Now I Understand

The Grumpy Teacher

I don’t like the notion that only people who have personal experience of something can or should comment on it. Of course I don’t. I’m a history teacher, and if this principle is to be accepted, as some would have it be, then we have a big problem. I prefer to think that while we do see through a glass darkly, we can still see enough to make it all worthwhile.

But even historians flirt with the idea when it suits them. In Interesting Times, Eric Hobsbawm writes about how, in order to effectively conduct oral history interviews with people who had lived through the inter-war years, it was necessary to find out so much about the period that the information the interviewees supplied would tell him almost nothing new, which teachers will appreciate as yet another example of the importance of subject knowledge. But he also goes on…

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