A historic year of reckoning

history scotland expert blog

2014 is a hugely significant year in a vast number of ways for history. Not only is the referendum going to be hugely important in establishing a direction of travel for Scotland but, as historians, we know only too well other events will have already been set in motion and other issues will overtake it, no matter what the result on polling day.
I remember at university my counterparts in political studies debating over the issue of whether politics was dead. Today it seems the issue of 2014 for aficionados of antiquary is the question ‘is history dead?’
What, mighty you say, would make such a champion and advocate of historical studies say this? Especially in this year of historian Tom Devine being the first Scots Historian to be knighted in recent times. It is not meant as sensationalist, nor funeral pyre of the subject, moreover the sounding of a warning bell but and a much needed warning shot for the future. For history (like all humanities and arts) is under extreme threat. Two things are clear in my mind and need addressing if the discipline, community and development of history are to continue
Firstly the public need to be better engaged. Or, more accurately, maybe history needs to better engage the public. The poor uptake of historical fairs such as that arranged on the battlefields of Bannockburn is ample evidence of low public engagement with the subject. How do we square this with the growth of History Channels on TV? Some might say that is the problem with history- there is just so much of it. So for those who are engaged there is no easy entry point. Meanwhile for those not engaged, it looks a close shop. We need to do more to engage the general public in history. Moreover, we need to do it better. Lessons however can be learned. It is amazing to see how the science community has done this through community science projects which bring together micro action research feeding in to a much bigger project and allowing participants to see their role in in it and awaken an interest in Science. Participants are not mere recipients of information but are actively engaged. If there is one thing history should not be, it is a single monolithic beast. It needs to evolve and to do that it needs engaged people.
It is from Science itself that our second threat comes from. This is particular the case in terms of funding, government policy attention and thus influence. For years the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects have had an expediential growth in funding. Arts and Humanities have been side-lined. This was most evidence in a recent Commission for the government developing the youth workforce. The clear message was on promoting STEM subjects in schools. This history community along with arts and humanities colleagues need to quickly establish a narrative about what they can offer which is economically productive (including job creating in tourism, education and community) and which is internationally required (world wars have not happened for a number of reasons, one of which has been because of better understanding of other cultures, histories and values through history and associated citizenship education).
My rallying call for the last part of this year would be that the history community thinks hard about what it can offer and how it engages people with that message and offering. What does history bring to individuals, communities, countries and the world? Why is it of value? How can it be productive and, most importantly, what part do you play in promoting it?

Neil McLennan is an educator and author. He is the former President of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History

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Entering the Past Should be Easy

history scotland expert blog

https://www.celebrate-scotland.co.uk/News-and-Features/1583/Entering_the_past_should_be_easy_-_Celebrate_Scotland_blog/

Celebrate Scotland blogger Neil McLennan asks whether computer games and films are presenting an over simplified or false representation of the past.

This spring and summer I was lucky enough to spend time in three separate historical activities which helped to reawaken my passion in areas of history I have not looked at for some time, and also to spark a reappraisal of how we best engage with the past and how we get others to engage actively with the past.

In today’s world we need to be even smarter in how we take people on a journey with history that interests, informs and inspires them to be not just aware but also awoken by what Professor Tom Devine referred to as ‘the Queen of Disciplines’.

There are many distractions in the world today, some of which history could and does harness, but many others which take away attention from our history and heritage and in fact erode the purity of the subject when they are coupled with it.

The main point of entry for many, if not most of us, has been through printed matter – be it magazines, books, historical fiction or a fascination with printed matter from the past. That medium is slowly losing its appeal for some and we need to think about how we re-engage people with it and what other entry points we can use to help people link up with the past. Too quickly computer games and film matter are painting inaccurate pictures of the past and are not actively engaging the learner in higher order thinking skills about the past. Films, and I am sure computer games, can provoke an interest, but all too often they are also creating passive recipients of low level information which in many cases is false or a misrepresentation of the past.

MUSEUMS AND HERITAGE CENTRES

The other main focal point for people wanting to link up with our past is through our museums and history and heritage centres. These need to be on the front line of engaging the public actively with the past and sparking the next generation of historical thinkers. My three history experiences left me with mixed views on this being possible.

During the spring of this year I visited one of the newer ones, the reopened Bannockburn Centre which focuses on the Battle of 1314. I went with an open mind, reminded of the positive experiences my S1 class had on visiting the old centre and the enthusiasm it sparked in one particular student who almost missed the bus home as a result of his fervour! In my opinion, the centre had played into the hands of the video game culture and had tried to engage via this and this only.

