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
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- We asked 6 political scientists if Bernie Sanders would have a shot in a general election
- The price of oil has plummeted and with it Russia’s finances
- Legal scholars at Harvard debate Cruz’s eligibility to serve as president
- Has one of Sally Hemings’s siblings been neglected by history unfairly?
- DNA Offers Insights into European Hunter Gatherers
- Israeli historian Yair Auron lays out details of a massacre in 1948
- 'Comfort women' and a lesson in how history is shaped in California textbooks
- Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest Destiny
- History Jobs Drop
- Paul Krugman gives credence to Robert J. Gordon's pessimism about American economic growth