Letter: History lessons

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The Independent Online
Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown gets my full support for her excellent and timely views warning against both the Government and the Conservative Party attempting to impose a patriotic and false history syllabus on our kids.

The Government is "conducting research" at sixth form centres to see how we history teachers would be disposed to this nonsense. When I was interviewed about this , it was made clear that teaching students about the British Empire would "foster awareness of British values" as well as "showing the part Britain played in developing the global economy" - as if this was something we should take pride in! Yasmin is absolutely right to say that the motivation for empire was greed and profit, and the methods used were violent and repressive.

However two further points need to be made. First, the British working class gained nothing from empire. Any gains made in living standards or rights came mainly from fighting against our lords and masters, rather than sharing their plunder.

Second, this business tells us so clearly what a threat to traditional education this government is. Education should open minds and develop character. The process is at least as important as the outcome, which is why good education should always be slightly subversive, challenging common sense and received wisdom, not seeking to impose it. The thought of this government, up to its neck in Iraqi blood, wanting us to teach a "progressive view" of imperialism makes my blood boil.

JOHN WESTMORELAND

Head of History, York College

York

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