Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
… worth their weight in moon dust.
For me as a child, learning history was dull. It wasn’t just me – I don’t remember any of us actually “enjoying” it. It certainly wasn’t as exciting as science, or as interesting as French. It was just dates and facts which had to be learned. Dull dull dull. Looking back at that time as a pupil, I can reliably say that the only thing I learned about history was that it was boring.
But my interest in history has taken a turn for the better in recent months, with the discovery of Horrible Histories. It hasn’t transformed me into a history-fanatic, but it has generated a degree of enthusiasm and interest which had previously eluded me.
Very heavy coverage by the BBC, with regular repeats at child-friendly times have helped create a buzz which has alerted my children to a subject which was so uninteresting for me, that I would have struggled to rouse even the slightest interest in them. And it is quite obvious how this has happened… the history is presented in a way which is exciting, accessible and really interesting to children. It’s not all about dates – it’s mostly about gory detail. The books are written by Terry Deary, Peter Hepplewhite and Neil Tonge and cover every period in history in an appealing, easily digestible way.
There’s a lovely quote from Terry Deary: “If I had it my way, I wouldn’t have schools at all. They don’t educate, they just keep kids off the streets. But my books educate, because they prepare kids for life.” The combination of great source material (the books), the dramatisation, and the scheduling create a fabulously inspiring learning experience for children. And the result is that there cannot be a child anywhere in the UK who doesn’t know the fate of each of Henry VIII’s six wives, something which could not have been said 40 years ago.
Anyone who has ever experienced the power of an inspiring teacher will recognise how potentially life-changing it can be. Sadly not all teachers are so endowed. I wonder how dramatically the lives of our children could be changed if only we could harness the skills of inspiring people, and channel them towards receptive ears. What a difference that could make.