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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
History 'not up to date enough'
Afghan bombsite
Pupils should know the origins of the present conflict
An historian says the present conflict, following the attacks on the United States, shows that school pupils need to know more about modern world history.

Sean Lang, author of several history school text books, says that pupils will have a great thirst for understanding the origins of the conflict.

But that at present there is little scope in the history curriculum to address the recent past.

Without an understanding of the history of Afghanistan, the Arab world and the Middle East, the current events are difficult for schools to put into a meaningful context, he says.

And the emphasis of modern history towards the first half of the 20th century, particularly the 1930s, means that post-war history is substantially "under-taught".

In particular, Mr Lang wants to see the removal of a convention that A-level history should not address anything less than a decade old.

And for GCSE, he wants to remove the interpretation of history as excluding anything more recent than 20 years ago.

Gulf War

These limitations mean that pupils are not learning about military conflicts that have preceded the current attacks on Afghanistan, such as in the Balkans and the Gulf War.

The emergence of leaders such as Tony Blair and George W Bush and the continuing instability in the Middle East and regional politics of Iraq, Iran and the former Soviet states remain a blindspot from the curriculum.

At present, the most up to date point at which the current conflict might be addressed in the curriculum would be likely to be the Arab-Israeli conflict and subsequent peace process in the 1960s and 1970s.

Introducing more recent events into the history curriculum would be likely to require the displacement of studying other eras.

And Mr Lang suggests that there could be a reduced amount of time spent on the Nazis and Germany in the 1930s.

Mr Lang, until last year a head of history in a sixth form college, also wants a greater awareness of world history, looking beyond the United Kingdom and Europe.

He says that there is a substantial omission in the lack of attention paid to US history - again made relevant by the current military conflict.

At present, pupils are most likely to study US history only in terms of Roosevelt and the New Deal and Martin Luther King.

And even if pupils are not taught about recent history, Mr Lang says that at least teachers should be aware of the background to current affairs and that training should be available.

See also:

22 Sep 01 | Mike Baker
US attacks: Lessons for school history?
08 Oct 01 | Education
Today's assembly is about war
18 Sep 01 | Education
What did we tell the children?
17 Sep 01 | Features
Through the eyes of children
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