Posted: 22/06/2013 at 13:43
According to some of the folks I used to work with, the Battle of Britain took place in 1066.
The trouble is, you tend to start off in school with things like the Romans, which is soooo long ago, no-one in school gives a foetid dingo's kidney about. Yes, we are bloodthirsty little darlings, so love the stories about Guy Fawkes being hung, drawn and quartered for trying to blow up the houses of Pariament, but by the time you get to choose options at school, most people have been completely put off, by things that happened centuries ago, that don't seem to have anything to do with the world today.
When I did GCSE History, we did the history of the American West, and the History of Medicine. The history of medicine was great, as you got to learn lots of gory stuff, like the flagellants who thought that the plague was punishment from God, and went around whipping themselves to show penitence in the hope that God would spare them. Didn't work of course. Then there were sewers and public health, in ancient Rome the main sewer was named the cloaca maxima and you could drive a horse and cart through it. Then War, major advances in medicine are always driven by war, from the easiest way to remove a barbed arrow, to ampuation, penicillin and the Guinea Pig Club.
I don't know about now, but we don't seem to be teaching the Modern stuff that has a bearing on the world today. When I explained about Harold getting an eyeful in 1066 and that being the Battle of Hastings, and 1940 being the year of the Battle of Britain, and how the first world war lead to the second, and the assasination of the Archduke Ferdinand by a pissed-off Serbian starting the first big one off, questions were coming thick & fast, some I could answer, some not, by the time I went back to my desk, the questions I couldn't answer were being Googled. So it's not the fault of the kids, because with the right spark, they are really keen to learn about the World Wars, and how we used to live, the Blitz, Rationing, Conscription, Reserved Occupations, Conchies, the lot. The teachers are equally keen to teach them our rich heritage, but their hands are tied by the National Curriculum, if it's not on there, they don't have the time to teach it.
I was lucky, my Mum started my love of history by stories of her being terrified by the big burbling things in the sky, where you were OK as long as they were noisy, but terrifying when they cut out - she was describing the V1 Doodlebugs, and the kitchen table she was sheltering under was a Morrison Shelter. At the time, she lived in Hastings, and was 9 when the war ended. I also know about PLUTO, as she saw the boats it was loaded on to, and she remembers balancing on the big pipes they had in hastings, connected to containers of oil, in order to set the sea alight if anyone tried landing in Hastings.
History can come alive if you have the right person describing it. They don't have to have been there (but it helps!), that questioning spark we all have within us just needs to be set alight. Knickers to the Romans, we need to be teaching our children recent history, whilst the folks that lived through it are still around to tell their stories.
Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.