Ed Balls pulled middle Britain back from the brink yesterday, by telling a teachers' conference that children won't be forced to learn to Twitter and Facebook instead of studying the Victorians and Roman Britain.
The Daily Mail reading classes were sent into apoplexy last week over a "leaked report", which apparently dictated that ICT should be at the heart of the national curriculum and that students should learn how to use Twitter and social networking sites.
Given that the national curriculum is already stuffed to the gunwales, with history fairly low down the pecking order, the report apparently suggested that Winston Churchill, Caractacus and Queen Vic herself would all have to be mashed up before being dumped overboard.
The report generated much why-oh-whying and the inevitable editorials about dumbing down and loss of national identity in the mid-market press, even as it continued salivating over other Twitter-based stories involving the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Russell Brand, and Peaches Geldof.
So the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families went on stage at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Conference to assure the corduroy nation that they would still be able to get kids to dress up as Victorian chimney sweeps to illustrate the importance of socialism, or explain that bonfire night is not just an excuse to set fire to things, but is all about keeping Roman Catholics slightly nervous.
In fact, he said, the government was committed to slimming down the primary curriculum: "That was why in the Children’s Plan, we asked Sir Jim Rose to carry out a root and branch review of the primary curriculum – including by looking at the content of the programmes of study for the existing 10 compulsory National Curriculum subjects while also making room for languages to also become compulsory."
Languages? Like C++? No, as Balls went on: "The idea that primary school children will learn how to use Twitter and about social networking instead of learning about the Victorians and the Tudors is just complete nonsense."
In fact, he boomed, "Children will be taught the broad chronology of major events in Britain and the wider world – from ancient civilisations through the Romans, the War of the Roses, the industrial revolution and the world wars to the modern day. In addition, they will study a minimum of two periods of history in depth, as well as learning about the movement and settlement of people during different periods and the effects of major economic, technological and scientific developments."
So, balance restored, and the youth will still learn that Victoria means so much more than just a pale blue Tube line, The Spanish Armada was an even bigger threat than Groove Armada, and that Henry VIII didn't just have six wives, but also wrote the world's most popular phone hold music.
Then Balls had to go and spoil it all, saying, "We need to prepare our children and young people not just with knowledge, but also with the skills to find information. And in the same way, we have a duty to ensure our children learn about history we also have a duty to make sure they are not left in the technological dark ages."
Which sounds like Twitter may be off the menu, but advanced Googling is still very much on it. ®