The Importance of History

By August 6, 2015 Articles No Comments

Having written in my last blog (here) the effect on my recall of happy memories and how I remember certain song lyrics and tv theme tunes, my attention turned to how we ensure that key moments from our not so distant past.

This week alone has brought two events – both well before my birth, that I believe should be part of our children’s understanding. Firstly, the death of Squadron Leader Les Munro, the last surviving Dambuster pilot meant that Jessica and I watched the film of those exploits – although this documentary is equally stirring. Secondly, with today marking the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (the bombing of Nagasaki occurred 3 days later on August 9th) – Wikipedia page here, we have had the opportunity to discuss the rights and wrongs of weapons in war, I also plan a viewing of Pearl Harbour to see how it all started. (Perhaps not the most historically accurate, but a great stimulus all the same!)

However, I wonder where our children receive their information about the past? This question pervades my thoughts, not only about school, but also at home. As these events happened over 70 years ago – and arise during the holidays, are all children aware of them? Perhaps, you may think, I am wrong to get in the way of Jessica’s holiday in this way? Although, as she saw her 92 year old great grandad (George) today, it did create a great conversation opportunity for the two across an 81 year age gap! This also allowed George to regale her with tales from WW2, including his involvement in D-Day as someone who worked at Brize Norton on the war effort for the gliders and planes being being there. Interesting was the story of a glider released by accident over Kent, who then went on to take part in the second wave of the attack!

But, how many children are as lucky as Jessica to have someone still alive with first hand knowledge and prepared to talk? As my own grandad died when I was 10, I recall a few stories he told me, but didn’t get a chance to know as many as I would like – but they’re not the same.

Here parents and schools need to take joint responsibility. Involve family members in providing the rich tapestry of learning about the past from first hand experience. Even 10 years on I still remember listening to a history lesson to the entire Year 9 cohort as a Jewish grandfather told of his experiences in Germany in the 30s, before his family and he escaped to Britain pre-war. The children were rapt, as were the staff and gave an experience that I am sure is still in the memory of so many of the children. Ensure that children get the opportunity to talk to people who lived the past, not just from books or DVDs – even ones as excellent as the Jeremy Clarkson documentary about the commando raid at St. Nazaire in France on 28th March 1942.

A simple stimulus can be found on Wikipedia, the BBC History site or even the @ChrisEvans show at about 7:15am every morning, with his ‘On this day in history’ feature. I really fell that children should be more and more aware of the world around them, as well as that which has past – Theodore Roosevelt perhaps said it best:



However, this clip from YouTube is still one of my favourites and makes me wonder what we have really learned from the past when a speech (albeit from a film) made almost 80 years ago works so well with modern images. If we truly want children to shape a better future, then they must know the errors and successes of the past and try to create the world Charlie Chaplin was describing!

About M Creasy

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