“History matters. Many school children doubt this. But they are wrong, and they need to be persuaded they are wrong”.
Niall Ferguson, the self proclaimed saviour of history, recently launched a malicious attack on the way history is taught in schools. He may be correct in saying that history does matter, but the methods he suggests for reviving its popularity simply will not work.
Niall Ferguson’s concerns arise from what he calls history’s “decline in British schools”. Certainly in terms of numbers this is true. More students take design and technology at GCSE than history, whilst psychology is more popular at A-level. This is where my sympathy with Niall Ferguson’s position ends.
He goes on to try and use the facts and figures of students studying history to justify his never ending crusade of trying to prove that the West is better than everyone else. He wants a campaign to remove “junk history” from our schools.
He states that there is too much emphasis on Nazi Germany, and that he was shocked when his own children couldn’t tell him anything about Martin Luther. First off, I am certain that many pupils that study history in secondary school know who Martin Luther. Secondly, I am sure most people will agree that the rise and defeat of fascism and hatred in Europe is something that all school children should at least have some knowledge of. Furthermore taking the teaching of the two world wars out of the curriculum will always be opposed.
Ideology shapes Niall Ferguson’s argument. His blinkered ideas that history should be taught in a more chronological and Eurocentric way will lead to an actual decline of history in the British Education system. Teaching history in a more chronological nature, rather than highlighting key areas, will lead to a narrow perception being cast upon crucial periods in history. This will in fact weaken student understanding of the subject and how history affects the world today.
Specific periods of history are taught to secondary school children in order to spark an interest in history. The students that become enthralled in the history they are taught can go onto study history in university, and develop a lifelong interest that allows them to have a greater understanding of the world they live in.
I think Niall Ferguson’s ideas on what the discipline of history should become are obnoxious and demeaning towards those students that enjoy history and the teachers that provide a fantastic service to their pupils. His suggested focus for historical study is to question why the scientific revolution took place in Europe and not elsewhere.
I believe this is all the proof you need to see that Niall Ferguson’s arguments are dominated by a flawed ideology that he wishes to impose upon everyone else.
History does matter and the more people that study history the better. Ferguson’s narrow minded doctrine would weaken curriculum content and the number of students that want to study history. His ideas will see the neglect and abuse of history as a discipline within Britain’s schools.