Whilst the war game itself offered learners a chance to really think, it also confused some, who left thinking that Edward I of England had secured victory at the famous battle. The final 3D video at the end was largely ignored by students whose focus had mainly been on the interactive war game. There was little other opportunity for active learning and thinking, with pre and post video’s didactic and the hologram figures of the past also non-engaging apart from the motion sensors to kick start a one way conversation with them.

MUSEUMS AS AN ‘ENTRY POINT’ TO HISTORY

On a trip to Shetland, my confidence in history centres and museums to act as a positive entry point for finding out about the past was renewed. The Scalloway Museum ‘lit the fire’ in me. The set-up of the museum from local issues and early times to more recent history and global history via the Shetland Bus story was organised and effective.

Moreover, the ability of the museum to engage all age ranges was clear to see.

In particular the emphasis on early years activities at the end of the centre was a joy to witness. Seeing youngster engaging in costumes and items from Neolithic man to Victorian era was great to see.

My final touchstone with the past was in the last two weeks when I was on a walk in East Lothian. Coming along the John Muir Walk into Dirleton, my fiancé and I were delighted to stumble upon an archaeological dig. The local history group was working with council archaeologists and most importantly young people.

A YOUNG AUDIENCE

On speaking with some of the dig leaders we were quickly directed to the youngsters themselves who were ably equipped to give an overview of the activity ongoing and the history behind the areas whilst offering some insights to the artefacts found at the site. Truly amazing history and learning.

So what has been the common denominator through all of this? The answer – People. A bit like ‘People Make Glasgow’….. ‘People Make History’.

The friendly, engaging staff at the Bannockburn Centre and volunteers at the Scalloway Museum coupled with the volunteers staff who had clearly lit a spark in the young tour guides at the archaeological dig.

And so how do we square the conundrum of getting people engaged with books and historical sources? The key is as simple as history itself. History is about a jigsaw puzzle of evidence and learning is a jigsaw puzzle of inputs, interactions and lightbulb moments. Everyone has something to offer and our heritage centres and museums are key to this as long as they embrace that philosophy of a mixed economy of learning.

Neil McLennan is an educator, writer and former president of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History.

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Malta bound

uni of malta

http://www.um.edu.mt/newsoncampus/events

13th Michael A. Sant Memorial Lecture 2014 (15 Oct.)

‘Defending the discipline – Enhancing and protecting history education by learning from other education systems’

The History Teachers’ Association (HTA) in collaboration with the Faculty of Education of the University of Malta will be organising its annual Micheal A. Sant Memorial Lecture. This year’s guest speaker is the Scottish expert Neil McLennan. He is a Quality Improvement Officer (Education, Culture and Sport) for Aberdeen City Council and past President of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History (SATH). He is an author, educator and education manager. He has led major education bodies and has written several successful books.

Neil McLennan will deliver a lecture entitled ‘Defending the discipline – Enhancing and protecting history education by learning from other education systems’. His paper will explore the current landscape of Scottish education and reflect on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. He will also give an overview of history education in Scotland and the challenges faced by it, solutions to age old problems and how effective teaching and learning is the only way to ensure the continued success in history teaching. This will then be related to the Maltese scene.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 15 October 2014, at the National Curriculum Centre (NCC), Farsons Street, Ħamrun, and those attending are asked to be seated by 1745hrs. History teachers, Primary teachers, educators, University students and the general public are cordially invited to attend. Those attending the lecture will be given a free copy of the paper which Neil McLennan will be delivering.

Membership forms to for those who wish to join the History Teacher Association (Malta) will also be available during the event. Publications on History teaching and learning will also be on sale. Everyone is welcome to join: primary and secondary school teachers, and other educators interested in History and related Social Sciences. The membership fee is only €5 annually.

For further information one may contact HTA President Adrian Zahra on adrian.zahra@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page ‘History Teachers’ Association (Malta)’.

30 September 2014

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Shaping Aberdeen – Aberdeen Guarantees

neilsgleeeclub:

Shaping Aberdeen – Aberdeen Guarantees

A tremendous start to the week with the launch of Aberdeen Guarantees at the Beach Ballroom.

This new partnership initiative brings together the efforts of the public, private and third sectors to help young people progress towards employment. Aberdeen Guarantees will ensure all 14 to 25-year-olds in Aberdeen have access to quality opportunities in learning, training and work. This morning’s launch marked the start of the collaborative process to bring about this ambitious project by engaging with the city’s business community.

The programme of activity will be key to the Council addressing the Strategic Infrastructure Plan priority on skills.

I am delighted to say that the Council Leader and I have signed a pledge on behalf of the Council, promising a range of support for young people, including providing modern apprenticeships; informing students, parents and teachers about the job market and skills required in the City; and participating in careers fairs. I know that I can rely on everyone in the Council to support those young people who undertake their work experience with us. One of the most striking aspects of the launch event were the presentations by pupils from Northfield and Oldmachar Academies outlining the impacts on them of work they have undertaken in companies around Aberdeen.

