Anxieties about national identity and its strengthening and preservation are common in countries around the world, and it is, of course, entirely natural that this should be so in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty…
When entering school, kids are not empty pots. They know many things, including things about the past of their society. Getting into the body of this historical knowledge is an interesting business. It reveals to what extent assimilated family souvenirs and community memories and templates are important in shaping children’s historical knowledge and historical consciousness.
If family souvenirs and community memories are structural components in kid’s historical consciousness, they also represent limitations to take students out of the mythistories – a mix of brute facts and historical romance – they’re trapped in when telling the past. One of the main challenges to teaching the past to kids is to get them outside the thinkable they’ve been accustomed to in living in a particular society and being subjected to its broad representations.
The aim of the talk is to discuss a pragmatic approach to teaching the past to kids in the context of a strong presence of community memories and templates everywhere in society, assuming the fact that kids learn history in and out of the classroom. The proposed approach – to start from memory in order to get out of it – comes from an innovative study effectuated in Quebec in the last decade (www.tonhistoireduquebec.ca) which consisted in collecting short narratives (N = 5000) and phrases (N= 3423) produced by students responding to two basic questions: 1) “Tell me the story of Quebec as you know it;” 2) “If you had to summarize in one sentence the historical experience of Quebec, what would you write personally?”
Young People, National Narratives and History Education What young people do and do not know about the past is frequently discussed in news media and in political debate. Young people are typically presented as having a knowledge deficit in these discussions and it has become almost a truism to claim that the young know little or nothing about history. This seminar will explore what young people know about the past and the sources of their knowledge from an international perspective. Drawing on research from Quebec, Ottawa and Amsterdam, the seminar will reflect on the nature, form and sources of young people’s thinking about the past and aim to challenge the clichéd practice of itemising and lamenting ‘the ignorance of the young’.
The truism that young people know nothing about history has been successfully challenged by research. When surveyed using methodologies that interrogate understanding, rather than those with simplistic quizzes and factual tests, young people often reveal that they know a good deal about the past. Many can build historical narratives that address the past experiences of their culture, society or nation, and demonstrate that they not only know things about the past but are able to organise this knowledge. However, research also reveals that historical narratives crafted by young people, and the knowledge built from them, are structured as much by cultural and national myth‐histories – passed on through interaction with peers, family, culture, schooling and the media – as by formally agreed histories. Their rich historical learning can therefore result in deep historical misunderstanding, leading to the appearance that young people ‘know nothing’.
This special feature in the London Review of Education will explore the multiple sources of young people’s historical knowledge – through collective memory and social conversation as well as in the formal history classroom – and the implications for historical education that young people are not passive assimilators but active builders of historical sense.
We seek papers that examine the relationships between young people, schools, identity and cultural/other histories in national, intranational, international and supranational contexts, in any part of the world. We welcome submissions that adopt empirical and/or theoretical approaches to young people’s knowledge of the past, including studies of young people’s historical consciousness and papers that address the implications, for pedagogical practice, of that fact that young people’s ‘ignorance’ is a complicated matter.
Articles are subject to full peer review. Please send abstracts, outlines and expressions of interest by 31 January 2016 to Dr Arthur Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline for submission of manuscripts is 30 June 2016. Informal enquiries to the editors about possible paper submissions are welcome and should be addressed to the contact above. Articles in this feature will be published in January 2017.
ABSTRACT : TEACHING HISTORY TO K12 KIDS: REFLECTIONS BASED ON A LARGE SCALE RESEARCH PROJECT
When submitted to trivia tests, kids seem to know very little about the past of their community (nation). I decided to look at the situation a different way in asking two broad questions to about 5000 different young people, during a period of ten years, when they were in the classroom: 1) “Tell me the history of Quebec as you know”; 2) “If you had to summarize the history of Quebec in a phrase, what would you write personally?” Analysing the corpus shows two things: 1) kids know more about the past of their community (nation) than we think they do; 2) what they know is as powerful as it is simplistic. So the question: How to teach history to kids in the context they are not empty pots but have a very strong prior knowledge?
First step is to assess knowledge kids possess… to discover that it’s very much rooted in their community’s mythistories (I shall define that concept in my talk). o Second is to create a cognitive conflict with kid’s prior knowledge so they are challenged in their historical representations. o Third is to provide kids with alternative historical knowledge structured in the form of “catchy” ideas (so they may remember something of what is taught to them), knowledge also focused on their community’s mythistories (in order to have them distancing from the common premises upon which their culture is constructed, so they study history with a purpose, which is a good inducement to develop their learning interest). o In the paper each point will be detailed and backed with arguments. The aim of the talk is not to go against historical thinking theory but to adjust the basics of this theory with the general context into which kids learn (and use that knowledge to live efficiently in complex social settings).
