What a pleasant change to read about the "migrant solidarity convoy", and its delivery of "£7500 worth of food,clothes and sanitary goods" to the Calais refugees (Morning Star,17/08/15). Such generosity of spirit restores faith in humanity after hearing of "swarms" and "marauding millions", when referring to desperate people escaping their war-ravaged homes, and their countries where torture and executions are in abundance; it makes one wonder what they teach at private schools, especially as tolerance could be increased with an improved history syllabus in all schools.
This year`s war commemorations thankfully did not provide us with the expected World War theme park, opened by a khaki bestrewn Boris, but it did increase awareness of the roles played in 20th century wars by different races. That`s a start but there`s clearly much more to be done.
The initiative for changing the history taught in our schools has to come from the opposition parties, because the Tories, as we know from Gove`s time as Education Secretary, prefer their history nationalistic, glorifying the role of Britain in the world`s efforts to "civilise" itself. What is imperative is that the history taught has to be balanced, not focusing on the action taken by so-called British "heroes" over the centuries, but acknowledging that all countries have heroic figures, and all, including Britain, have people whose disgraceful behaviour brings shame to the respective nation.
How can we ever hope to have a tolerant nation, appreciative of the benefits all races have brought to the world, if our children are force-fed an historical diet of British-only glories? On the other hand, tolerance can be increased by ensuring the history syllabus includes:
stories and facts about bravery, courage and inventiveness displayed by people of all races, not just Britons, and both sexes.
still more emphasis of the roles played in securing victory in world wars of other nations
acknowledgement that atrocities were not just committed by enemy forces, or by Russian forces in Berlin at the end of the Second World War, but by British and American troops too
the virtual destruction of the native American race
some of the history of the Middle East, both to ensure the area`s role in "civilisation" is known, as well as the west`s role in re-drawing boundaries after World War One, and its disastrous effects
the excellent work done by trade unions in Britain, and around the world
recent history, including the disgraceful and unnecessary wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
A recent Radio 4 Science programme highlighted the story of a brilliant black student, a man destined for a knighthood for his contribution to society, who was told in a university interview to "go back to where he came from, and grow bananas". The person giving this instruction was Keith Joseph, soon to be Thatcher`s Education Secretary!
Hopefully, the new Labour leader will see the importance of teaching "balanced" history, and set about the re-writing of the syllabus. Tristram could prove useful after all, though I`m not holding my breath!