History in Danger

Andrew Reekes speaks out in protest at the new A2/AS dispensation.

Thirty years ago teachers earnestly debated doomsday predictions which held that dull, narrative History teaching was smothering children's enthusiasm and that this, and the rivalry of other subjects, was blighting the future of the discipline. The subject's skills, its use of sources, would be the salvation. Well, History survived. But now a danger of an entirely different order has emerged. The new AS/A2 examinations are disastrous, a travesty of what History should be about, and it is important that schools and universities speak out about a most damaging devaluation of the subject.

More than most subjects in Curriculum 2000, History has suffered radical, and deleterious, reform. It has been fragmented, narrowed, and has submitted to artificial marking criteria which make a mockery of true historical skills. The able sixth-former who reads around the subject suffers; the meticulous hoop-jumper is rewarded. The successful A level candidate needs to know but a fraction of what his or her predecessors knew, and the majority are ignorant of all but a few patches as they sit down to their final A2 papers.

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