A Further Word on Geography in the EBacc

My feelings on subjects included in the EBacc are fully laid out here, but my basic gripe is that the ‘humanities’ requirement which includes just Geography or History makes no sense.  Humanities isn’t defined that way in any major university, in any other country, or in the International Baccalaureate.
One argument is that geography is more ‘traditional’, or respected, or well-known. It helps people get the sort of ‘common knowledge’ that helps us all compete equally. Except, that’s probably not true.  Looking at the term ‘geography’ in books over the past 100 years compared to some other topics and we see a different pattern of what is ‘common’:


It’s not that I hate geography; I really don’t. It’s just that I don’t see how it can be claimed as being more important than other subjects, or more rigorous, or more useful or – to be honest – even more traditional or historical.  Right from 1880 it is subsumed under other subjects in terms of popularity and it never really improves even despite the fact it is a school subject for so long.
The national curriculum subject Citizenship – for all its terrible name – combines politics, economics and sociology – some of the most prevalent terms in non-fiction literature over the past century. Psychology is also the most prevalent of all these topics, and yet the government has entirely cut funding for new psych teachers. Denying people the study of the topics that have most interested and developed throughout the 20th century seems a bizarre way to me to try and improve our school system.

When We Get Bored of Free Schools & Academies Will We Focus On "The Achievement Gap" Instead?

Out of interest I tracked some words about education reforms in the Google NGram viewer today and found this trend:

It looks suspiciously like somewhere around 2000 people gave up on charter schools and vouchers (or even just ‘school’ reform) as being The Solution and instead started focusing on “the achievement gap”.  I wonder if we will see a similar pattern here with free schools and academies?

The School Reformers' Pledge of Good Conduct

In his book “So Much Reform, So Little Change”, Charles Payne introduces his chapter on implementation failures with a pledge that every school reformer should take. I wholeheartedly agree:

I will not overpromise
I will not disrespect teachers
I will not do anything behind the principal’s back
I will not take part in any partisan personal feuds
I will not equate disagreement with ‘resistance’
I will not put down other programs
I will not expect change overnight
I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine
I will not try to scale up prematurely
If I am not in the field myself, I will take seriously what the field workers tell me
I will give school people realistic estimates of how much time and money it takes to implement my program

He then follows this with an incredibly wise chapter on the failures of reform implementation, explaining the all-too-often lament “It was a good idea badly implemented” At some point I might try to summarise his arguments but for the meantime here is the most important part:

“So many efforts continue to proceed in innocence, as if implementation were just a matter of bringing good ideas and clear thinking to the benighted.”

Dear Policy Makers – never act on the presumption that teachers are the benighted. They will eat you; and your policies.