Wednesday, 3 November 2010

British Black & Asian History in the National Curriculum

I am sure that there are many like me who, while not agreeing with the appointment of any one individual to review the NC, will welcome Simon Schama's appointment as opposed to some others. He has wide ranging historical interests, he is a lateral thinker, he is intelligent and provocative in a way that is not partisan or hectoring like Starkey.

Given the central role he gave to enslaved and freed African peoples in his book Rough Crossings, he clearly appreciates the significant contribution Black and Asian people have made to Britain’s history.

That history has been neglected in the history taught and represented in schools and Universities. It is hoped therefore that he will be sympathetic to the case that this history should be be incorporated integrally into the teaching of British history at all levels of the history curricula and teacher training.

I suggest that the following principles should be built into the curricula at all levels and into teacher training.

(a) To be inclusive, to contribute to challenging discrimination and stereotyping, and to promote pupil's self-esteem, requires the development of pupils' knowledge and understanding of different cultures and diversities, including the presence of Black peoples in Britain since Roman times.

(b) The study of the history of the development and practice of racism should be an integral part of the history curriculum.

(c) All children in all schools need to be taught about the lives and contributions of people of African and Asian origin, as well as other ethnic minorities, in Britain since the 15th century.

(d) The everyday life of people in the past, their ways of life, and past events in the history of Britain and the wider world must reflect the historical and contemporary ethnic and cultural diversities, and include the role of colonies/colonials and India/Indians in the two Word Wars.

(e) All local studies should include the historic presence of Black peoples.

(f) Those teaching the history of Britain in the early modern period should include the context of the 'wider world' - of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and European colonial and commercial interests, including African enslavement.

(g) In the teaching of 19th century Britain, due attention should be given to Britain’s role and impact impact on Ireland, India, and Africa, including the rise of racism.

(h) Teaching Britain since 1930 must include the cultural/ethic diversity of the British Empire, the effect of the Second World War on British and Empire societies, and deal with racial discrimination, campaigns against imperialism, and Black contributions to British life and culture.

(i) Teaching Britain 1066-1500 should include the impact on England of being colonised by the Normans and of subsequent English colonisation of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

(j) Teaching Britain 1500-1750 should include the effect of British expansion on peoples of the wider world, the role of the East India Company, the slave trade, the establishment of slave worked plantations in North America and the Caribbean, and the presence of Black peoples in Britain.

(k) Teaching Britain 1750-1900 should include the building/acquisition/conquest of Empire, resistance in the Empire, African slave revolts, wars of conquest and pacification, including the American, Haitian and French Revolutions, the Opium Wars, the substitution of Crown for Company rule in India, the ‘scramble’ for Africa, the South African War and its effects, emigration and immigration, the struggles of the working class for the vote, industrialisation and the growth of cities, and make due reference to black political and cultural figures.

(l) If a more 'inclusive' curriculum is to be taught, the publishers of text books have to be convinced that the Government insists on this.

(m) The promotion of respect, understanding of cultural diversity and combating racism, should be integral to the whole curriculum.

(n) Issues raised in Citizenship and PSHE [spell out] should permeate all of the National Curriculum and subject areas.

(o) Great care must be taken not to make children ashamed of their backgrounds/histories.

I hope that Schama will be able to conduct a wide ranging consultation including open public meetings to hear views from all interested parties. It would be helpful if a short consultation document setting out the issues and asking key questions could be produced.

I think as many of us as possible should take part in the review. It is the only opportunity available.

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