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The Prince of Wales Summer School 2003


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#31 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:43 PM

I fundamentally believe the the best teachers are raving lunatics.  This must mean Mr Walker is up there at the top.  :D  :D

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#32 Richard Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 06:25 AM

Get the bunting out Drew the Younger - we are in agreement :woo:  :woo:

and not for the first time. this is becoming a regular occurance.
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#33 John

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 10:26 AM

Stephen Drew - "I think you must seriously consider the extent to which you are being fair to the young people in your class."

"Your seeming inability to recognise that there is anything good in political ideologies other than your own is worring to me as a history teacher."

I think you are probably right Stephen. In my classroom there is one more young person who just as confused as they to what political beliefs he holds. That person is me. I can't make up my mind, as much as I can force the children my class to make up their minds about historical events. But this the situation I find myself in. Comments about my professionalism have been made to me before. Such as when I refused to teach children ,"Was is right to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagaskai?" This is a two sided debate?

Also you probably are correct in saying peddling a political agenda is not what education is about. But nearly everybody who has contributed in this disscussion has agreed history teaching has been about peddling agendas. It has been political tool over the last 100 years in Britain. So what you really mean is that you don't like my agenda. My agenda is to see our society becoming racially harmonious, tolerant of other other nations, keen to promote human rights around the world, keen to end poverty in third world countries, keen look after the environment, and keen to respect international laws as the cornerstone of socially democratic principles. This is my agenda for the British nation. I don't really believe that these are counter ideals to which you hold. But change is has been too slow for my liking, too diluted.
To me this is the principle of education, to help create this ideal. Which we don't have at the moment. If this means getting political in classroom then I'll do anyway. I don't need your permission impliment my ideals through education, as education is as much mine as it yours. The future of educatiuon is probably more mine than yours as I have longer to work in the sector.

I am, as you quite rightly pointed out, unable to see the good in any political system other than my own interpretation. That is completely true. I know I'm right. But if this such abhorent way to be in the world, then Tony Blair deserves your scorn more than I, as he too inable to see the good in any political system other than his own agenda.

"Your seeming inabillity to recognise the good in any political system is worrying to me as history teacher." Like our not Stephen I'm now your equal in the work place and in society and most of friends and colleges feel the same way as me. The language you employ infers that somehow I'm not a history teacher, beacuse I actively choose to try and highltight the contradictions and blatent political hypocracy that has filled my life for last 22 years in Britain, to people closer my age than you are.
You have unfairly assessed me. Perhaps you should have made me fill out a 'history questionare' rating life in Britain from 1-10 then at least OFSTED would have pleased about your assessment techniques.

Edited by John, 09 July 2003 - 10:29 AM.


#34 Stephen Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 01:02 PM

The common ground here is almost non-existent, but I suppose a discussion such as this had to be coming for quite a while. The apolitical me and the ultra political radical left wing teacher discussing the core issues of education philosophy and political indoctrination.

There is clearly no possibility that we will come to agreement on this matter as we have funadmentally at odds views of what education is in the 21st century classroom. We effectively speak different languages and inhabit different worlds.

The one thing we can be sure of is that we will not have to work together in a school. I would not employ you in my school, and if I arrived as your Head of Faculty / Department you would doubtless take the first available ride out of the school rather than have to work with me. So at least there is one area of agreement.

I am intrigued by how old you think that I am. 30? 40? 50? 60? I think you think I am a lot older than I actually am, but maybe I am wrong. JHowever your comments betray a thought that I must be a lot older than you and that this must inform my comments. As a guide, I assume by your age (22) that you must be in either your NQT or second year of teaching. That gives me a maximum of four more years teaching than you.

I am sure that you hold passionately to your beliefs and that you are convinced of the rightousness of your actions in the classroom. However I come back to your steadfast refusal to even countanence opinions divergent to your own. I would never even think of questioning the efficacy of teaching the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan as a debate where there was no right or wrong answer. Indeed I endeavour to get students to think about the whole issue from both sides of the argument and to consider the relative merits of the positions taken by both sides in 1945. I could not even think of doing it any other way. I do think that by refusing to allow your students the chance to make up their own minds on this issue that you are selling them short and being unfair to them. I would have to agree with the teacher who challenged you when you refused to teach the lesson on the atomic bombs and Japan in 1945.

