Thursday, 3 January 2013

Mary Seacole versus Michael Gove - you decide!

There is no logic, or moral reason why a Tory Minister should wish to eradicate Mary Seacole from our curriculum. Quite why you would want to deny children the story of this heroic woman on a battlefield is a complete mystery to me. But that appears to be Michael Gove's intention, as reported by these three sources (herehere and here).  France celebrates Ambrose Paré's medical advancements achieved on the battlefield, excluding the bezoar stone of course, why can't we celebrate the wonderful Mary Seacole? the fact that the Daily Mail slur her as a "politically correct myth" will enrage many readers.

History, whether Michael Gove likes it or not, comprises of people of all races, genders and social classes. One of New Labour's greatest success was its diversification of the History Curriculum. As a member of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors since its founding, it has been my honour and privilege to assess thousands of students of history including many scripts relating to black history. Many teachers reading will be fully aware of the crucial part black people's of America, for example, play in the delivery of Key Stage Three history. Additionally, a more culturally sensitive way of delivering modules on Britain's colonial past is to celebrate the participation and narratives of all regardless of race, class or gender. Mary Seacole is one tiny but symbolic example of the healthy diversification of the UK Curriculum. Explaining the crucial role that multiple identities played in creating Britain's legacy is a really important mode through which to deliver the citizenship aspects of the curriculum.  Inclusivity, in the material we provide for children to construct their understanding of the past, is paramount. The Horrible History song style above has become an iconic and celebrated way of enabling children to access the wonderful story of women's involvement in the battlefield. Whether Michael Gove likes it or not, the history of the world we live in is not white, male  and medieval. It is mutli-cultural, in race, gender, class and orientation. 


  1. "One of New Labour's greatest success was its diversification of the History Curriculum"

    We cannot have political manipulation of education - Labour's meddling was no better than the Nazi corruption of knowledge in the 1930s and 1940s.

    As long as "diversity" remains a political idea it has no place in our schools.

    Post-war immigration remains a highly controversial issue and has never been democratically endorsed by the electorate - indeed all the indications are that the electorate has always been opposed to mass immigration (and yet it keeps happening).

  2. a from l, comparing the Labour Party to the Nazis means that Godwin's law applies and your views can be safely dismissed.

    However, you singularly fail to grasp that all ideas are capable of being 'political'.

    You also seem to have a bee in your bonnet about 'mass immigration' - but strangely not about other items on which the majority public view is safely ignored such as publicly-owned railways, increasing the level of the minimum wage, taxing the banks, increasing prison sentences for crimes aginst the person, leaving the EU, taking the utilities back into public ownership etc etc etc........

    1. You are mistaken, I did not compare the Labour party to the Nazi party, I said what they did in this specific area is comparable to the specific Nazi perversion of education - this is not a general comment but a considered charge which can be substantiated by the historical record.

      You list a whole range of issues, some of which I agree with and some I do not. As you say, the public view is often ignored. The difference is that change of government leads to the possibility of change of policy except in the area of mass immigration where every test of public opinion is opposed and yet it keeps happening.

      There is of course a simple way of legitimising post-war mass immigration - simply support a referendum on the issue and campaign for "Yes to immigration". That way you can have as much immigration as you want, as unrestricted as you want - assuming the electorate backs you.

      By the way, it is not racist to insist on democracy (I add this since I can guess the default position you are going to adopt).

  3. I am proud to have spent the afternoon helping my daughter complete her school project about Mary Seacole. What a great example of triumph over adversity, and illustration of why racism is unhelpful and wrong in society. And of course, we used the resources produced by Horrible Histories (on YouTube) to bring her story to life. I'm proud that my daughter has learned at 6 what many people seem to be unable to comprehend as grown adults.

  4. As a post colonial country Britain and most often the English have experienced a traumatic difficulty reconciling itself to the consequences of empire on itself. There is a continuing denial concerning the interaction between the occupants of these islands and colonial peoples, let alone european migrations from the continent from Hugenots to Sephadic Jews. For instance from the latter half of the 19th until the early 20th century many thousands of Lascar (Indians including many from Portuguese Goa)sailors jumped ship and vanished into the population. Indeed there were so many Goans in the East End they had there own Toddy houses. When shipping companies, desperate to stop this exodous persuaded the City of London to pass an edit forbidding anyone to employ or give shelter to Lascars the majority of Goans simply melted into the population by changing their names and, being Catholic, married into the large Irish population who sheltered them.
    These realities of who we are should be taught and highlighted because we cannot escape our past and neither should we try. Simply writing people out of our story becqause of an inconveinient truth diminishes us as a people.

    1. If they "vanished" you cannot be sure where they went. Which rather suggests you are making this up.