King Tut had a very big butt

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Today was the penultimate day of term. We’re all a little tired in our house so we decided to go out to the Buninyong pub for dinner. We took activities with us for the girls to complete. At this age, they tend to like a pen and paper so they can write or draw.

Unprompted, our youngest daughter who is in Grade 1 wrote ‘Tutankhamun’ and ‘Howard Carter’ on her piece of paper. So I thought I would contribute.

“I know about these guys,” I said. “King Tut had a very big butt and Howard Carter was a stinky farter.”

“Daddy!” My daughter exclaimed, disapprovingly, “That’s not what we were taught.”

She went on to outline how Howard Carter had discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and described the number of doors he had to get through. She then explained that Tutankhamun’s father had moved the Egyptian capital and made everyone worship only one god but that Tutankhamun had restored the old ways and many gods. She seemed particularly taken with the idea that Tutankhamun had ascended the throne at only nine years of age.

We had an interesting discussion about grave goods. My daughter thought it was wrong to take them away given that Tutankhamun believed that he needed them for the afterlife.

I know that my daughter has been studying Tutankhamun at school. I know this is part of my school’s core knowledge agenda and I know that she otherwise would not have had this experience.

Her interest in ancient Egypt appears to refute a common idea: that children can only be engaged by the immediate; by contexts that they know a lot about through personal experience. This is simply not true. Children have a hunger for knowledge and a thirst for ideas. They can imagine themselves into ancient Egypt as easily as they can imagine themselves into Narnia. We underestimate them when we assume that they cannot and, in the process, we obscure the jewels of civilisation from their view.


6 thoughts on “King Tut had a very big butt

  1. Whoever said children can only be engaged with by the immediate has not spent time with kids or if they have were only paying attention to their own thoughts – try dinosaurs for an even longer time separation or Harry Potter for a complete disconnect with reality.

  2. When my eldest was in 7th year, she was assigned a project to represent the unit they had learned on Ancient Egypt. She came home with a discarded book from the school library. She grabbed a bottle of glue and another bottle of gold glitter. She glued a whole bunch of pages together and let them dry. Once dried, she drew a couple pictures throughout the book of old dogs and cats. She then put glue over the entire thing and dumped gold glitter all over. She brought it in and got an “A’ which represented her entire grade for that subject.

    Tell me how that benefits her deep understanding of ancient civilizations? How did this help with her collaboration skills, or give her a basic knowledge of how ancient Egyptians lived, the crops they grew or the gods they worshipped?

    We are selling our kids short and we only have ourselves to blame…because we’re letting it happen. We have the wherewithal to change this, but it will take a huge concerted effort. Who’s ready for that?

    1. Terrible but typical. My yr 8 daughter did Medieval Europe and some of the kids simply bought in a jar containing some coloured rocks or herbs to represent the herbs to combat the plague. My daughter did poster. It was artistic but in no one could anyone ascertain how much my daughter new about the subject from this bit of assessment nor is it asking them to use their brains in any way. Differently dumbing down and shameful.

      Both my daughters love history (they love the facts) and it’s there favourite subject. As you point out Greg, they easily and enthusiastically engage with world history that we do at home.

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