Should the BBC be dumbing down history, even for children?

Who says they’re dumbing down history?

The BBC say they will be showing a new history programme for children. It will be presented by Danny Dyer of Eastenders fame. Many people assume this means dumbing down. Perhaps they have had a preview, but as I have not, I cannot say if that criticism is fair.

How do you define ‘dumbing down’?

The BBC say the programme is intended to be entertaining and amusing. They want children to watch it, but does this mean things will be oversimplified? You know, Good Things and Bad Kings. Will they select only the most ‘dramatic’ events? 1066, 1588, 1789, 1966? What sort of questions will they ask – and what will they avoid?

  • What did the Romans do for us?
  • Who were the real winners of the 100 years’ war?
  • Who gained from the Industrial Revolution?
Do I object to dumbing down?

Not necessarily. I object to fake news, old or new, which includes gross oversimplification. Let’s not underestimate children’s ability to understand and let’s encourage them to think. As I also object to making history boring, I applaud this attempt at making it fun.

Can we make it interesting without dumbing down?

Yes. I was in Pembroke shire in Summer and visited a lot of castles. Some of them will feature in my next book, Stallion Man, the third in the Highwaypersons trilogy. Nowadays, the information provided, in leaflets, on notices and in audio recordings, is interesting, accessible and mostly true. Living history exhibits and demonstrations were fun and informative.

The Red Dragon of Wales. Flown over most castles in Pembrokeshire, where they try to make History fun without dumbing down.
The Red Dragon of Wales. Flown over most castles in Pembrokeshire, where they try to make History fun without dumbing down.
How to avoid dumbing down

I must especially compliment Pembroke Castle and make special mention of the tour guide, Isla, for excellence in presenting history in a way that people of all ages and existing levels of knowledge could enjoy. I hope the BBC can do as well as them, and that’s a challenge to me as a historical novelist.

The first book in my Highwaypersons series. I hope there was no dumbing down in it.
The first book in my Highwaypersons series. I hope there was no dumbing down in it.

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