You must be more open minded and actually force yourself to taech the views you presently refuse to accept as valid.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#35 Paul Smith

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 01:29 PM

My agenda is to see our society becoming racially harmonious, tolerant of other other nations, keen to promote human rights around the world, keen to end poverty in third world countries, keen look after the environment, and keen to respect international laws as the cornerstone of socially democratic principles.


I don't think many (any) of us would disagree here - common ground perhaps here.

This is my agenda for  the British nation.


You're perfectly entitled to your agenda but may I suggest that reference to a "British nation" is at best an oxymoron, at worst a dismissal of all the historys/herstorys that make up what some choose to call Britain.

I know I'm right.



At this remark my blood literally chilled -

I know that I have allowed myself to be open to the same criticism that A JP Taylor tellingly threw at Hugh Trevor Roper over "selective quotation" but I had to respond.

Cassus ubique vale

#36 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 02:01 PM

The apolitical me

:blink: :tomatoes: :tomatoes:

#37 Stephen Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 03:21 PM

Rather than picking up on a point which is completely pointless for us to debate Andy because we both know that we could argue about it until hell froze over and would still be arguing as we skated around the ice, perhaps you could comment on the thrust of this argument?

I am intrigued to see if you wish to defend the arguments of John or if you are unimpressed by them as I am, and clearly others are.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#38 John Simkin

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:00 PM

The common ground here is almost non-existent, but I suppose a discussion such as this had to be coming for quite a while. The apolitical me and the ultra political radical left wing teacher discussing the core issues of education philosophy and political indoctrination.

There is clearly no possibility that we will come to agreement on this matter as we have funadmentally at odds views of what education is in the 21st century classroom. We effectively speak different languages and inhabit different worlds.

The one thing we can be sure of is that we will not have to work together in a school. I would not employ you in my school, and if I arrived as your Head of Faculty/Department you would doubtless take the first available ride out of the school rather than have to work with me.

John, if I was head of department I would definitely be interested in employing you. No doubt I would spend a lot of time disagreeing with you but that would not worry me a bit. You would keep me on my toes as you would be constantly be challenging my decisions. The reason I would be keen to employ you is that you are passionate about the subject and you think deeply about the issues that all history teachers should be thinking about. Sadly, they don’t, and that is why we constantly need young people entering the profession to ask awkward questions of more experienced colleagues.

I assume Stephen you are being serious when you say this is a debate between the left and those like you who are non-political. From my point of view the debate is between the politically aware and the politically naïve. I will repeat what has been said several times before, all these discussions are about politics.

Take for example the Prince of Wales conference that you attended last week. I would like to ask a political question about it. Who paid for it? I know part of the answer. Charles Clarke’s Department of Education paid £15,000 towards the cost of the conference. The rest was paid by two anonymous donors. Why should they wish to remain anonymous? Are they ashamed of making such a conference possible. Could there be political reasons for this decision?

While you were attending this conference in school time teachers were struggling to get permission to go to the SHP conference. This meeting was not subsidized by Clarke or any wealthy people who had money to give away. People therefore had to persuade their schools to pay their course fees. As you know from this forum many teachers failed to achieve this funding even though they were willing to give up their weekends in order to improve their professional skills.

Your report on the Prince of Charles conference suggests that all the speakers were reasonable men. You claim that the “one thing that united David Starkey, Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama, Andrew Roberts, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood (the leading historians who spoke) was there constant use of phrases such as "If I am wrong about school History please tell me". This seems a very strange position for historians to take. I thought the idea was for historians to do their research first before making pronouncements. Why did they not discover first what was going on in schools before making these comments?

