Why do we teach British, and often specifically English, history? Obviously, it’s because we’re mindlessly fulfilling our duties as Theresa May’s street sweepers, right? We’re brushing the dirt into the corner so that the shiny, colonial floor might be revealed to one and all. So shiny, in fact, that we (and by ‘we’ I mean, of course, the plebs) see the OK! magazine, ‘shopped version of ourselves, complete with 50″ TV, iPhone, Pandora jewels and financed-Honda reflected unto our bedazzled eyes, whilst simultaneously – and deliberately – failing to notice that the roof is falling in. Because, in reality, isn’t that why we teach the canon, to bask in the rosy light of the fires ripping though our homes, so we can thank our lizard overlords for their generous austerity, choosing – as we do – to democratically vote ourselves out of existence, importance and consciousness?
But, as Christine Counsell declared at West London Free School today, I am not a Tory lackey. I am not anyone’s lickspittle, let alone binary digits in the machine, unless Elon Musk is right (and he isn’t). The nonsense, reactionary claim that those who teach the canon thus preach the canon augments the argument it seeks to attack: it is the duplicitous and double-think Daily Mail response to a complaint, unaware of its own self-aggrandising, gout-ridden complicity, but fully conscious with heroic, Faustian self-importance.
To not allow children to join the conversation of mankind is elitist. To expect children to guess what is in our heads, based on the middle-class values and experiences of the most well-read in our classrooms, is elitist. To serve the interests of the poor by echoing their own experiences is elitist.
We best help our children change the future by allowing them access to, and giving them the ability to critique, the tradional knowledge of the privileged. If we renege on this pact, instead choosing to either teach what is currently in vogue or tie ourselves in knots over the complexities of provenance, then we do our community, and future, a disservice.