Thursday, 6 June 2013

D-Day as it happens - and the new history


Today is the anniversary of D-Day (above) - that momentous day when the greatest amphibious assault in history threw 156,000 men, 6,500 ships, 200,000 vehicles and almost 600,000 tons of supplies across the English Channel to begin the liberation of Europe from fascism. 

It was a critical day in the history of twentieth century - at the end of which the final defeat of European fascism looked a lot more likely than at its start.

This year you've been able to follow it 'As It Happens' on Channel 4 - tracking six men and one woman through the fire, the chaos, the confusion and the bravey to feel as if you're really there, minute-by-minute, and hour-by-hour. This morning I 'landed' on Omaha beach with Huston 'Hu' Sears Riley, a GI who met fierce resistance from some tough German units just behind the beach - the worst of the day, in fact. He was pretty quickly under some horrendous fire, and I was pretty glad I wasn't on that beach with him, I can tell you.

You can follow these D-Day figures on Twitter; on the website; and you can watch them on your TV (or via the wonders of the Internet). If you want to put your problems and your worries into perspective, I'd recommend this terrible list of privations and frightening trials any day.

It's a breakthrough - a genuine one, in an age during which it's all too easy to get sucked into the hype, rather than the reality, of new technology in teaching. Interactive, informative, impressionistic, personal, novel - and nothing at all like Michael Gove's new 'learn the names' History curriculum. It relies on the ability to think for yourself about sources; on interactivity and participants' ability to upload their own family photos and reminiscences; and it somehow manages to elicit curiosity about the overall strategic sitaution via its actually-on-the-beach view of the world.

Ask yourself: which do you prefer, and which do you think will help your children more with their school history? I think I can predict the answer to that one. And so can you.

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