Some like David Starkey were more honest and admitted that they did know about what was going on in the classroom. As Andrew Field said: “I heard Starkey being interviewed on Radio 4 last Monday evening. He was making an interesting point that we, as history teachers, have become too focused on trying to teach students the skills of a historian that we miss the opportunity to help students learn about the real stories of history.” That was the position of right-wing activists during the National Curriculum debate.

Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts are also well-known right-wing (non-political) historians. They may or maybe trying to get the teaching of history changed. However, I suspect, like the other speakers, David Starkey, Simon Schama, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood they were more interested in the publicity they would get in the papers and the potential it would give them to sell their latest book, television series, etc. they are involved in.

The most disturbing speech was the one made by Scott Harrison, the chief HMI for History. According to the Guardian report he claimed he was concerned by the way that the British Empire is being taught. Unlike Starkey and co, Harrison’s views do matter. We have been lucky in recent years to have excellent chief HMIs for History (John Slater, Roger Hennessey and John Hamer). One of the things about these three is they did not make pronouncements about how history teachers should do their job. I know Harrison and I know he is not in the same class as these three men. Is he saying that he is now going to direct teachers on how they should teach the British Empire? If so, this is an interesting development.

#39 Richard Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:24 PM

Comments about my professionalism have been made to me before. Such as when I refused to teach children ,"Was is right to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagaskai?"  This is a two sided debate?

how can your pupils ever understand why the bombs were dropped if you refuse to acknowledge this as a two sided debate? surewly your pupils will be confused if all they have is a knowledge that it was abhorent, injust and evil - "if all of that is an absolute truth then why was it done?" they will ask. or will you just tell them why the americans did it (or at least your interpretation/assumption of why) and then move on.

if so i would say that you are denying your pupils a rounded education and the opportunity to become open minded people capable of living in the society that you aim for.
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#40 Stephen Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:46 PM

John, if I was head of department I would definitely be interested in employing you. No doubt I would spend a lot of time disagreeing with you but that would not worry me a bit. You would keep me on my toes as you would be constantly be challenging my decisions. The reason I would be keen to employ you is that you are passionate about the subject and you think deeply about the issues that all history teachers should be thinking about. Sadly, they don’t,  and that is why we constantly need young people entering the profession to ask awkward questions of more experienced colleagues.


So John (Simkin) you are perfectly prepared to run a department where one of the members is not even prepared to recognise that there are two sides to a debate on issues such as the atomic bombs in World War II?

You are quite prepared to allow one of your teachers to refuse to teach this topic because they refuse to allow their students to make up their own minds?

Where is your committment to New History and the SHP ethos there?
Or does it get conveniently lost when it suits your own political viewpoint?

I assume Stephen you are being serious when you say this is a debate between the left and those like you who are non-political. From my point of view the debate is between the politically aware and the politically naïve. I will repeat what has been said several times before, all these discussions are about politics.


Obviously in your opinion I cannot be taken seriously for as those on the left have said before in this forum, those who adopt my position are either somehow verging on the autistic (Andy Walker) or as you have added today naive (John Simkin). I am always amused by the way in which the position of those who do not adopt the orthodoxy of the left in teaching are characterised as being somehow less developed intellectually than those who do.

Take for example the Prince of Wales conference that you attended last week. I would like to ask a political question about it. Who paid for it? I know part of the answer. Charles Clarke’s Department of Education paid £15,000 towards the cost of the conference. The rest was paid by two anonymous donors. Why should they wish to remain anonymous? Are they ashamed of making such a conference possible. Could there be political reasons for this decision?


I have always assumed that if we live in a liberal democracy that what we do with our money is entirely up to us. If someone wishes to donate some of their money to fund a conference to benefit History and English teachers in this country, I personally will not instantly jump on the conspiracy theory trail. But as has been said before I am clearly politically naive and perhaps this explains this.

While you were attending this conference in school time teachers were struggling to get permission to go to the SHP conference. This meeting was not subsidized by Clarke or any wealthy people who had money to give away. People therefore had to persuade their schools to pay their course fees. As you know from this forum many teachers failed to achieve this funding even though they were willing to give up their weekends in order to improve their professional skills.


