Having been in different primary schools, I believe that although Scottish history is taught in primary school often Scottish tradition is not thoroughly explored. Scottish Culture lies at the centre of life in Scotland (Scottish Government, p.3). Scottish culture is very well known about and respected in other countries and is why Scotland is an extremely popular tourist destination (Scottish Government, p.3).
Whilst I was in Canada, I volunteered for a week in a local elementary school. I observed the strong sense of national pride. Every morning, the national anthem was played and the children were made to stand whilst it was played. The school also had the Canadian Flag flying prominently in its grounds. The children took great pride in their country and spoke very openly about being Canadian, even though Canada is a relatively new country and many of its occupants migrated just a few generations ago.
Many families in Scotland have lived here for generations and this in turn means that many children’s ancestors have been involved in historic battles. However, often this is not portrayed to children and they are unable to see how events of the past shape their lives today.
I believe that although children are often taught “O Flower of Scotland”, Scotland’s unofficial national anthem, they are not taught the meaning of the song. The songs explores the strength of Scots in the Wars of Independence (BBC News, 2015). Therefore, often children are unable to make a connection between the importance of the wars of independence and how different their lives would be now had the outcome been different. Instead they can recite the song off by heart but have no true understanding of the words that they sing.
It is important when teaching social studies that you start in the present and relate all learning to the lives of the individual child making it relevant to them. It is important to teach local geography and history and relate learning to culture and tradition which is still in place today.
There are examples of attempts to reintroduce the importance of Scottish culture and tradition to children today. Scottish Opera have announced that they are currently touring with the play “The Tale o’ Tam o’ Shanter” which is based on ‘Tam O’Shanter’, a traditional Scottish poem by Robert Burns. They aim to re-introduce the works of the famous poet to children in Scotland in a fun and productive way (Scottish Opera, 2016, p.1). They hope this will allow children to explore the Scottish culture, identity and language (Scottish Opera, 2016, p.1).
The Burns’ Supper is also often celebrated in schools to introduce Scottish traditions. Often children are made to memorise and recite poems with no understanding of what the poem means or what it is about. Instead online resources, such as the one created by Carol Magee (nd) expresses different ways in which teachers can teach children about Scottish culture and tradition in a way which allows children to explore and identify the changes in Scottish culture. This also allows teachers to integrate literacy within social studies as the children learn to analyse and interpret the poem.
BBC News (2015) Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-31927575 (accessed on 15/10/17).
Magee, C (nd) A Burns supper with Liz Lochhead Scottish Book Trust. Available at: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/files/liz_lochhead_resource.pdf (last accessed on 14/10/17).
Scottish Opera (2016) Scottish Opera’s Primary Schools Tour Explores Robert Burns’ Classic Available at: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/media/1563/tale-o-tam-press-release.pdf (last accessed on 14/10/17).