Are they? Are we? Or are we/they just the most arrogant?

I jokingly butted in to a Twitter conversation tonight between Sam Freedman and Laura McInerney where I asked Laura why she hated history teachers so much. This was a joke

It sparked, however, a few interesting points and made me wonder, as I often have, whether history teachers think they’re better than others. I’ve often found colleagues to be either particularly dismissive of other subjects or having held an unnaturally – perhaps, arguably; incorrectly? – high regard for their own discipline. Is this necessarily a problem, other than being something which winds up colourer-inners, sorry, geographers? Whether it is or isn’t, here are a few reasons why we historians just might be a little arrogant at times:

  • According to Sam, history is ‘the academic subject with the highest level of ITT applications to places.’ Therefore institutions can be choosier with their applicants.
  • Compared to other subjects history teaching has a particularly large and divergent scholarly background, complete with its own schisms and schools of thought.
  • History is just a bloomin’ massive subject. I know of historians who study sexual diseases, cakes, garden fountains of country estates and particular artistic movements that lasted just a couple of years and that almost no-one, either at the time or now, has ever heard of. My focus was Spanish cinema post-1970.
  • Because of this history teachers necessarily have to have a very wide range of working knowledge in order to get through any conversation with students. I am not for one moment saying that other subjects don’t require this, but that history teachers perhaps feel they have to work harder in this respect.
  • History teachers are asked questions which perhaps require answers which only be matched in terms of reducing complexity by RE teachers.
  • History is well-regarded by the public. BBC4 is practically a shrine to art-history, whilst the red-top channels can’t get enough of Nazi Megastructures.
  • History is well-regarded by employers: Oh, you have a C in A level history, do you? Whether you agree with it being harder or more worthwhile than Music or Media Studies or whatever is irrelevant because history just does have a great reputation.
  • History teachers, at least from my own experiences, tend to be those on the front lines of dissent. I have a few ideas about why this might be.
  • History teachers do not believe that an A in English GCSE gets you an A in history.

Now, I am just pointing out some ways in which history teachers might feel superior: it doesn’t mean I do; it doesn’t mean I think your subject is a poor relation of mine; it doesn’t mean I think you don’t work as hard as me or love your subject like I do mine. Indeed, Claire Bracher was absolutely right to point out later in this conversation that it shouldn’t be a crime for teachers to just be passionate about their subject.

But I do wonder. Thoughts? 

By the way, this was typed in bed very quickly and I may well be completely wrong. I’m very happy to admit this!

Advertisements