(Standpoint Magazine) Michael Nazir-Ali—A Cure for our National Amnesia

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is both rare and welcome to hear an educating and educated speech by the Secretary of State for Education at his party conference. Michael Gove's at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, particularly the section on the curriculum in our schools, repays careful study. He is generally right in his emphasis on the rigorous study of traditional subjects rather than wasting time on what he calls "pseudo-subjects". We would expect him, as a student of English, to focus on the teaching of language and literature β€” as he does. His choice, though, of the "greats" β€” Dryden, Pope, Swift, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Dickens and Hardy β€” could have been expanded to include Herbert, Donne, Newman, Hopkins, Eliot, Chesterton, Greene and Belloc.

It is, however, his comments about the teaching of history that are the most telling. He reminds us of that sundering of our society from its past which I have called "national amnesia", and asserts that until we understand the struggles of the past we will not be able to value our hard-won freedoms. All of this, and more, is music to my ears, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

We must ensure that the teaching of history is not just about a number of significant events and personalities and that there should be a connected narrative. But how is this to be achieved and what is the "golden chain of harmony" that can provide the connection? Surely, this has to do with a world-view that underlies the emergence of characteristically British institutions and values: the Constitution itself ("the Queen in Parliament under God"); a concern for the poor; a social security net, based on the parish church, which goes back to the 16th century; and personal liberties as enshrined in the Magna Carta.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchEducationHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

4 Comments
Posted October 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Splendid.  Just magnificent stuff from +Nazir-Ali.  Right on, and eloquent too.

How ironic that it takes a Pakistani to remind the English of their Christian heritage!

David Handy+

October 27, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
2. magnolia wrote:

“but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.”
wow, this is the first time i have seen anyone write this saying correctly.

October 27, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
3. TACit wrote:

Now, that is an irony, #1, but it is further ironic that the Pakistani English Christian leader is taking up the precise points that Pope Benedict XVI delivered in the UK in the middle of September.  See for example His Holiness’ address in Westminster Hall - at links below.  Now that the {Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ, eminent former professor of theology: choose any one} has briefly visited England and Scotland and reminded them all publicly and eloquently (in distinctive German-accented English!) of their Judeo-Christian civic heritage and its importance to Western Christianity and civilization, it is possible for the resident religious figures to do so as well.  Why was this not happening before the Pope’s visit?  I don’t know the answer, but perhaps a sense of authority was lacking…..  http://www.thepapalvisit.org

October 27, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
4. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Good point, TACit (#3).  When the pope speaks, more people listen than when a mere Anglican bishop speaks up.

But it’s also worth noting that once again, it was a FOREIGNER, a German in this case, calling on the English not to forget their Christian heritage.  Ironic indeed.

David Handy+

October 28, 9:50 am | [comment link]
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