Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Gove`s "history" should not be taken seriously

The obvious fact is that the Education Secretary, who denounces historians, because they disagree with his naive ideas on the first world war, for "denigrating patriotism" and "supporting left-wing myths", is being taken too seriously; Gove is merely an arrogant politician, intent on imposing his ideology on the centenary commemorations, totally unqualified to debate history with academics. 
   How dare he have the impudence to challenge the views of historians, many of whom having devoted much of their lives to studying and teaching 20th century history,when he lacks not only qualifications in the subject, but as well as detailed knowledge, a basic understanding of how history works? Presumably his 2.1 degree in English did not provide him with the skills necessary to dispute the works of expert historians? The basic point which he clearly does not understand is that history is a matter of interpretation, and that historians can be experts in their field of study, yet reach different conclusions, and the first world war is no exception.There are many differing views on the causes of the war, but that does not mean all are wrong, bar one, which appears to be Gove`s view, or that those who support the varied viewpoints are upholding "left-wing myths". A traditional view may have to give way eventually, when revisionist historians` views take precedence, often after new research has been undertaken, or when new evidence has been unearthed, but that is not the case with WWI, and anyway, it does not mean that the earlier interpretation should be binned, and certainly not rubbished, in typical Gove-like fashion. The recent judgements, supported by Gove, on the role played by General Haig, for instance, are by no means watertight, as there is plenty of evidence supporting alternative conclusions.
     The rigour now in A-level history is such that Gove would fail to get a top grade in the subject, as his "coursework" in the Mail recently revealed important skills to be lacking; substantiating statements with factual evidence, evaluation of a wide range of sources, and showing explicit understanding of relevant issues all were missing. A-level students working on the option I have been involved with recently, have to show "clear and consistent understanding of the nature of historical debate" and the ability to "assess the relative merits of differing interpretations" with a "convincing,well supported judgement" (Mark Scheme for HIS4X,AQA); I know of many students who have achieved this top level, but sadly, our Secretary of State for Education does not even come close

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