Friday, 12 March 2010

Dimbleby: television is teaching our children history.

The revolution, if it comes, might not be televised but if David Dimbleby, something of a silverback amongst television presenters, is right the only place British children would be likely to learn one had taken place from would be a history programme broadcast on television long after the event.

In an interview with the Radio Times, not perhaps the most cerebral of magazines, he claimed this week that programmes such as his own The Seven Ages of Britain’ (you might think there was a discreet plug in there somewhere I couldn’t possibly comment) are ‘filling in the gaps left by the less than impressive treatment of history in the school curriculum.’

His views are echoed by a survey carried out by the Historical Association in which out of 700 schools questioned 3 out of 10 no longer taught history as a separate subject at Key Stage 3.

Melanie Jones, education manager for the Historical Association, said that although history was in general taught well in British schools ‘far too little curriculum times’ was devoted to the subject.

This isn’t a new complaint, for years parents, education professionals and people believe history matters have been complaining about the problems caused by a narrow curriculum; usually summed up as consisting of Hitler, Henry and the Holocaust, that seems designed for the specific purpose of killing kid’s interest in history off in the quickest possible time. There is also, of course, the perennial problem of a school curriculum that seems to grow ever more packed with requirements thought indispensable under government initiatives that are all too often forgotten about before the bureaucrats have come back from their lunch break.

There is though another problem at work here, namely that we are now governed by people who are, for the most part, historically illiterate. Nothing else could explain how we sleepwalked into the appalling mess that is the war in Afghanistan when an understanding of the horrors visited on British forces there in the nineteenth century would have been wise counsel against making war in that benighted land. The same goes for our approach to the economy, we repeated the mistakes of the 1920’s by allowing the financial markets to run wildly out of control and those of the 1930’s by doing too little to help people who have had their livelihoods destroyed by the crash. If all this leads to us having to relive the horrors of the 1940’s; don’t say the history books didn’t warn you.

The inescapable truth is that one of the most valuable resources any country can have is its history, without a clear understanding of where we’ve been where we’re going to could well turn out to be somewhere we don’t much like.


An ASBO for Rover?

As if they didn’t have enough to keep them busy the government announced plans this week to introduce ‘dog control notices’, ASBO’s for Pit Bull Terriers if you like.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson, a postman before he was a politician and so no stranger to getting bitten by dogs, said ‘The vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there is no doubt some people breed and keep dogs for the sole purpose of intimidating others.’

He went on to say ‘it is this sort of behaviour that we will not tolerate; it is the sort of behaviour we are determined to stop.’ Cue the patriotic music and thunderous applause for the hero of the hour.

Meanwhile back in the Westminster bubble plans are afoot to launch a public consultation on legislation to make it compulsory for all dog owners to have their pets micro-chipped and to buy third party insurance.

As with so many things the brown government has done since 2007 this is all very well meant and so utterly impractical it is doomed to fail. The irresponsible owners the plans are aimed at are no more likely to buy insurance for their dog than they are for their car; as for giving Fang or Fido, or whatever they call the slavering beast that half drags them around the local sink estate an Anti Social Behaviour order, they’d probably hang it is pride of place on the wall next to their own.


And another thing:

All this week BBC 2 has been showing ‘Lambing Live’ as part of its prime time schedules, a programme that does exactly what it says on the tin; meaning that a bunch of cute little lambs get born and nothing much else happens.

I know that budget cuts mean Auntie has had to tighten her belt, but if this is the shape of things to come what can we expect next; coming soon ‘Paint Drying-Live?’

Its all gone wrong, Chris Evans taking over the Radio 2 breakfast slot vacated by Sir Terry Wogan at the start of the year, this week the former enfant terrible of radio was pictured creeping into Broadcasting House looking like a haunted wreck.

The Met Office may have given up making long range forecasts, but I more than willing to predict storm conditions in coffee cups across Middle England; it’s not a hurricane dears so please stop panicking.

Lets face it presenting a breakfast show on radio isn’t exactly rocket science, all you need is a pile of records and a store of breezy chat, whether the latter comes from an elderly stage Irishman or an overgrown ginger schoolboy is neither here nor there.

Give it six months and the TOGS currently getting their comfy underwear in a twist over nasty Chris taking over from lovely Terry will have forgotten what all the fuss was about.

Do I care whether Samantha Cameron, wife of the fragrant David, voted Labour during her wild youth? Not all that much.

Being married to a politician does not mean being married to his or her party too, unless, of course, you happen to be the wife of the honourable member for Stepford that is.

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