Saturday, October 22

Testing Trafalgar

By Sarah-Jane Hollands, London correspondant.
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In yesterday's London Evening Standard, an article was published, regarding Trafalgar and asking how much people really knew about the battle.
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A reporter was duly despatched to Trafalgar Square, to ask relevant questions, of both locals and tourists. Some of the answers are laughable, some are downright depressing and the remaining question that needs answering is this : do we actually teach any British history in our schools any more?
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Judge for yourselves, the questions and answers are reprinted below.
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When was the battle of Trafalgar?
"I haven't got a clue. was it 1806? I know it was something to do with Nelson."
"I have absolutely no idea. Was it sometime in the 18th Century? Oh, was it a centenary? Was it 1705?"
"1700s, no 1800s, against Napoleon."
"200 years ago".
"1805. October 20th or was it 21st? No, it was 21st, today in fact."
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Who fought?
"The French and the English. Spain might have been involved."
"He did - Nelson. Did he fight the French?"
"France against England."
"England against the French and Spanish armada"
"Nelson against the bloody French of course."
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Where?
"Was it here in the square? It's called Trafalgar Square. Or was it Portsmouth?"
"Was it here? It was on the coast...was it Dover? I don't know."
"It was in the sea, yes? This is difficult. I think off the French coast , in the Atlantic."
"It was off Gibralter...no, just off Cadiz."
"They took the wounded into Gibralter so it was somewhere off the Bay of Biscay."
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Who won?
"I don't know who won. The last time I thought about this was at school."
"Nelson."
"I think England won. That is why the statue is up there."
"Nelson, of course. Did you know he was looking down Whitehall at his fleet?"
"We did of course, otherwise we'd all be speaking French. We should have a national holiday on this day, why don't we?"
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Name of ship?
"Oh yes, it was the Mary Rose. Or was it the Cutty Sark?"
"I really do not know, sorry. I have an MA in History, but it is in medieval history. If you had asked me about the Batle of Hastings I would have been alright."
"The Cromwell?"
"Victory. I would have been pretty embarrassed if I had got any of those wrong. He is pretty well known in the Navy."
"Victory. Nelson's ships are on Whitehall lamp posts."
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It will come as no surprise to learn that the blue responses were from a Petty Officer, aged 31, serving on HMS Nottingham.
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The purple answers were given by a 61 year old lady from North london, obviously remembering with ease her history lessons from over 50 years ago.
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The green answers came from Italian tourists, their lack of knowledge is excusable.
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Disturbingly, the orange and brown answers were given by Londoners aged 23 and 24, demonstrating once again that broadly speaking, history is a dying subject. Our school children are no longer taught about who they are and from where they came.
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I asked my nine year old daughter what she had learnt in school yesterday about Nelson or Trafalgar; what had they done in celebration of this very British victory and her reply was damning. "Nothing at all."
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The shame of it.

3 comments:

Mags Bennett said...

I have primary school age children too. Similarly they did nothing at school regading Nelson or Trafalger.
Imagine my dismay to receive the following communcation from the school :

Dear parents/guardians,
The second half of the autumn term is the season of many cultural and religious festivals. In addition to raising the children's awareness of these festivals, the Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception classes) will be celebrating this by hosting a Cultural diversity week, beginning November 21st.

So there you have it. Trafalger clearly waa neither cultural or diverse enough to warrant so much as a passing mention.

Where will it end? In tears, I fear.

Kelly said...

George Santayana said "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.... " Since neither the United States or the United Kingdom are teaching their children history lessons, I wonder what history they (we) are doomed to repeat. I find that there are times that my own education is severely lacking in places, Probably due to either a boring teacher or lack of attention on my part. But I did learn history and geography before schools started teaching civics and social studies. I think it really is time to stop talking about social reform and get back to some basics. Our history is what makes us who we are today. We should be proud of where we have come from or of how far we have come from, lol, depending on our histories. Our history has molded us, imprinted on us, and still influences us today. We are all lost without our pasts. We need to celebrate them and remember them. We need to remember those who have given so much for us to have what we have. We have memorial day and you have remembrance day. What are we remembering on those days if we aren't taught our histories?

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