December 2009
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Fighting for history in Year 7

Having read post after post from anxious history teachers who are now being forced to teach some manner of skills-based course, such as Opening minds,my blood is starting to boil. Noone would dispute that we need to teach pupils to see both sides of an argument, to be open to new evidnec, to back up assertions with copper-bottomed evidencc, to deduce, infer ,evaluate and solve problems. We all want that . That’s why we teach the skills in history. Why do we need this extra subject which is stealing history time? We need to stop this prenicious an insidious drft to teaching skills as if no context was required.

The ability to think critically depends on having adequate content knowledge. You simply can’t think critically about topics you know little about or solve problems you don’t know well enough to recognize. Therte is nothing wromng with Philosophy for Children or simialr courses but hey are designed to supplement NOT to replace. Even asking pupils to raise questions about documents such as who wrote it ?( 5Ws) won’t do much good without context. Critical thinking needs to be nested in context.

So what do we do about it? Resist! Resist! Resist! and persuade. Let me tell you, there is no massive scientifically researched peer reviewed, evidence base telling us that these courses produce better thinkers than history-TAUGHT WELL. So take every opportunity to invite SLT into your classrooms to show what you are doing, and what will be lost is history is usbstituted for the new, unproven kid on the block.

I feel slightly better now!

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