UK education minister lashes out over "Mr Men" history lessons

LONDON Fri May 10, 2013 12:06pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - British Education Minister Michael Gove criticised the use of the popular "Mr Men" cartoon figures to teach 16-year olds about Adolf Hitler, saying such play-based learning infantilised students and led to a culture of low aspirations.

In a speech delivered on Thursday, Gove lashed out against an online resource for history teachers that promotes using the "Mr Men" figures for revision on Nazi Germany.

British media reports on Gove's speech were accompanied by a picture of Mr Fussy, a figure with a Hitler-style moustache and hair-do, one of a panoply of characters such as Mr Happy and Mr Cool created by author Roger Hargreaves.

"I may be unfamiliar with all of Roger Hargreaves's work but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat," Gove told an education conference in Brighton.

"What makes the setting of higher expectations more difficult is the culture of excuses and low aspirations which some in the education establishment still defend," Gove added.

The website ActiveHistory, which offers the Mr Men lesson plan, stresses that the Mr Men exercise is a revision tool, and students should have finished studying the rise of Hitler before embarking on the cartoon exercise.

Gove came under pressure about his own plans to revise the history curriculum earlier this year when historians criticised him in an open letter, saying the scope of his proposed teaching programme was too narrowly focused on Britain.

(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla, editing by Mohammed Abbas and Paul Casciato)

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