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Source: Guardian.co.uk

Historians say Michael Gove risks turning history lessons into propaganda classes

Academics warn against education secretary’s plan to celebrate Britain’s ‘distinguished’ role in world affairs

Wednesday 17 August 2011

The education minister, Michael Gove, wants school history lessons to portray Britain ‘as a beacon of liberty’. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Leading historians are to hit out against education minister Michael Gove’s plans for history teaching, saying they risk “going down the route of propaganda”.

Gove has said history in schools ought to “celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world” and portray Britain as “a beacon of liberty for others to emulate“.

But Tom Devine, professor of history at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I am root-and-branch opposed to Gove’s approach. It smells of whiggery; of history as chauvinism. You cannot pick out aspects of the past that may be pleasing to people.”

Devine was speaking before a debate on history teaching at the Edinburgh international book festival, where he will be joined by Professor Linda Colley of Princeton University, and RW Johnson, the emeritus fellow in politics at Oxford.

Devine said of the Aberdeen-raised Gove: “I find it remarkable someone educated in the Scottish system can come up with this nonsense.”

Speaking about Gove’s contention earlier this year that the history syllabus “doesn’t mention a single historical figure, except William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano” – key figures in the British movement to abolish slavery – he accused the secretary of state of creating “straw men”. “The syllabus is not devoid of content. History teaching has never been more exciting.”

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