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Welsh outlook

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Vol. 10, No. 9 Sept. 1923

The teaching of world history in the secondary schools of Wales

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whole complex organization of political society
is unimportant. There is a large measure of
truth in Seeley's contention that the usual pre-
occupation of the historian with political facts,
i.e., facts relating to the state, is justified be-
cause, while with the ever-increasing differentia-
tion of branches of knowledge the study of other
forms of human activity becomes the province
of the specialist-the anthropologist, the lawyer,
the economist, the critic of art and letters-the
examination of political phenomena remains the
specific sphere of the professed historian. It is
not only in the history class that history is being
taught-it is taught in the Art class, the English
class, the Scripture class also. The history
teacher, therefore, rightly concentrates on those
important aspects of history which he knows are
not being taught-and more amply taught-in
some other department.
The rival claims of World History and
National History have been spoken of, but need
they be so regarded ? Is it not the most obvious
wisdom to combine them? Every advanced
history scholar does, as a matter of fact, combine
them-and of necessity. He knows himself to be
imperfectly equipped if he lacks a working know-
ledge of history in its broadest sense, and
equally ill-equipped if he has not a more exact
and detailed acquaintance with the history of his
own country. His knowledge must be of two
types-outline knowledge and specialized know-
ledge. He must be content with a sketchy
view of most of human history, for the simple
reason that he is human, however brilliant,
learned and long-lived he may be. But in so far
as he is a genuine scholar, he will wish to make
himself thorough master of some special period
or theme, to make himself a recognized expert
in some particular branch of his subject. That
is to say, he will endeavour to unite a broad
philosophic outlook, such as can only come from
a general survey of history, with a scientific
method, which can only be acquired by the close
and intimate investigation of a limited period or
theme studied in detail.
If this is the normal and natural compromise
which has to be made by the advanced scholar,
should not the same compromise be made, com-
paring small things with great, by the school
pupil? If the former must be content that a
large part of his knowledge must be relatively
superficial, ought the knowledge of the boy or
girl to be of a relatively detailed character? If
there is a danger, with inferior teaching, of
general history becoming confused and
inchoate, there is, on the other hand, the equally
serious danger-only too often experienced-of
political history becoming dull, heavy,
otiose. Be the curriculum what it may, the per-
sonality of the teacher will count for more than
the curriculum. Be the facts dealt with what
they may, that which will influence the pupil
will be less the facts than the teacher's ability
to illuminate them, his power of vision, insight
and interpretation. On the other hand, the
wider, the more inspiring the curriculum, the
greater the opportunity to the exceptionally
gifted teacher, the greater the stimulus to bring
forth all his capacity.
The writer suggests that the objects of the
school curriculum should be to give each pupil,
first, a fairly solid knowledge of the history of
his own country; second, some less detailed
knowledge of the history of other countries
besides his own; third, a conception of the unity
of the human race and of the continuity of its
development. It ought to be quite practicable to
evolve a satisfactory course securing these three
objects within the child's normal career of four
years in the secondary school. Their combina-
tion in itself makes for variety and interest.
There are schools at the present time in which
the history hour means the repetition year after
year of the same period of British history. This
may produce in a narrow fashion thorough
knowledge, but it is apt to produce a distaste at
least equally thorough. If history is allowed to
degenerate into a soulless grind and drill, and its
humanity, its beauty, its romance, and its drama
are not revealed to the pupil, it is indeed a
calamity. It is deplorable, when the subject is
so infinitely large and varied, that the work of
one year should ever be merely repeated in the
next.
It is not the writer's desire to elaborate a rigid
scheme. The objects mentioned as the prime
desiderata of a history course can be secured in
a number of different ways, some more thorough-
going than others. The simple addition to the
history of England and Wales of a period of
European history, provided that the connection
between the two is made clear, and the relation
of the selected period to the general history of
the race is grasped, is in itself a great gain. It
is a valuable thing to study side by side a period
of British history with a corresponding period of
European history, or at any rate some outstand-
ing movement in the period. Another plan is to
make the four years' work into a single chrono-
logically continuous course on the outlines of
World History; the objection to which is, how-
ever, that this provides no intensive study at all
and does not give the place to purely national
history to which it is entitled. It is better that
the child should learn the history of his own
country, not only in its relation with that of other
countries, but also separately; otherwise he will
be left with a very incomplete and, it should be
added, an incorrect impression of British his-
tory. For better, for worse, that history has as
a matter of fact been largely insular, and if only
those aspects of it are taught in which it has in-
fluenced, or been influenced by, the Continent,
British history is little likely to be really under-
stood.
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