GB News :: Who's that on Nelson's Column? Schoolchildren don't know their own country
Article extract >> SOURCE : DAILY TELEGRAPH
Who's that on Nelson's Column? Schoolchildren think it's Mandela
Chris Hastings and Nina Goswami
The head of English Heritage has accused schools of producing a generation of children who know so little about the past that they are incapable of appreciating a walk through Trafalgar Square or a visit to the National Gallery.
Simon Thurley, the chief executive, said the obsession with teaching children about Hitler and Stalin meant they knew virtually nothing about their own country. He said the failure to understand "the nuts and bolts" of English history was undermining national identity.
"English Heritage is finding that people do not have the basic information they need to enjoy their visit to heritage sites," he said. "The reason is that history in schools has concentrated exclusively on Hitler and Stalin, and perhaps a bit of the American civil war.
''That is all very well but it doesn't help English children. It is a major issue for their quality of life that they should know the basics of the history of this country. Otherwise they cannot walk through Trafalgar Square or into Westminster Abbey with any degree of understanding or appreciation."
A Sunday Telegraph survey of children visiting Trafalgar Square appeared to support Mr Thurley's claims. Only one of the 12 children, aged between nine and 15, was able to name Admiral Lord Nelson as the figure on the central column. Others thought it was Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa.
Alice Beardman, 13, from north London, knew the figure was an admiral but thought it was "the man who invented Wellington boots".
Michelle Berry, 15, from west London said: "Isn't it Nelson Mandela?"
Simon Cowles, 36, from Cornwall whose son Jack, 10, had no idea who Nelson was, said: "Lessons are definitely lacking on English history. They focus a lot more on recent history such as the Holocaust and they forget what has happened in the UK. The only time I have heard Jack talk about naval battles or kings and queens was after watching Blue Peter."
Jessica Longford, 14, from Newcastle also thought the statue was of Nelson Mandela. Sophie Diamond, 12, from Cornwall, said: "At primary school, I learnt a lot about the Second World War but since starting senior school I really haven't learnt anything new. We're doing the Second World War again so it's unfair to ask me if I know who that is."
All the children, however, could name Adolf Hitler as Germany's wartime leader.
Mr Thurley, who is soon to become the president of the Society for Court Studies, which encourages the study of royal households, said schools had a duty to make children aware of monarchs and landmark events and be able to draw a basic timeline of English history from the Romans to the present.
He said that the ignorance stemmed from a loss of confidence and the fact that many teachers felt it was "undemocratic" to talk about a history dominated by kings, queens, aristocrats and generals. Such an attitude would be unthinkable in other countries.
"We have to start being proud of our heritage. We do duff ourselves up over the past. We have to apologise for slavery. We even have to apologise for chopping off Anne Boleyn's head. History is not something we should be ashamed of. These things that have happened in our past have gone to make the country that we live in today."
Mr Thurley said the debacle over plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Nelson's victory over the French at Trafalgar illustrated the malaise. Some councils had refused to take part for fear of alienating their twin towns in France. Others planned to commemorate the dead on both sides, rather than celebrate the victory.
"They are almost too shy to celebrate the anniversary of this very important victory."
Alf Wilkinson, the head of the Historical Association, said it was probably true that children knew less about history than their counterparts did in the 1960s and 1970s. This did not mean that standards of teaching had plummeted. "Ofsted repeatedly finds that the teaching of history is often of a higher standard than any other subject. There is as much emphasis on the skill of weighing up information and unravelling spin as there is on knowing dates. What does it matter if they don't know the dates of the battle of Trafalgar if they know where to find the information?"
Andrew Roberts, a military historian and author, has chaired a Conservative Party advisory panel on history teaching, which is to report soon. He said: "It's really good news that Mr Thurley has brought this to the forefront. He has correctly identified the problems."
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Small sample or not i have no doubt that this is a fair representation of the children and and younger generations of today.
And Admiral Lord Nelson is only the 19th century! What would they know of England and the British Isles from 3000BC-1066AD?? Or the British Empire?? Or the two Civil wars??
They know where we've been in recent times yes, but not where we came from and who we are and the deeds key figures in our history and how we lived.
I love reading about, watching, experiencieng in some way and just imagining our history primarily but also others. Children are gorowing up and some adults live everh day not knowing these things, there is a complete lack of self pride and confidence and ignorance here is not bliss and it affects people's decisions [Topical when you think we jsut had general elections here].
It really disgusts me.
Nelson Mandella i belvie will have a statue in Trafalgar Square one day, well in sight of it anyway, but British children really shouldn't be making those kind of mistakes, particularly the elder ones. It is symptomatic of the poor way n which history is taught in schools and PC culture probably also has something to do with it.
Last edited by Critic; 05-09-2005 at 11:04 AM.
The 9 words of life quote -
"Act with honour, seek justice, die true, remembered well."
GO LDN 2012 ~ AIM = Critic News Info