaching up to the age of 14 in favour of subjects more central to league tables; notably Maths and English,merge it with other subjects in generalised "humanities" teaching; and appoint non-historians to teach it....
comments powered by Disqus
- Snopes debunks slavery Internet meme
- Revamped Chinese History Journal Welcomes Hard-Line Writers
- Poll: 3 Out of 5 Texan Trump Supporters Want Secession if Hillary Clinton Is Elected
- The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?
- Minorities still feel Eugene, Oregon’s historical link to the Ku Klux Klan
- Ernst Nolte, Historian Whose Views on Hitler Caused an Uproar, Dies at 93
- Japan should give formal apology for wartime aggression, says historian
- Historian Benjamin Madley says what whites did to Indians in the 19th century in California was genocide.
- Kevin Baker says America needs to bring back political machines
- Covell Meyskens uses his blog to show what life was like under Mao. (Interview)