|The Nightingale Society|
|Newsletter||1 August 2014|
Report from Lynn McDonald, 1 August 2014
Daily Mail article by Lynn McDonald
“Lessons in lies: How the BBC, school text books and even exam boards have twisted history to smear Florence Nightingale and make a saint of this woman” was published in the Daily Mail on 1 August. You can link to the original here or read a slightly abridged version (no photos) on the Nightingale Society website.
Nightingale, Seacole, and schools
July was Complain-about-Seacole/Nightingale-teaching month. The Nightingale Society sent in three complaints, two of which are now under consideration. The one to Ofsted received a quick reply that they do not deal with the accuracy of any teaching (we pointed out that Ofsted inspections gave a favourable mention to a school if it taught on Seacole, however faulty that teaching was).
1. We provided a detailed report to Oxford, Cambridge RSA Examinations (OCR), noting 14 books published for schoolchildren, all of which had gross errors in them, especially the visuals, some of which put Mrs Seacole in a nurse’s uniform similar to those used by the Nightingale School years later. She, of course, never wore a nurse’s uniform of any kind, since she was not a nurse.
We provided information about over 50 school websites which note teaching Seacole, sometimes with Nightingale. These range from an exaggeration of Seacole’s role in the Crimean War to complete fictions about her hospital nursing. Some (not all) make negative comments about Nightingale. Not one gives a remotely accurately account of Seacole’s life or work. But then how could teachers provide one, when all the material available to them, the 14 books noted above, plus textbooks on teaching diversity, exercises and tests for pupils, website “resources” such as the BBC, the National Portrait Gallery and the Science Museum, London, are seriously inaccurate?
A few brief examples: a children’s book includes a Timeline, which lists (in a chart) the birth of Mary Seacole with:
- Julius Caesar invading Britain
- the crucifixion of Jesus
- the birth of Muhammad
- the Norman invasion
- Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World
- the birth of Mary Seacole
- the First World War
- the Second World War
- the first moon landing.
Glossaries in school books all omit the actual ingredients Seacole recounted using in her “remedies,” like lead acetate and mercury chloride, and her acknowledgment of “lamentable blunders,” to feature quinine, molasses, cassava and other non-toxic substances. Often the terms defined would be more suitable for Nightingale’s work: depot, barracks, ward, garrison, Member of Parliament, typhus and anesthetics.
We recommended a moratorium on teaching Seacole until and unless better resources are available.
2. OCR Publications states “what is truth” for purposes of passing History GCSE examinations. Our (separate) complaint to it spelled out the errors in its presentation of Seacole and the marking scheme for GCSE exams. A major problem is the OCR’s document “Medicine Through Time,” which presents Seacole as a public health reformer.
The marking scheme (for the 2011 exam) set out 8 points on Seacole, 5 of which are thoroughly wrong, 3 of which have minor errors. OCR exceeds the usual misrepresentation of her establishing the “British Hotel,” with its associated clinic, wards or sick bay, to make this a full-fledged “British Hospital.”
You can read the full text of both complaints on the Nightingale Society website.