To Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education

To Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education

Rt Hon Michael Gove, PC, MP
Secretary of State for Education
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

January 20, 2013

Dear Mr Gove

We commend you for the decision to remove teaching of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum.

We remind you, however, that a great deal of damage was done by the years of false teaching on Seacole, and suggest that your department take at least minimal measures to address this. At the very least a statement should be issued that the teaching of Seacole winning medals for bravery and pioneering nursing was not based on fact. A brief (correct) outline of her life could be given, with her actual occupations.

As well, teaching on Nightingale was affected, for the two were linked in the curriculum, which required the denigration of Nightingale’s work to make it more like Seacole’s. We gave examples in our letter to you of September 10, 2012.

Nightingale’s contribution to British life and history has been enormously important, not only in the emergence of nursing as a modern, reputable profession, but for hospital safety (using an evidence-based approach to reduce death rates), methodology (the first woman Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society), and she was most notably a major pioneer of public health care. These are serious contributions, omission of which would result in poor coverage of major elements of British public life and society.

The suggestion (in a leaked document) that Nightingale could be dropped as well as Seacole we would see as extremely backward. Nightingale and Seacole were not equals-one white, the other black-each doing roughly the same thing. Seacole was a decent and kind person, who deserves better than to be used in a propaganda campaign, but she was not a heroic, medal-winning, pioneer nurse, and her contribution were neither similar to Nightingale’s nor of remotely comparable weight.