So what should I have done? Refused to attend out of solidarity with my teaching brothers and sisters? Should I have somehow said that because some History teachers could not attend the SHP Conference that I should refuse to attend a four day free conference offered without questions to all schools in East Anglia?

I had wondered how long it would take for someone to make this point. It has taken a week and a half, which is slightly longer than I expected, but as ever you do not disappoint me. The prejudice of the left against anything that involves their class enemies is as amusing as it is sad. All I want in life to help my students develop the skills and understanding they need to go on to function as citizens. If they then go on to become radical Marxist Revolutionaries bent on the overthrow of the present system because I have taught them to be open minded and love the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in all its forms then so be it. I will have done my job.

Your report on the Prince of Charles conference suggests that all the speakers were reasonable men. You claim that the “one thing that united David Starkey, Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama, Andrew Roberts, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood (the leading historians who spoke) was there constant use of phrases such as "If I am wrong about school History please tell me". This seems a very strange position for historians to take. I thought the idea was for historians to do their research first before making pronouncements. Why did they not discover first what was going on in schools before making these comments?


This I find to be beyond belief. Damned if you do, and damned if you don't is the phrase that springs to mind. So because these people chose to make it clear that they did not know everything about school history teaching and to ask for teachers to inform them of the realities they are somehow to be castigated for their willingness to be educated on the facts?

Would you have been more happy if they had just made a public pronouncement that they would never do anything with a connection to history in schools until they had spent a period of time in the schools? Perhaps you would simply be happier if they kept out of our sphere of influence and stayed in their TVs and Universities where they obviously belong?

Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts are also well-known right-wing (non-political) historians. They may or maybe trying to get the teaching of history changed. However, I suspect, like the other speakers,  David Starkey, Simon Schama, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood they were more interested in the publicity they would get in the papers and the potential it would give them to sell their latest book, television series, etc. they are involved in.


And there we get to the crux of your view. Anyone whose views you do not approve of must have an ulterior motive for all that they do. This must involve money becuase they are after all just simply rapacious capitalists who have no interest in History teaching and schools and are just using the whole thing to fuel their egos and wallets. I would hate to have to go around always thinking that everyone was either a liar or a fraud if I did not agree with them.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#41 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 06:01 PM

Oh dear this all seems to be getting over emotional. However I feel that as one who has been unceremoniously lumped together into the "left orthodoxy" (now there's a conspiracy theory for you) I feel honour bound to answer some of Stephen's rather heated points.

So John (Simkin) you are perfectly prepared to run a department where one of the members is not even prepared to recognise that there are two sides to a debate on issues such as the atomic bombs in World War II?


I have to say I would be too! Ultimately when charged with employing colleagues you have to look at the whole person. John's passion and commitment, clear intelligence and perception are all greatly to his credit and would benefit the students greatly when channelled. His passionate belief that no other b***** knows anything does him less credit! I would enjoy the departmental debates and would monitor closely his performance in the classroom (which I suspect would be fine most of the time). I would also hope that through working collaboratively with me and others I could have some impact on some of the dogmatism as surely more experience would too. Likewise I could even countenance sharing a department with some of the more pompous representatives of the Right that have sometimes posted on this forum. The clear commitment to hard work, teaching, willingness to help and share are the positive attributes I have divined in one of these particular individuals. In my silly old liberal way I would similarly enjoy the departmental debates and hope to have some positive impact on some of the more rabid outpourings!

To assert that you couldn't work with someone because of their political views is obnoxious.

I am always amused by the way in which the position of those who do not adopt the orthodoxy of the left in teaching are characterised as being somehow less developed intellectually than those who do.


This is not the case. Many right wing perspectives are intellectually advanced. However I do not believe that you have analysed to any great degree your own functionalist interpretation of liberal capitalist democracy and your assertion that you are apolitical is frankly silly and unsustainable when one skims through the entirety of your posts.
(Incidentally the Right wing perspective I characterised as on an autistic continuum in an earlier post is what could be regarded as a Tory cosmologist approach - " the rich man at his castle, the poor man at his get, he made them high and lowly and ordered their estate". The sort of Alf Garnett approach to the world which clings to tradition and ritual - daftly you immediately took this as a personal insult).

