The slave trade is to be taught in schools from next week as part of a drive to put greater emphasis on the role of black Britons and ethnic minority groups in history.
When I first heard about this I thought it was a good thing, after all at present the curriculum is just full of American black history, which bears no relevance to British blacks, but no, now British children are going to get both US and UK black history.
I have mentioned before that British blacks really have no idea of their past history, and in the absence of any role models or relevant history, they cling to the US role models and culture, such as gangs. So while this new move should be welcomed as a good thing, filling the history curriculum with black history is not.
Just 2% of the UK population is black, so this in depth look at ‘Black History’ is going to be largely irrelevant for 98% of pupils and would be better used in the wider context of the British Empire, but that doesn’t appear to be what is happening. Instead after looking at slavery in Britain, pupils will then look at slavery in the US and the emancipation there as well as the civil rights movement, something that has no relevance whatsoever in Britain.
There was no civil rights movement over here, there didn’t need to be, there was no segregation here, no bar on voting, so why is it taught? I doubt the French or the Americans learn about the British slave trade, so why, when there are so many complaints about a lack of British history are we still falling into the trap of offering American history instead of our own?
It’s all well and good looking over the history of black people in Britain and giving black role models and a better understanding of how black people came to be in Britain, but this should not be at the expense of everyone else. White people need their hero’s and role models too, as do the other ethnic minorities, so US black history should be removed to make way for this.
In fact if you were to read the National Curriculum regarding history, most of it seems to be about cultivating an understanding of the different peoples that make up the British people. This is all well and good, but it has to be taught carefully. You cannot teach ‘British children’ all about the cultures and history of others and not teach them their own.
The changes, part of an overhaul of the National Curriculum for history, are designed to help pupils ‘gain a better appreciation of the multi-cultural society around them’, education chiefs say.
A noble idea, in London, Birmingham and Leicester, but there are still many schools in Britain that have classes made up entirely of white children, shocking as that may be to the people in power. They too, need to be taught about their history and Winston Churchill, Horatio Nelson and Sir Francis Drake are an important part of that. We have successive generations of British school leavers who know nothing about British History, the Empire and it’s role in shaping the modern world, but have in depth knowledge of the Romans, the pilgrim fathers, the homesteaders and the Wild West as well as figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.
With all this recent talk of Britishness, and despite the fact that most Brits have no idea what it is, I find it amazing that politicians seem to be missing the place where all Brits learn about what is means to be British, in history lessons.
Regardless of whether some pupils or some families find it offensive, the British Empire needs to be taught, the slave trade needs to be taught, but this should be balanced with the positives of Empire, such as modern day multicultural Britain, standing up to the Nazi’s and the worldwide end to the slave trade.
It is a step in the right direction, I left school not having once heard mention of William Wilberforce or Olaudah Equiano which hopefully won’t happen to pupils in future, however the Government should be wary that it is not a step too far and alienate others.