Friday, January 28, 2011


Theodore Dalrymple laments young Britons' ignorance of history:
WHEN I used to ask my young patients to name a British prime minister other than the present one and Mrs Thatcher (they had all heard of her) they used to reply with an answer such as: “I don’t know, I wasn’t born then.”

The name Winston Churchill rang no bells with them, 1066 meant nothing. Queen Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson … it was all Greek to them. They’d heard of the slave trade but had no idea whether it came before or after the Second World War.

The majority were unable to give a single historical date. Their geographical knowledge was little better. They’d heard of Paris but not of Berlin.

Indeed almost every part of the earth might as well have been the far side of the moon as far as they were concerned. The only places whose location they knew for sure were local nightclubs and football stadiums.
Dalrymple goes on to praise a call by UK Education Secretary Michael Gove for "a more chronological teaching of history, to history as narrative with facts included":
Mr Gove will find it difficult to change the teaching of history and geography because there are powerful ideological interests against change. . . . It would not be surprising if we ended up with the exact opposite of what Mr Gove wants. But the effort must be made.