Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Maths minus history equals ignorance


ON THE face of it, Rishi Sunak’s announcement that school students will study mathematics until 18 is not a bad idea. Although the UK performs above the international average in maths, increasing the numeracy of young people would seem a sensible policy. 

It will remedy some of the over-early specialising of many students (choosing all humanities A-Levels, for example) to get out of a subject they see as too hard. Given that teenagers rarely comprehend the faulty logic of their decision-making, forcing them to grind out a couple of years of sums would stand them in good stead further down the road. They’ll thank us for it later. However, it seems doubtful that the policy will churn out maths prodigies`a la Orient.

More concerning is what Sunak is not doing, or what he fails to perceive. He is the leader of the notionally conservative Conservative Party. As such, one would hope he shares the concerns of many that the problem facing British education is not that our pupils can’t add up but that they know so shockingly little about their own country.

Our nation’s story is not taught properly. There is no effort to impart a sense of continuity: pupils who bother to study history (it not being compulsory at GCSE) will learn a strange patchwork of topics but nothing amounting to cohesive picture. I, for one, studied the First World War, the Tudors and slavery. For A-level it was the Chartists, and Italian and German unification. Never did I learn about the Glorious Revolution, nor of Magna Carta, nor of the development of Parliament and the Civil War.

Those not studying history at school will pick up the dross they hear around them, bleated by the usual suspects. That Churchill was a devilish racist, that we are for ever stained by slavery’s guilt, that our empire was uniquely malign. Repetitive soundbites stripped of context, but which have the cumulative intended effect of undermining impressionable minds’ loyalty to the country.

It can hardly be expected of young people to feel an affection for a country which they are not taught about, or which is only ever described as wicked.

As the post-war generation gave up on transmitting cultural knowledge, so did the schools. That was, no doubt, all part of the plan: by leaving people ignorant of the past you can more easily manipulate their future, ignorant as they are of the centuries of progress that brought us to our incomparably fortunate modern condition.

Still, remedying our society’s dearth of understanding of who, precisely, we are would require something today considered utterly revolutionary: a conservative government. One doesn’t need an extra two years of maths tuition to realise that the days of this woeful party are numbered. 

This article appears on Frederick’s Newsletter and is republished by kind permission.

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Frederick Edward
Frederick Edward
Frederick Edward is from the Midlands. You can see his Substack here.'

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