History, the Sewell Report & A Six-Month Rollercoaster

It’s six months to the day that I launched The Herstorian as a shiny, new enterprise. And what a 6 months it has been … I thought I’d spend my days writing books and trying to make “public history” a bit less of a patriarchal nightmare. I did not think that I’d be rolling up my sleeves and wading into debates about the curriculum. But you know what they say about expectations and reality: they never quite match up. What’s actually happened is that The Herstorian is no long little ol’ me, tappy-tapping on a keyboard and being angry in my dining room. I still do that, by the way, but now I’m doing it with 9 other people, and we are tappy-tapping our way to more diverse and more inclusive curriculums here and across that great Atlantic pond. When I stop and think about it, it’s unbelievable. But it’s not really that unbelievable when you consider the bigger picture. History doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That bigger picture was brought smack bang into focus when the government released its long-awaited report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Or, as I like to call it, the S-Bomb. You don’t need me to tell you just how disgraceful the Sewell Report is, but I will share some thoughts from The Herstorian’s Memuna Konteh: The government's fervent denial of just how deeply entrenched racism is in every fibre of our society is unsurprising, but devastatingly invalidating at the same time. It’s of no surprise to us that the history curriculum got a mention in the report. And it’s even less of a surprise that they would talk about enslavement: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.” For Memuna, this proposed attempt to “decolonise” the curriculum is highly problematic. You can’t do this work by including perspectives that minimise the inhumane cruelty of the transatlantic slave trade and British imperialism by framing them through a cultural lens in which African people ‘transformed’ themselves. In her words: “This idea exemplifies issues at the core of British racism: that many Brits still believe the harrowing and continued subordination of Black and Brown people is 'for our own good' and that the resilience displayed by communities of colour somehow negates the oppression they're subjected to.” If the Sewell Report represents the level we’re at with school history, then this is where The Herstorian needs to focus its efforts. Everything else, including my books, is just going to have to wait. Until next time (and you sign can up here if you don't want to miss it) ... Kaye x

Herstorian, Author & Culturally Responsive Education Specialist Telling the extraordinary stories of ordinary people; Fighting for equality in history and equity in history education. Visit Me / Connect with Me / Tweet Me / Join Me

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