There’s been a discussion in South Africa about making history compulsory to Grade 12 (aka Matric, A level equivalent, all school years). The comments are as expected – what will be taught, who decides, how to make a dull boring subject more appealing. The discussion aspect suggested was around teaching methodology and content. This, for me, is the wrong starting point and will only ensure we get into trouble by leaving some group out and opening up accusations of curriculum being used for political reasons.
The starting point is skills. History as a subject is highly complex as seen by the percentage of high flyers who studied history at university level. (2005 HE Academy; 2005 famous history graduates; 2010 UK Guardian; 2015 AHA on skills; 2017 perspective; 2017 Fortune 500 CEOs)
One of the concerning things when looking at the lists of people who studied history at university is the number of politicians – why are they making the same mistakes as in the past? This has led some people to think it’s not worth studying the subject, whilst another more tangible reason is that there is no obvious career route with history.
However, the tweet below says it best – the more people understand the past and why things are the way they are, the easier it is to effectively challenge. It levels the playing ground and for that reason alone, the subject should be taught all the way through school.
History = political life skills.
In addition, history helps develop an identity, problem solving skills, research skills, writing skills, logic and critical thinking.
Putting history in as a subject to the last year of school means that subjects such as citizenship, PSHE and the like would be integrated as they include some of the life skills needed to operate in a global world. The challenge is teaching teachers to teach the subject objectively and creatively – it can be done and for this I thank my history teacher (the same amazing woman, Mrs Amy Ansell for five years), Martin Doherty and Tony Gorst at Westminster Uni and my supervisors Profs Tony Stockwell and John Turner – all educationalists ahead of their time.
For Africa to obtain full potential more of our students must become historians, so we can have scholars with the factual tools to fight revisionism and ignorance. A knowledge history is a danger to dictators & demagogues who constantly seek to rewrite history for their benefit. https://t.co/t8w0ZQBOOU
— James Hall (@hallaboutafrica) 16 June 2018