Having taught History in secondary school, I always ensured I moved to schools which had adopted the School Council History Project (SCHP). Whereas many schools were happy to treat History teaching as a jolly narrative jaunt through highly selective episodes of national history, the SCHP was different.
The SCHP was devised by historians to encourage a more investigative role for young people in History. It was a more skills based approach that considered that ‘evidence’ needed to be interpreted and cross referenced before it could be accepted as accurate.
It infuriated traditionalists by adopting what would now be described as a CSI approach to the study of historical incidents. One case in point was one of the first exercises presented to students in the secondary.
This was the case of Mark Pullen, a student found injured at the side of a road. Students had to piece together his movements based on the circumstances on the road and the contents of his wallet. The more sophisticated students were aware of the gaps in the evidence base and proposed ways to investigate these gaps in the timeline of Mark’s movements. Traditionalists complained that it was too contemporary to be considered history and had no historical factual data included!
Another exercise was the investigation of Tollund Man, a body found buried in a peatbog in Denmark… the traditionalists argued that it was historical, but it wasn’t British… then a similar body was found in a peat bog in Lindow, outside Wilmslow in Cheshire!
What really infuriated the traditionalists was the study courses for the examination. One was a study in depth that concerned the American West from 1840 to 1900. The traditionalists claimed the SCHP has deliberately chosen an arcane field of study to irritate them and their fixation on Royal History in Britain. However that time period included industrialisation, conflict between rural and urban demands, capitalism’s development and most significantly what can only be described, in scope and intent, as a Holocaust of the Native Nations.
The other key course of study was the History of Medicine – a study of development over time. This again encompassed ancient medical understanding and the role of new technologies in moving forward understanding, such as the microscope enabling investigators to understand the microscopic nature of disease – which previously was beyond their understanding. The course was international in perspective and included the forces leading to the formation of the National Health Service.
The SCHP found it difficult to withstand the National Curriculum which focussed almost entirely on content and provided a whistle stop tour of the edited highlights of British History. However, the SCHP provided a more rigorous and more useful framework of interpretive and evaluative skills that had applications beyond school than the ‘pub quiz’ gobbets of selective information of the traditional History syllabus.
These memories came to mind when saw this post by Daniel Sobel. Imagine a whole curriculum built on these principles, rather than on reams of redundant knowledge!
Image attribution flickr enokson; 25 Question Stems Framed Around Bloom’s Taxonomy