(By Chris Cook, education correspondent):
Michael Gove fears that “children are growing up ignorant of one of the most inspiring stories I know – the history of our United Kingdom”, and is committed to increasing teaching history. This was described to the FT by one minister as “boilerplate conference applause generator”.
That sceptical MP has a point. Encouraging the teaching of British history in chronological order has long been a standard applause line at Tory conferences. In opposition, the party set up a review into the teaching of history.
But that applause-line has an old vintage. Rab Butler took his first cabinet post as President of the Board of Education in 1941. Butler’s memoirs state that, when he offered him the job, Churchill had a pretty good idea about what he wanted taught.
[Churchill] looked at me pityingly and said: “Everyone has to learn to defend himself. I should not object if you could introduce a note of patriotism into the schools. Tell the children that (General) Wolfe won Quebec.”
And if you think there’s anything new under the sun, there’s even the old centralism-localism debate thrown in Butler’s comment that:
“I said that I should like to influence what was taught in schools but that this was always frowned upon. Here he looked very earnest and commented, “Of course not by instruction or order but by suggestions.”
Who knew it. Winston Churchill was an advocate of “Nudge”.