Frank Tindall’s Memoirs: a source of locally relevant contexts?

One of the principles for curriculum design under A Curriculum for Excellence is relevance. From a chance discovery in a local bookshop I’ve found a book that has potential to provide relevant local contexts for a wide range of curricular areas.

Relevance: Young people should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future. link

The book, Memoirs and Confessions of a County Planning Officer by the late Frank Tindall, tells the story of the development of East Lothian from 1950 onwards. With a title like that, it’s not an obvious choice for the school library shelf – but it brings East Lothian’s recent history to life in a way I’ve never encountered before in more than 20 years living here.

Some topics covered include:

  • depopulation and measures taken to address it, including bringing “overspill” from Glasgow
  • flooding of the river Tyne, and work done in response
  • mineral resources, including coal and limestone
  • coastal conservation, including removal of wartime defences
  • the development of the ranger service and tourism

Somehow picking these out doesn’t do full justice to the book, though, because it makes it sound like a geography text and it’s not like that at all. It’s written as a series of stories, and you meet the characters involved. There’s endless East Lothian trivia, of course – where else could you find out where the rock went from the hole in Traprain Law, for example?

Because there are stories about every area of East Lothian, it has unusual potential to provide “hooks” for new curricular developments which are locally relevant and interesting. In many areas it would be possible, for example, to look at what the planners intended and see how things are working out now.