His­tory con­tent must go be­yond ’94

The Mercury - - OPINION -

THE pro­posal that his­tory be made a com­pul­sory ma­tric sub­ject has in­vited spec­u­la­tion as to what the sub­ject con­tent should in­clude and how it should be taught.

Since his­tory em­braces all branches of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence, its in­clu­sion in a fully-rounded ed­u­ca­tion pack­age should be au­to­matic. But what has hurt the sub­ject go­ing back more than a cen­tury, is the con­tent fo­cus that has pre­vailed: political, ide­o­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary.

While, of course, the reigns of rulers, the causes and ef­fects of wars and the mak­ing of em­pires are nec­es­sary to pro­vide con­text, such ma­te­rial does not nec­es­sar­ily ap­peal to the av­er­age stu­dent. There are nu­mer­ous other themes that should form a syl­labus fo­cus such as: health and medicine, ex­plo­ration, transport, lit­er­ary and mu­si­cal, hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism, in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­ment, flight, elec­tric­ity, trade and con­struc­tion.

As has been pointed out, the con­tent of a new South African his­tory for high school would have to go be­yond 1994. But there lies the dif­fi­culty: if such a pack­age fo­cuses purely on the political, it will de­gen­er­ate into pro­pa­ganda and be viewed as noth­ing more than a political prop for those in power.

Thus, an im­por­tant chal­lenge in shap­ing a new his­tory syl­labus is to en­sure a wide fo­cus of themes which ed­u­cate the pupil as to the ex­tent of and chal­lenges to progress in fields such as transport, in­fra­struc­ture, in­dus­try, health, en­vi­ron­ment and ed­u­ca­tion, al­beit within the con­text of the political frame­work that pre­vailed be­fore 1994.

The other chal­lenge would be to ex­am­ine how much of what was achieved be­fore 1994 was al­lowed to de­te­ri­o­rate and de­cline along with greatly re­duced safety and se­cu­rity and greater in­equal­ity.

Such a his­tory syl­labus would prove in­struc­tive and serve as a touch­stone for the next gen­er­a­tion. DUN­CAN DU BOIS


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