Tuesday 18 March 2003

History lessons

Gillian Bowditch is rightly shocked that her babysitter had never heard of Chairman Mao:
"Who," asked the babysitter, "is Chairman Mao?" Not such a surprising question, perhaps, except that the babysitter is a third-year student of history at one of Scotland’s more prestigious universities.

A quick run through the key attributes of Maoist China failed to elicit any flicker of recognition. The Long March, The Little Red Book, The Cultural Revolution all meant nothing to her. Communism rang a vague bell. She would, she said, ask her tutorial group if any of them had heard of Chairman Mao, but she was pretty sure the answer would be negative.

Apparently the young lady had only been taught Scottish history. I think that it is important for people here to know something of Scotland's history and, as with Ms Bowditch, little of it was taught to me at school. Surely, though, it is astounding that a third-year history student hasn't heard of Chairman Mao. Actually, it's a condemnation of our entire education system that anyone, history student or not, should leave school in such ignorance of the modern world.