Letters on Liberty: in defence of teaching history

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Sunday 16 October, Church House, London


Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the 21st century.

In his Letter – In Defence of Teaching History – author and history teacher Nicolas Kinloch looks at the ways in which today’s approach to history is often more concerned with modern activism than an appreciation of the past. History is not just about race and victimhood; nor is it a mere collection of simple moral tales, he argues. Instead, it is a maze of conflicting, stories to tell – all of which students should be exposed to.

Join Nicolas and respondents to ask whether the way we understand and engage with history has changed today. When it comes to teaching history, should teachers resist the restraints imposed by new political ideologies like Critical Race Theory? Or is the way we approach history in an educational environment too tied up with old ways of thinking? How can we navigate the strange and different worlds of the past without causing offence in the present? And why is having a relationship with what has happened in human history so important for preparing a young generation for what is to come?

Tarjinder Gill
class teacher; writer, All in Britain; founding member, Don’t Divide Us

Nicolas Kinloch
history teacher; teacher fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies; honorary fellow, Historical Association; author, In Defence of Teaching History

Dr Robert Pyrah
historian; research fellow, Oxford Brookes University; podcast co-host, Pseudoscience, Fake News – and How to Fight Back

Kevin Rooney
history and politics teacher; editor, irishborderpoll.com; convenor, AoI Education Forum; co-author, The Blood Stained Poppy

Louise Burton
history teacher