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Humanities in primary schools

Books + Ideas, Children — June 2019

There's a Humanities 2020 campaign with a manifesto that begins:

Primary schools have a duty to equip children for the challenges of the 21st century. We believe that the primary school curriculum in England is failing to do this or to fulfil the legal requirement for a balanced and broadly-based curriculum. Literacy and numeracy dominate the curriculum while other vital aspects of learning are often ignored. This is wrong.

We want young children to be literate and numerate, but much more than that. We affirm that every child is entitled to rich, stimulating and engaging learning experiences. We want children to have more opportunities to be creative and to build on their sense of curiosity. We would like to bring more joy and imagination back into the classroom.

This is something I fully endorse. The major concern I have with the campaign is its conception of the humanities as History, Geography, Religious Education, and Citizenship. more

I am Ashurbanipal

Books + Ideas — February 2019

While Camilla was doing a choir conducting course, Helen and I went to a fantastic Ashurbanipal exhibition at the British Museum. For a while I was afraid she was going to insist on reading every word on every board and caption. Eventually she got tired and let me read them to her instead, but we were there until the exhibition closed and she must have read almost half the text in it.

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Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
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even in hunting scenes, Ashurbanipal is depicted with a stylus in his belt; he was proud of being able to read and write Akkadian and Sumerian

more

a first date! teaching history to a six year old

Books + Ideas — January 2019

Helen learned her first historical date at the end of last year: 1666. Her school teaches its curriculum (except for mathematics) around topics, and the topic for Year 1's first half-term was the Great Fire of London. I suspect she remembers the date largely because one of the activities they did was singing the song "September 1666".

She is still very hazy about dates and chronology, however: she might have learned the date of the Great Fire of London, but at the same time she was asking me whether that happened before or after the Second World War. She has a vague feeling for twentieth century chronology, anchored by family history. more

annoying inaccuracies and errors

Books + Ideas — February 2018

This is an portmanteau post for all the annoying inaccuracies I come across, in books or talks or displays, that are too small to warrant posts of their own. more

Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna

Books + Ideas, Children — January 2015

The lullaby I use most regularly with Helen is the song "Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna", one of the few songs I remember from my own childhood. more

a conference on the Great War

Books + Ideas — September 2014

I spent the weekend at a conference "The Meaning of 1914", organised by the New York Review of Books to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, but held at St Antony's College here in Oxford. more

'medieval' outside Europe

Books + Ideas — December 2011

For a long time, possibly over a decade, I have had a disclaimer at the bottom of the "medieval history" category of my book reviews which says:

"I realise the inclusion of works on areas outside Europe and West Asia in a 'medieval history' category is problematic."

more

9 Thermidor and the Origins of Life

Books + Ideas — May 2011

I went to two talks today, one a small Earth Sciences seminar and the other a big "annual special lecture" of the Faculty of History. more

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