Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Let Students Learn about Scotland's History

Today, 30 November, is “St Andrews Day”, Scotland’s National Day. Lesley Riddoch makes “A compelling case for our classrooms” in today Herald (Glasgow, Scotland) on the day that a petition signed by 1,000 Scots and drawn up by the Saltire Society was presented to Patricia Ferguson, the Education Minister in the Scottish Parliament, lamenting the decline in the teaching of Scottish history and literature in schools (I signed it too, though I rarely sign petitions).

Ms Riddoch (a feisty feminist journalist in Scotland’s media) writes:

Forged in the Scottish Enlightenment, that ideal would inform the political theories of Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith and David Hume and other thinkers who viewed "man as a product of history", and whose collective enterprise involved "nothing less than a massive reordering of human knowledge" (yielding, among other things, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in Edinburgh in 1768 and the Declaration of Independence, published in Philadelphia a few years later). Scotland also fielded inventors, warriors, administrators and diplomats such as Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Simon MacTavish and Charles James Napier, who created empires and fortunes, extending our reach into every corner of the world.”

She also gives an excellent account of Arthur Herman’s book, “How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything In It”, suggesting that Scots created much of the modern world by bringing to it ideas of freedom, self-reliance and moral discipline.

Once again, I am struck by the positive slant that people in Scotland are beginning to put on Adam Smith, where once there was disdain, largely on political grounds, and this is to be welcomed. Ms Riddoch is of the Left in Scottish politics (and we do not always agree) but on the place of Adam Smith in the context of the Scottish Enlightenment she is right (a contrast I must say to those leftwing students at Adam Smith College recently, who voted to disassociate their Students Association from Adam Smith in favour of Jennie Lee).


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