In leading from the front, the Council is now calling on organisations of all sizes across the city to follow suit and provide what support they can to the city’s youth.

Aberdeen Guarantees will bring together a range of approaches for youngsters who are still at school, those approaching the end of their school days, and those who have already left. It will help support these young people to move into further education, training, and employment, building on the work already done to reduce the number of unemployed young people in the city. The scheme will also advertise new training and work opportunities for young people and promote youth-employment related activity to young people, parents, carers, professionals and employers. You can find out more about the programme and our partners on the dedicated website http://www.aberdeenguarantees.com

Finally, a personal thank you to Neil McLennan and his colleagues in Education, Culture and Sport for such an exciting, effective and successful launch event today.

Originally posted on Angela Scott - Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council.:

A tremendous start to the week with the launch of Aberdeen Guarantees at the Beach Ballroom.

This new partnership initiative brings together the efforts of the public, private and third sectors to help young people progress towards employment.  Aberdeen Guarantees will ensure all 14 to 25-year-olds in Aberdeen have access to quality opportunities in learning, training and work.  This morning’s launch marked the start of the collaborative process to bring about this ambitious project by engaging with the city’s business community.

The programme of activity will be key to the Council addressing the Strategic Infrastructure Plan priority on skills. 

I am delighted to say that the Council Leader and I have signed a pledge on behalf of the Council, promising a range of support for young people, including providing modern apprenticeships; informing students, parents and teachers about the job market and skills required in the City; and participating in careers…

View original 219 more words

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Skills Drive Flying High

4C0A0228

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

After publishing Determined to Succeed in 2013 skills development authors Neil McLennan & Kevin Murphy have spent the year interviewing more case studies of success and some new achievement ambassadors. After months of sifting, interviewing, writing, drafting and redrafting it is here:- the sequel, the Art of Achievement.

Click on the link above to get your copy.

4C0A0244

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Flags Unite A Nation

black saltire

Today sees a victory for one campaign and a black day for others. In a public creative challenge about the flag of Scotland, the core purpose was to unite people in thinking about Scotland’s past, present and future.

See

http://neilsgleeeclub.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/flags-of-our-fathers-and-mothers-and-sisters-and-brothers-and-neighbours/

The first paragraph read

Margo MacDonald’s passing and funeral clearly showed that she desperately wanted a’ unity of purpose’ for Scotland and ‘an end to the palpable air of bitter antagonism’. Today’s Scotland on Sunday backs up her view, with its ICM poll showing that almost two fifths of those surveyed believing that Scotland will be left ‘badly divided’ after the referendum vote. No one wishes for divisions- there are plenty of them in this world as it is.
One way in which nations and people unite is through common purpose and a common past. Many nations find that through the creation of an army, a police force, an education system and a flag they find that unity. However, that unity can only be superficial, especially when imagined communities are established. That is why a rethink about many of the things that make us Scottish might help us to better understanding our past, articulate our offering at the present and move forward positively and collectively.

Now that the referendum is over and the saltire has been held high, left in gutters, well used and worn- is it further time to rethink the flag and would this help unite a country in thinking, process and outcome? One thing is for sure, with 84.% taking part in democratic process and millions expressing views in country wide discussion! there is a new appetite for engagement which has not been seen for decades.

option 2

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conservative (with a small ‘C’) Victory for Saltire in Public Poll

option 1

After three months of voting, coverage in national newspapers website and local newspapers and various twitter conversations (including being ‘trolled’), the vote is over.

Whilst the Saltire came out as the peoples most desired flag for Scotland, a number of other variants attracted attention. With 60% of the votes cast it was not an overwhealming majority. The Original Saltire of Scotland (a black and white saltire) came second with the Lion Rampant following close behind. Designs inspired by the Suffragette movement and the cooperative and international spirit of a Scotland came in fourth and fifth place.

A number of other designs were suggested in this poll and creative challenge. They included a Shetland styled Nordic Cross, a peace flag type saltire and flags I including unicorns and a hybrid of the existing Saltire with a lion rampant.

The low public engagement compared to blog hits was of note with some 762 hits on the article and flag designs mustering some 180 votes. Compared to other polls this figure is perhaps representative of poor uptake and low sample pools despite the high level of public debate and discussion. The 23% engagement rate hopefully will not be repeated when the nation goes to the polls tomorrow. But will as Salmond be leaping tomorrow? Will Scotland show a similar conservatism in referendum votes? From this poll the salmon inspired design sat lowest in the league tables.

What will will be interesting to note are people’s perception on our past, present and future from tomorrow. Meantime, the Saltire still flutters in the wind over a Scotland as the country decides.

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