Poet Benjamin Zephaniah criticises history curriculum

Pic: David Michael Morris (Benjamin Zephaniah)

Performance poet Benjamin Zephaniah has criticised history teaching in Britain as he says black and Asian pupils are turned off history because they are only told “half the story”.

Zephaniah said: “The truth is if you have the real history of the world, the British involvement in the empire would not look so rosy.”

He added: “Black history is not just for black people – it’s important for all of us who want a real history of the world.”

Zephaniah’s comments come at a time when Education Secretary Michael Gove has said the history curriculum should emphasize a traditional narrative of British history.

Gove said that the current approach to history denies “children the opportunity to hear our island story”, and that this has to change.

Gove’s comments are a response to criticisms that the curriculum had become too politically correct.

EastLondonLines spoke to former students in the Lewisham Borough about what they think about the history curriculum:

Blu Evans, 21, Former Thomas Tallis Secondary School student said:“I felt when studying history I was not allowed to explore the various cultures I also had an interest in. There wasn’t much variation at all, if it wasn’t learning about the British history, I was being taught about Germany and the World Wars. I didn’t learn anything regarding African Culture or even Asian, it was strictly European”

Stephanie McAuliffe, 20, Former Bonus Pastor student and Lewisham Resident said: “To be honest this whole thing of focussing on ‘British history’, we never formally learnt the history of Asian and black culture in Britain probably just British engagement in colonialism”

Lauren Powell, 20, Former Addey and Stanhope and Hither Green resident: “When I was at School, I think most of the history we learnt was euro-centric but my last two years of history education had a focus on the civil rights movement, but that was an option subject”.

Johnathan Gilbert, 21, Sedge Hill Secondary Student and Forest Hill Resident: “There wasn’t really any ancient African or Asian history being taught, R.E covered African and Asian religions and the history behind them, but it’s not quite the same, though it did cover them”.

Poppy Adjua, 18, Lewisham Resident: “I think black and Asian cultures were represented in a decent way. I think that things like black history and culture diversity days shouldn’t be like token gestures and they should actually just put it into history curriculums. I agree with the article in the sense that you never hear of an African philosopher, all of the research we use in psychology and biology are European names”.

Comment or tweet to us at about your views (@eastlondonlines) about the history curriculum.

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