• J. Létourneau, Je me souviens ? Le passé du Québec dans la conscience historique de sa jeunesse, Montreal, Fides, 2014.
• J. Létourneau, “Teaching National History to Young People Today”, in Mario Carretero, Stefan Berger & Maria Grever (eds.), International Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education. Hybrid Ways of Learning History, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. [To be published].
• J. Létourneau, S. Lévesque & R. Gani, “A Giant with Clay Feet: Quebec Students and the Historical Consciousness of the Nation”, International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 11, 2 (May 2013), p. 159-175.
Canadians have reputation for not knowing their country’s history. This reputation has led to three reactions: indifference; a need to redress the situation through education initiatives; and a critique of the whole idea of “historical ignorance.” As we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada, how can Canadians cope with the diagnosis of their so-called collective amnesia? In this presentation, I will: 1) demonstrate how various survey results have consistently damaged the reputation of Canadians which, in return, led to particular educational initiatives; and 2) offer my own approach to surveys as an instrument to (re)vitalizing pre-service teachers’ knowledge of history. Raphaël Gani is a doctoral student in education at the University of Ottawa. He holds a M.A. in History (Laval) and a B.A. in Social Psychology (Montréal). His visit to the University of Alberta is supported by The History Education Network (THEN/HiER) visiting doctoral program.
Click on the image to read this short blog post: “Imagine you are in school and asked to write down, in a page or two, the history of your country, your nation or your homeland (patria) as you know it. While this task may sound trivial, it tells us some important facets of people’s ability to use knowledge of the past for constructing a meaningful historical narrative.”
As part of the ERU “Making History” Speaker Series, associate professor with the Faculty of Education at McGill University, Paul Zanazanian, will be discussing the historical memories related to English-speaking community leaders and the ongoing quest for Anglo-Quebec vitality. Attend in person or participate online: http://connect.uottawa.ca/edu6504
“Blogging is a new digital medium that provides insights about the position of public historians as well as how ordinary people understand their past. Blogs are free online platforms where individuals post thoughts and ideas. As Michael Conniff asserts, they are structured in reverse chronological order, so that the latest addition is viewed first, and generally feature unfiltered content, posts with an informal tone and hyperlinks to other sites.60 In 1998, there were less than 50 known blogs worldwide, while in 2006 there were an estimated 57.4 million blogs in cyberspace. This figure is likely to continue to increase.61 Historian Stephanie Ho has recognised these sources’ significance and pioneered an investigation that uses blogs to uncover how people understand the past. Using Singapore as a case study, Ho demonstrates that blogs can be used to create a communal, participatory historical culture. They allow ordinary people to engage in a dialogue with one another and share their interpretation of the past. Although there are restrictions on what can be posted online – for example, ‘seditious’ and overtly political statements are policed by the State in Singapore – blogs still provide new avenues for historical understanding. They can expand the scope of history from the national and political past taught at school to the personal and experiential, as well as connect people by sharing knowledge about ‘their’ history.
Ho’s article draws on some foundational traditions in public history. In the 1990s, American scholars Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen were the first to study how ordinary people thought about the past, and this topic has remained popular ever since. Similar projects to the American case have been carried out in countries around the world and the most recent study, in Canada, was completed in 2013.62 These previous investigations, however, largely relied on interviews and questionnaires to understand how people use the past in their everyday lives. Ho’s study and others that use online forums do not need historians to intervene to gather this evidence. Individuals and communities make digital sources for themselves. This breaks new ground as it shows how people are using the Web to create, understand and interact with their past on their own terms. It also changes the historian’s role in these studies. From a participant-collector who physically interacts with ‘the public’, historians become more akin to observers as they analyse the material before them.”
60. Michael Conniff, ‘Just What is a Blog Anyway?’, Online Journalism Review, 29 September 2005. Accessed 10 January 2014 via: <http://www.ojr.org/p050929/>.
61. [Stephanie Ho, ‘Blogging as Popular History Making, Blogs as Public History: a Singapore case study,’ Public History Review, vol 14, 2007], p65.
62. Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, ‘The Presence of the Past: popular uses of history in American life,’ in Kean and Martin (eds) The Public History Reader, pp30-55; Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: popular uses of history in American Life, Colombia University Press, New York, 1988; Ashton and Hamilton, ‘At Home with the Past,’ pp5‐30; Ashton and Hamilton, History at the Crossroads; Anna Clark, ‘Ordinary People’s History’, History Australia, vol 9, no 1, 2012. pp201‐216; Margaret Conrad et al, Canadians and Their Pasts, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2013.