Curriculum + archives = education

This is the last idea I’d like to share with you from the Being Young During WW1 conference. It was discussed in Peter Yeandle’s talk on pacifism and the changing curriculum of wartime to post-war. The idea pokes at the relationship between truth and the curriculum in schools.

Yeandle explained that during the war the curriculum in this country was engineered to inspire patriotism. It was to serve the purpose of the national propaganda, not to guide children’s minds and abilities to their full potential.

The move sort of backfired however, as many teachers were enlisted in the war and therefore unavailable to teach and many children were truant or had joined the war effort.

After the war the curriculum changed again, now focusing on how Germany deserved forgiveness and how the blame really belonged to the Russian kaiser, Wilhelm II.

It was really interesting to see how contemporary propaganda had influenced the curriculum.

It seems to be happening again.

There is prevalent outrage at the moment inspired by the government and exam boards move to remove women’s history from the A-Level curriculum.

Why? Why target women? Have women not been important in shaping our history? I find it really strange that one woman left is Wollstenecraft who argued for the education of women (if only so that you get educated children but hey ho), and now we seem to dismissing women in history as having educational value.

This is clearly a bad idea but my current question about the relationship between the truth and curriculum focuses on archives (naturally).

The question is: Why aren’t the curriculum boards working together with archives who hold the records about the time periods and events being taught and designing a curriculum using their resources? Doesn’t that make so much sense?!

Many archives have educational programmes and online resources designed for classrooms but what are these optional extras and only available if you know where to look?

(The best place to start is the National Archives.)

Last year, my work with the Labour History Archive and Study Centre brought me into contact with a like-minded English teacher in Greater Manchester. We sat down went through what they needed for the new curriculum in terms of original sources and how we could help. It was a triumph. Other schools wanted to get involved and now dozens of schools in Greater Manchester know about our resources.

Clearly there is a demand for this so why aren’t the exam boards helping to meet it? When the curriculum works with archives you get education with added value, heaps of truth and variety and a more enlightened student body. Archives get access to an audience that are usually difficult to get through the doors: pre-university level students. Everyone’s happy!

What do you think?

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