III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 14-18 de julio de 2004

Oriente y Occidente

TABLE RONDE Q. Orient et Occident

Contemporary Textbook Analysis Regarding Islam.
Prolegomena for a Scientific Historical Approach

Jan Van Wiele
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Few would doubt that textbooks are a crucial medium for reconstructing mentalities and realities in the history of education, due to their

comprehensive yet extremely selective character, and their usual lack of an anecdotal, concise or even superficial approach. Textbooks constitute part of the micro-pedagogical level which is itself an intertwining of networks and structures whose origin can be found at the macro and meso-pedagogical levels (policy-making directives from government and educational authorities, dominant pedagogical and ideological objectives, etc.) of the entire educational system. In addition to this, if in line with certain currents within pedagogical historiography, one defines an educational system as a "school culture" in the sense of an overall set of values, norms and expectations that directs the way in which the school and its members’ activities are shaped, then it is obvious that the textbook, as the nexus of the entire school culture, is a privileged source for detecting large "structures" or mentalities that are constitutive of a school culture. Within this framework, textbook analysis and analysis of other education materials concerning Islam, have shown a remarkable increase over the past two decades. In fact, this is rather new in the field. Whereas research for geography and and other textbooks has already become a tradition in the history of education, similar research in the domain of more "religious themes" such as Islam, is a rather recent phenomenon. Consequently, we are dealing with a fairly young research topic, in which old methodological problems come to the fore again very actively together with new specific problems.

In this contribution, I will present a short status quaestionis, situaded in the context of the broad tradition of international textbook analysis, of

the textbook analyses regarding Islam as a religion and/or culture that have been produced. Secondly, I make some suggestions with respect to a contemporary, multidisciplinary intercultural and historical textbook analysis. What Clifford Geertz had introduced into anthropology as "thick description", and what Marc Depaepe, following Geertz, has more recently applied in his research into ideas in pedagogical journals served as models. In the practice of textbook research, the externalistic hermeneutic approach based on these models implies not only a parallel research of other relevant information channels, but is also supported by the idea that throughout the narrative and discursive setting of the learning material, normativity — understood here as normality or pedagogical-didactic mentality and reality — will appear at the surface. Using this research model, one can carry out further work on the integration and application of this convergent methodology in the field of textbook analysis, not merely because this will give the textbook the status it deserves in historiography, but also because throughout the application of this methodology, new paths are opened for contemporary history of education.

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