Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Massaging the curriculum

Well they have done it again-those incredible Tories and their shape-shifter friends the Lib-Dems! Using education to re-engineer society and promulgate their medieval ideology! I am incandescent with rage this evening...annoying because I had had a good day today! What I am furious about is the leaked information about the new history curriculum!

Unbelievably, Gove in his infinite wisdom is decreeing that such female icons as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole are removed in preference for heroic male leaders like Winston Churchill and Horatio Nelson! While I have no problem with either of those esteemed gents...both iconic in their own way.Nelson was an innovative sailor, tactician and military leader-who refined some practices in the brutal navy and was by all accounts an excellent admiral (albeit that he suffered from chronic sea sickness). Churchill-an excellent and innovative wartime leader, tactician, historian and writer (we must overlook his Tory politics-though he did start out as a liberal-not to be confused with the current toady, vacillating turncoats we have today. So in my book-both worthy of historical attention and a place in school history books-BUT...not at the expense of the few female role models in there!

Nightingale was a revolutionary-even though she came from a privileged background, she was remarkable because she refused to accept the role assigned to her by the Victorian white male society and kicked over the traces to make nursing respectable, reform hospital conditions, introduce hygiene and sanitation (despite missing a water source riddled with cholera in Scutari hospital) introduce the "profession" and training for nurses. She worked tirelessly and died at a grand old age after setting up the first nursing school in ST Thomas' hospital...she dedicated her life to nursing, when she could have instead had a life of leisure. She was NOT perfect-as her treatment of Mary Seacole showed, but her sensibilities were honed by the society she was brought up in, but she presents a better role model for girls than many on display in Celebrity-jungle-Xfactor-on ice and the like!

Mary Seacole is a perfect example of tenacity, drive and overcoming adversity-challenging the role assigned to her by white Victorian male society (seeing the pattern here?) She was a mixed race Jamaican woman, sired by a Scottish soldier. Her mother was a Jamaican woman who practised herbal medicine-she taught Mary how to nurse. Mary volunteered (after paying her own passage to England) to work with Florence Nightingale's nurses in the Crimea. She was rejected as unsuitable-because of her race and class-Florence must accept some responsibility for this-though the male army Doctors will have have had the casting vote! This would deter most people but not Mary-she packed her bag put on her red bonnet and under her own steam took herself to the front in the Crimea. She organised makeshift rest centres-staffed them, nursed soldiers...and actually risked life and limb by taking help to the injured and dying-in the midst of battle! All this was done freely and at her own expense-she set up the British Hotel to fund bandages and medicine etc. She almost died in penury-but supported by some of of the very soldiers she helped to save she ended her life comfortably. She was eventually recognised and given similar acclaim to Florence.

We need more females from history who have made a difference...Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney et al...and many others! I imagine that Gove believes a woman's place is in the home and that his role models will principally be men! This government seems intent in returning us to the past in more ways than one! What better way to do it than to skew the historical teaching in schools? We can have little boys turning into chauvinists all over again! What a Brave New World we will have!

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin, Nancy Astor, Grace Darling, Amelia Earhart/Amy Johnson are a few off my head.