Historically deficient

Who were Julius Caesar, Leif Ericsson, and Charles Darwin? Know the answer? Well that’s because you, dear reader, are not a recent or current product of British schools—state, independent, or otherwise--where the Romans, Vikings, and Victorians, amongst others, can be skipped in history class so that students have time to learn how to use social networking sites like Twitter. Outrageous? We agree. A recent study (pdf) by the Historical Association, a British research organization that focuses on the study and preservation of history, found that thousands of students drop the subject at age 13. And 48 percent of schools report that 11 and 12 year-olds spend only one hour a week in history class. But it gets worse. Thirty percent of secondary schools don’t even teach history as a stand-alone subject in the upper grades. And only thirty percent of students take the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) history test at age 16. Though these data were collected from just 700 teachers at 644 schools, if representative, they present a troubling trend. How can students be citizens of the 21st century if they know nothing about the preceding ones?

"History in danger as only 30% of pupils take subject at GCSE," by Ian Drury, Daily Mail, September 14, 2009

"History is being forgotten from GCSE curriculum, fear school teachers," by Polly Curtis, The Observer, September 13, 2009