"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts..."
As we make our own individual entrances we are arriving at a mid-way point in an ongoing story. The players we see looking out at us when we face ourselves in the mirror can delude themselves into believing that the play began with the rise of their own individual curtain, but a more humble, and honest, recounting would reveal that the clock started ticking long before our arrival into the scene.
What story are we joining? What role is missing in the play, that we can fulfill? What are the hopes, and regrets, of those already having passed through the drama before us, from which we may take our cues?
Looking into their own mirrors, I wonder what the youth of Great Britain are seeing written into their autobiographies, now that they are no longer being taught about the story they are joining:
History Vanishes From One In 20 Schools
[Michael Gove, the Conservative shadow schools secretary] said: “History is effectively disappearing from some secondary schools. Giving children a proper knowledge of our island story so they can take pride in our historic achievements is the best way to build a modern, inclusive future for our country.
“But after a decade of decline under Labour less than a third of children now take the subject, and yet again we see that it is poorest pupils that are disproportionately missing out.”
Given how history's being taught when it is being taught, maybe it's disappearance is becoming the lesser of evils..?
[T]here is no doubt that something has gone badly wrong when seven out of 10 schoolchildren are no longer studying history at the age of 16, when two out of 10 think Britain was once occupied by the Spanish, and when some identify Sir Winston Churchill as the first man on the moon. And the blame lies at the very top, shared by politicians of both parties, who have been systematically cheating and betraying our children since the 1980s.One student survived his youthful education with his curiosity intact, and pursued history as a more serious subject in university, but now admits he seems to spend more time defending his favorite topic than studying it:
During the Thatcher years, it was meddling from the top that downgraded history from a compulsory to an optional subject at the age of 16 – which, because it was seen as "difficult", made it easy pickings for Mickey Mouse subjects such as Beauty Therapy. It was supposedly "progressive" interference, meanwhile, that did away with old-fashioned essay questions and replaced them with empathy exercises and multiple-choice quizzes that sacrificed any sense of intellectual depth or discipline.
And perhaps above all, it was in Westminster and Whitehall that officials designed our absurd Yo! Sushi approach to history, in which schools randomly pick unrelated historical topics like saucers from a conveyor belt, instead of studying our national story as a continuous narrative, which is how any sensible person sees it.
Whenever I tell someone outside university that I'm taking history, they look puzzled, suppress a giggle, and ask "Why?"Here's how you answer them: we study history as a precursor to greater understanding of other subjects, not just for its own sake; it helps us recognize the existence of cause-and-effect relationships, the fallibility of Man, the possibility of unintended consequences, and most especially, it teaches us how to learn, so long as history is approached as the study of stories... as learning from experience.
People assume I'm deranged (or just a bit simple) when I mumble my reason for studying history: I enjoy it. I like reading and writing about history.
Basically, I'm doing a hobby degree. "But what will you do with a history degree when you graduate?" is often the next question.
Sadly, in the UK such wisdom is fast becoming history.
How could you see a future, when you don't see a past?