Getting back to some of the key points of the debate. I share John Simkin's concern about the agenda of the Prince of Wales Conference and those who funded it. The agenda is very clear and rather summed up by old b***** luggs personal involvement. What else could an unelected landed anachronism like him represent other than a right wing traditionalist agenda - the motive is only "ulterior" because you haven't analysed the political and social makeup of the group that created it! To them I am sure the motive is very clear. It is very clear to me also and is one I disagree with very strongly.

Being a few years older than you I can remember what history teaching was like before SHP, GCSE and the new history teaching. It was a turgid ramble through some disconnected "facts". It was heavily politically biased, did not empower students to think for themselves and was unutterably boring for pupils. For all these reasons I think the profession has to view recent developments in an informed and circumspect way. To these ends we are indebted to John Simkin's ability to outline such detail in the history of the debate.

Edited by andy_walker, 09 July 2003 - 10:29 PM.


#42 Richard Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:20 PM

My agenda is to see our society becoming racially harmonious, tolerant of other other nations, keen to promote human rights around the world, keen to end poverty in third world countries, keen look after the environment, and keen to respect international laws as the cornerstone of socially democratic principles.

in an attempt to return to the recent thrust of this thread, and to avoid some of the insults that have passed as intelligent comment recently, i would like to say that i'm sure everyone on this forum shares John's hopes for the world.

however i think the central issue is how do we achieve this:

~ by exposing our pupils to all of the evidence and viewpoints, allowing them to evaluate all of that evidence and critique all of those viewpoints, and giving them the opportunity to make up their own minds. given the utter conviction we have that we are right hen this will surely be the inevitable consequence

OR

~ by selectively exposing them to evidence and viewpoints, in order to ensure that they reach the opinions we seek for them, thus guaranteeing the future we desire. ensuring that tolerance, respect and principles exist, as long as they are the same principles as ours
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#43 John Simkin

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:20 PM

So John (Simkin) you are perfectly prepared to run a department where one of the members is not even prepared to recognise that there are two sides to a debate on issues such as the atomic bombs in World War II? You are quite prepared to allow one of your teachers to refuse to teach this topic because they refuse to allow their students to make up their own minds? Where is your commitment to New History and the SHP ethos there? Or does it get conveniently lost when it suits your own political viewpoint? (Stephen Drew)

You clearly have not read my posting (Jul 8 2003, 12:21 PM) when I clearly stated my opposition to John’s position: “It is wrong for teachers to try and persuade their students to adopt a particular point of view. I not only think this is morally indefensible but it is also likely to be ineffective.” I indicated this in my last posting when I said ”if I was head of department I would definitely be interested in employing you. No doubt I would spend a lot of time disagreeing with you but that would not worry me a bit. You would keep me on my toes as you would be constantly be challenging my decisions.”

However, as I pointed out, this would not be a reason for not employing him. As I said ”The reason I would be keen to employ you is that you are passionate about the subject and you think deeply about the issues that all history teachers should be thinking about. Sadly, they don’t, and that is why we constantly need young people entering the profession to ask awkward questions of more experienced colleagues. “

If I only employed teachers who shared my political views I would teach in a department of one.

I am always amused by the way in which the position of those who do not adopt the orthodoxy of the left in teaching are characterised as being somehow less developed intellectually than those who do. (Stephen Drew)

This is not true. I would not have criticised Margaret Thatcher as being less intellectually developed than her opponents. I always considered her to have been an honest and committed politician. I happened to disagree with her but that is another issue. Nor would I have described other right-wing figures as David Starkey, Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts as politically naïve. But they would never describe themselves as “non-political”.

