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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Scottish Studies

The announcement by Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning and Skills that a new topic, Scottish Studies, is to be taught in schools has caused a lot of debate. Maybe because it is the media silly season, after all Mike Russell made a similar statement in June without quite the same level of interest.

Alasdair said research showed there was widespread support for the plan, which he said would correct an “abnormal” situation where Scottish history and literature was not routinely taught. “You would anticipate that there would be a wide variety of material about Scotland made available in Scottish schools, but it has to be said that, although things have been getting much better, many people’s experience is of learning not much about Scotland.”

I have to say that I fully agree with that. Interestingly, similar points have been raised in England about how little of their history is taught in schools. Whilst we should of course learn about international history, that doesn't mean our own should be marginalised. I was fortunate to have an wonderful history teacher who gave me a lifelong passion for the subject. Others have not been so fortunate.

For those who view this as a nationalist plot, if it is, it could backfire. In my experience many Scots have a very romantic view of Scottish history, full of heroic myths that sadly are rarely true. The Wars of Independence, Jacobite risings and others are widely seen as Scotland v England matches, when the reality was much more complex. Teaching history properly can only improve our understanding of the past and move away from simply viewing Scotland as, that country that isn't England.

There is also a lesson for some politicians. Knee jerk reactions that it is all a nationalist plot is just not clever politics. It just plays negatively and turns the voter off politics. The research showed widespread support for the idea and a simple vox pox with friends would confirm this. Of course there is a political motivation, but that doesn't automatically make it a bad idea. My advice - take a deep breath next time you are invited to do a media reaction interview.

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