heroes, heroines and ‘pioneers of progress’ in the teaching of history
Herbartianism posited that the creation of moral, patriotic, citizens was to be achieved most effectively through the teaching of moral biography. This chapter, then, examines how history lessons were used to encourage hero worship. The first section demonstrates how heroic attributes, endemic to characters from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, were explained to be traits of an imperial race. Secondly, the chapter demonstrates the impact of the pedagogical concept of the ‘pedestal’ – that is, children were not only intended to worship hero figures, but both emulate them and engage in acts of collective commemoration. The third section analyses representations of ‘specifically’ imperial heroes and shows how Nelson, Clive, Wolfe and Gordon were depicted as embodiments of historical progress. Lastly, the chapter makes analysis of the class and gendered dynamics of hero worship and assesses why texts for younger children were far likelier than textbooks to include stories of ‘everyday’ heroes and heroines.
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