Richard Garner: So where do fish and chips come from?

Share
Related Topics

There has been a great deal of harrumphing and anxiety amongst education traditionalists that the name of Winston Churchill is missing from the revamped national curriculum on history due to be introduced in secondary schools to be taught from next week.

Eyebrows have also been raised in the same quarters that more emphasis is to be placed on the work of William Wilberforce, the MP who campaigned to abolish slavery, as teachers are asked to spend more time discussing slavery and the history of ethnic minority groups in this country.

Personally, I think those that grumble should relax and get a life. The history of the Second World War is still up there in the forefront of compulsory topics to be studied and I cannot for the life of me think how a teacher could cover it adequately without mentioning Churchill.

For good measure, Hitler is not mentioned by name either and I challenge any teacher to be able to teach the topic without mentioning either of them. In fact, any teacher that did could be in line for a kind of reverse award – like pupils who fail to get even a "G" grade in their GCSE exams but still turn up to do the paper.

Seriously, though, I do not think the role of our greatest wartime leader (there, I agree with the traditionalists on that one) will be diminished simply because his name is not on a bit of paper put in front of the teacher as he or she prepares for history lessons.

Of course, if I am to be consistent in my argument, I would have to say there is no need to mention William Wilberforce by name if you are telling teachers they should include slavery (and its abolition) as part of the required curriculum. My point, though, is that it does not matter whether the name is there or not – the teacher should, and can, be trusted to deliver.

A wider point emerges. Should we be putting so much emphasis on the study of black Britons and ethnic minority groups in the history syllabus? If we are to come to a greater understanding of the diverse ethnic groups that now live in the United Kingdom, the answer has to be yes.

I was a history enthusiast at school – taking the subject up until A-level but, while I could recite to you the dates of the kings and queens of England back to 1066 by the time I had finished compulsory schooling, I would not have been able to tell you who Olaudah Equiano was. (For the uninitiated, he was one of the most prominent people of African heritage in the British debate for the abolition of slavery. A former slave, he managed to buy his freedom and wrote an autobiography depicting the horrors of slavery). I could have told you that slavery was abolished, that William Wilberforce had a lot to do with it and that – by and large – what he achieved was a good thing. I had no knowledge of what impact it had from a black person's perspective or, indeed, how long our country had played host to so many representatives of ethnic minority groups.

Of course, the curriculum will cover more than just this aspect of black history as it strives to give a fuller picture of our ethnic minority groups' participation in the United Kingdom. It should cover, too, the arrival of Russian and Jewish exiles in the late 19th-century. Maybe it could even cover the fact that the first people to fry fish in batter in the UK, and to help produce fish and chips, were Portuguese Jewish refugees in the East End of London.

r.garner@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible