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Thread: children's history

  1. #1
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    children's history

    I've been reading Lawrence James "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire". It's a survey of British Colonial history and seems to be written from a fairly objective historical standpoint (Dr. Lawrence is of course English). Coincidently, I recently happened to see one of those old 'Schoolhouse Rock' cartoons about American history (it played EVERY saturday morning during the bicentennial year). I was particularly amused at how they treated the Revolutionary War: King George III dictator. Bad. Very Bad. Good guys handily win indepedence and the country grows from coast to coast apparently without any civil war or native american genocide.

    OK, I understand that Schoolhouse Rock is intended for children and therefore a simplified version of history is called for. I'm not actually arguing that children shouldn't get a simplified version of history, but how about a simplified objective lessons in history. The thing that struck me watching Schoolhouse Rock is how blantantly jingoistic our children's history education is. I am curious if children in the UK receive any more objective treatment of their nation's history or were all of England's wars Just and Righteous under the divinely annointed Sovereign?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2

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    I think Churchill made a comment about History being one of the spoils of victory. The idea being that if you won the war you can practically write the history of the war yourself.

    History in my UK school was dealt with fairly perfunctorily. It may be because it was just one lesson and had a lot of information to deal with. There was a lot of dull learning about Kings and Queens and the date of their reigns.

    I do remember learning about the old Empire, but I seem to remember that it wasn't all taught that it was all great. We learnt a little about the American War of Independence, and the American Civil War, and also about Gandhi and India/the subcontinent. It may just be my memory, but as a small boy I was far more interesting in tales of battles such as Waterloo, or the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the Battle of Hastings, and World War II and particularly D Day than other details, such as what came in between the wars.

    I think overall my education was geared to tell me that the Empire and the wars to make the Empire wasn't all good, but that it was quite amazing how such a small island came to dominate a large part of the world.

  3. #3
    We Yanks might be doing a little better in the objectivity department now.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/newyork/laic..._t4_s3-rv.html
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  4. #4
    Well, as with any subject given to children in school, there were plenty of "lies for children" as Terry Pratchett says - simplified to the point of being an outright lie. The only problem with this being that the public view of anything is generally based on what they learnt in school. As a result, the public apparently think the Brits were practically living in caves and had a combined IQ that the average moron would sneer at until the Romans came along. There is similar feeling towards the "Dark Ages", which wereren't actually that dark in any of the home countries.

    However, with regard to where British history revolves around. It does tend to be Anglo-centric and particularly around the London area. Not really surprising for English history, as London is the capitol and therefore the political centre (more so than normal, thanks to Henry VIII, apparently). More than a little insulting to Wales and Scotland, who have both 'taken over' the English throne at some point and have histories of their own. Absolutely unbeleivable to the (Northern) Irish. However, there has been a move in the last twenty years to include more about local history, wherever the school is.

    For those who are interested (and please correct me if I'm wrong):
    Ireland was used as a 'dumping ground' of youngest sons and a 'haven' for political failures since at least the 6th century by the rest of the British Isles. It was usually a last resort after Wales - i.e. if they'd been hounded from home, and Wales had had enough of them, they ran to Ireland. Every English ruler after the Norman conquest tried their luck with Ireland, but never managed to get full control - close but no cigar. Up until the Tudors (argueably Welsh, and sixteenth-seventeenth century). The head of government on their behalf was the "Lord Lieutenant of Ireland" and usually someone who'd efectively exiled from . The Scottish actually got there first when Robert Bruce's younger brother 'claimed' it and controlled the whole for a few short years - he was 'saving' them from Edward I.
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