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Author doesn’t want Horrible Histories in schools


First of all, who is familiar with the author Terry Deary? Apparently, he’s sold 25 million books and yet very few adults know him. But millions of children adore his colorful paperback series Horrible Histories. Kids also love the BBC TV series dedicated to Horrible Histories. Each book is titled something like The Vile Victorians or The Terrible Tudors or The Vicious Vikings, and they deliver disgusting and/or gory but fascinating historical facts.

Deary’s books are predominantly a British phenomenon but we live thousands of miles from the UK and my eldest daughter has almost the complete set. She’s read each book multiple times.

Deary has said that his hugely successful series, which has made history fascinating for a generation of young readers, should not be taught in schools.

Describing schools watchdog Ofsted as “Ofstapo”, he said: “Ofstapo say children are illiterate because they are not achieving standards — but what standards? Some muppets in Whitehall say they can’t spell. But the standards are arbitrary.

“Children have never been more literate. They are always on Facebook and are texting. One 15-year-old girl told me she had reached the limit of her texts for the month — she had sent 10,000. She is doing the most important human activity of all, communicating with someone else, and it is condemned.

“Ofsted inspectors are the most ignorant people you could ever meet. They are just failed teachers. Their job is to go in and pick faults with people. Any idiot can do that. I know inspectors personally and they are numpties.”

When I recently asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied: “A pop star, a famous actress who earns lots of money or a history teacher.” Deary has put history on the same level as Katie Perry, Taylor Swift and Keira Knightley for her. That’s a remarkable achievement.

Typically, I might hear the following statement from the back of the car while we’re driving to swimming lessons.

“Daddy, do you know how the Stuarts tortured people?

“Errr… ”

“Well, Daddy, they’d tie them up in a chair with a hole in the seat and then get a red hot poker and stick it up….”

“Thank you, that’s enough.”

(Cue younger daughter to pipe up: “Daddy, what does torture mean?”)

It seems a great shame that Horrible Histories can’t find some sort of place in schools. History can become very dull once you’re into the repeal of the Corn Laws. I suspect that savvy teachers are already using the books and Deary’s wishes will go unheeded.

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Richard Davies

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