“I have always assumed that if we live in a liberal democracy that what we do with our money is entirely up to us. If someone wishes to donate some of their money to fund a conference to benefit History and English teachers in this country, I personally will not instantly jump on the conspiracy theory trail.” (Stephen Drew)

I am not arguing against their right to spend their money in this way. I was just asking why they think it is important to remain anonymous. However, I do disagree with Charles Clarke spending £15,000 of taxpayers money on what appears to a right-wing pressure group. The fact that the money was spent on teachers from his own constituency makes it even more dubious.

“So what should I have done? Refused to attend out of solidarity with my teaching brothers and sisters? Should I have somehow said that because some History teachers could not attend the SHP Conference that I should refuse to attend a four day free conference offered without questions to all schools in East Anglia?” (Stephen Drew)

If you read carefully what I said you would realize that I did not criticize you for going. In fact, I would definitely have gone if I was in your position. However, if I had been there, I would have attempted to ask them some awkward questions about what they were up to.

So because these people chose to make it clear that they did not know everything about school history teaching and to ask for teachers to inform them of the realities they are somehow to be castigated for their willingness to be educated on the facts? (Stephen Drew)

Once again I refer you to my earlier posting: “Your report on the Prince of Charles conference suggests that all the speakers were reasonable men. You claim that the “one thing that united David Starkey, Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama, Andrew Roberts, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood (the leading historians who spoke) was there constant use of phrases such as "If I am wrong about school History please tell me". This seems a very strange position for historians to take. I thought the idea was for historians to do their research first before making pronouncements. Why did they not discover first what was going on in schools before making these comments?

Edited by John Simkin, 09 July 2003 - 07:21 PM.


#44 Richard Drew

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:40 PM

Your report on the Prince of Charles conference suggests that all the speakers were reasonable men. You claim that the “one thing that united David Starkey, Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama, Andrew Roberts, Anthony Beaver and Michael Wood (the leading historians who spoke) was there constant use of phrases such as "If I am wrong about school History please tell me". This seems a very strange position for historians to take. I thought the idea was for historians to do their research first before making pronouncements. Why did they not discover first what was going on in schools before making these comments?

perhaps that is why they were there. i was under the impression that the Summer School was largely a 2 way process for teachers to benefit from the viewpoints of these 'eminent' historians and for the historians to learn about what goes on in schools from the teachers. surely the summer school itself was part of ongoing research?

So John (Simkin) you are perfectly prepared to run a department where one of the members is not even prepared to recognise that there are two sides to a debate on issues such as the atomic bombs in World War II? You are quite prepared to allow one of your teachers to refuse to teach this topic because they refuse to allow their students to make up their own minds? Where is your commitment to New History and the SHP ethos there? Or does it get conveniently lost when it suits your own political viewpoint? (Stephen Drew)

You clearly have not read my posting (Jul 8 2003, 12:21 PM) when I clearly stated my opposition to John’s position: “It is wrong for teachers to try and persuade their students to adopt a particular point of view. I not only think this is morally indefensible but it is also likely to be ineffective.” I indicated this in my last posting when I said ”if I was head of department I would definitely be interested in employing you. No doubt I would spend a lot of time disagreeing with you but that would not worry me a bit. You would keep me on my toes as you would be constantly be challenging my decisions.”

However, as I pointed out, this would not be a reason for not employing him.


i wonder how many parents would be happy for their children to be taught by someone who was unwilling to recognise other viewpoints if they did not reflect their own? i suspect that the vast majority of parents would have someone who expressed such views out of the door in a split second if they were sat on an interview panel.

Edited by Richard Drew, 09 July 2003 - 07:42 PM.

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#45 Dafydd Humphreys

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:04 PM

And what if John refused to teach: 'Was it right to gas the Jews?' How could there be a two-way argument on such an atrocity?

I approach the atom-bombing of the Japanese people this way - I express my view, (which is not covered in the textbook) and the students are then to use the evidence and sources presented from the book to make their own minds up and possibly argue with it.

When I knew less about history I did the 'Well I have no views on this here is the text and sources make your own mind up'....it got very weak responses.

John - excellent posts so far, and I can assure you that as Head of Faculty I would most definitely have you in my history department.
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