History teaching has moved on from all those Kings and Queens, battles and dates, rote learning* etc. Now, as somebody said, learning is skills-based, not facts-based - students are 'taught to learn' and become self-powered, self-motivated learners, 'accessing and evaluating a range of sources' etc etc.
One of the ways in which they play at being historians is the page of sources - where children are given half a dozen carefully selected paragraphs from half a dozen carefully selected sources, and invited on the basis of same to pronounce on whether the Tommies of World War One really were lions led by donkeys.
My daughter was presented last week with a photograph of a dingy nineteenth-century street in Liverpool (or London - I forget)** , and asked for homework to pronounce on what it told her about poverty in Victorian Britain. A long and hopefully not unfruitful debate followed - during which she suggested that the photographer may have been looking for the worst street, to make a political point, and Laban pointed out that it could also work the other way round. A Government photographer, for example, may be looking for the best working class housing and the rosiest children to snap. I mentioned the idea of the Potemkin village, where artifice may produce a misleading impression.
Now in my daughter's school, there's a special programme for the bad and the unfortunate - the disruptive and nasty kids as well as those with learning difficulties (I fail to see why the latter should be lumped with the former, but it seems to be the way in "special schools" as well). It's called something like the K2 Programme, and the kids are 'the K2 kids'.
Back to Potemkin.
"Just consider", I said, "when the OFSTED inspectors are in your class, whose workbooks are out on display, and who does the teacher ask questions of ? Your bunch, or one of the K2 kids?"
"They can't ask them. When the inspectors come, all the K2 kids get sent on coach trips !"
* (except it hasn't - because the exams are now marked by temporary staff, rather than by people who know the subject. These temps don't have the knowledge to review all-round competence in a subject - instead they look for the "key phrases" which earn the marks. A semi-literate answer with the key words or phrases will earn more marks than a great sentence or paragraph which doesn't include the key words. Now the children HAVE to rote-learn these key words, and we've got the worst of both worlds).
** it bore a remarkable resemblance to the street in The King's Speech which was supposedly the 1930s home of the Aussie speech therapist, but looked straight out of Dickens.
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