Peter makes a lovely series of observations on Gove’s rank foolishness here. But I disagree with his conclusion (the bold is mine):
The fight is on for the future of education. Gove is there in the blue corner, confident and pugnacious, ducking and weaving. This doesn’t worry me. My anxiety comes when I look over to the red corner. There, fear haunts his opponent’s eyes and there is no strategy to defend against such a clever right hand lead. In poor condition, the best the left’s champion can hope for is to deflect the blows. Delivering the knockout punch is a distant dream.
As I said of the same Mr Gove in one of my recent posts, the issue is much bigger than a mere fight for the soul of education:
By arguing all he wants is a chronological description of famous people which stops at the vanquishing of the evil party which fought and sustained the Cold War so mercilessly – something essentially he is asking us to buy into – he is actually looking to shore up the old ways of doing politics. Old ways which, left to their own devices, an educated civilisation and populace would pull apart tiny thread by thread.
By rewriting the way we teach and talk about the past, he is looking to protect his hierarchical view of how politics – the politics which he knows how to lever and make function – must be conducted: people in charge; famous people at that; famous people like Mr Gove & Co.
Now this evening I’ve been revising with my middle son. He’s taking A-level History in a month’s time. The subject area in question would I am sure be at the heart of the Coalition’s plans, involving as it does the period in English history we call the Tudors. Here, then, are some choice phrases from the notes my assiduous son has drawn up:
1547 – dissolution of chantries [...] Crown secured money + property traditionally used for charity, feasts + celebrations – Haigh believes need for money to fund Scot war more motive than need to destroy Catholicism.
1549 – Introduction of Book of Common Prayer – its use was required by Act of Uniformity of 1549 [...].
- Overall reforms implemented despite conservative nature of much of population – largely unpopular.
Rebellions of 1549
According to John Guy “the closest thing Tudor England came to a class war”.
Reasons for rebellions:
- Religion predominantly
- Midlands + East Anglia social grievances – Council receiving reports of riots + rooting up of enclosing
- Resentment of taxation
The Western Rebellion
- Prompted by religious grievances – described as “prayer book rebellion” – rebels wanted reversal of entire religious reform inflicted on them during past decade – destroyed their experience of religion in church services + in church’s wider communal role – wished to reverse gov policy
- Rebellion not purely religious in origin – evidence of distrust between peasants + rural labourers – Duffy “Class antagonism” – taxation also problem – Somerset’s gov attempted to deal with social effects of enclosure by placing tax on sheep – imposed by uncaring + ignorant gov in London – worsened through insensitive implementation by insensitive local officials
- Somerset appointed Lord Russell and despite failures to tackle problem head on in the end he gathered enough forces including foreign mercenaries and defeated rebels in Exeter
So if we substitute religious practice with the NHS, the sheep tax with the bedroom tax and foreign mercenaries with globalised bankers, we don’t half get the feeling I think you’ll agree that things haven’t changed all that much.
I really do wonder, then, whether studying from top to tail the awful nature of our internecine history is exactly the lesson Michael Gove, and the blessed Coalition more widely, really wants us all to get familiar with. The more I revise with my son on the subject, the more I realise with a little more learning how the veils of acceptability would, for the vast majority of the voters, fall from the rancid faces of these throwback Tories and their preciously marketed detoxifications.
Meddling with history could, indeed, backfire quite amusingly on the Coalition’s aspirations to turn us all into obedient little souls. Whilst they look to instil a grand respect for the makers and shakers of latterday politics – heirs to the regimes of the Somersets of our national tale – they might eventually discover that knowledge, however packaged, always leads to unexpectedly unpredictable revelations.
Revelations which are never going to be of any help to tiresome pretenders such as these. Even when, in their incompetence, they assume they will.