III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

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

Formacin histrica del sujeto poltico


Author Peter DSena ( Leeds Metropolitan University, England )

Title School History, Cultural Diversity and Critical Thinking looking to the future to teach about the past

Educational reform and the threat of government prescription in the late 1980s in the UK provoked a strong reaction from those involved in the teaching of history. Debates broadly about content, skills and notions of Britishness animated educationalists, parents, the media and government ministers into making pronouncements about what sort of history should be taught; the common denominator, whatever the disagreements, being an underlying acknowledgement of historys importance in establishing and confirming values associated with citizenship. Almost two decades later it seems that the dynamism produced by the threat of the unknown has given way to a tendency of acceptance many teachers have, at some time, been concerned with demonstrating a kind of compliance with highly prescriptive - and some might say highly politicised - National Curriculum requirements rather than maintaining the consistent challenge of questioning its overall appropriateness for school pupils.

However, since its inception, the National Curriculum has been subject to a 5-year rolling programme of change. The first, content-heavy curriculum of 1990 was slimmed down in 1995 and the changes of 2000 are now up for review. Recent changes have been made against a growing consciousness in Britain generally of the significance of self-identification and the hyphenation of identities and also political devolution and the problems of institutionalised racism. However, for some working in Development Education and associated areas, the curriculum is still dominated by a narrow Anglocentrism, taking insufficient account of global perspectives and ethical issues.

This paper rests on a number of basic premises. First, that a cursory and partial history, both in terms of content and approach, will only serve to promote and accentuate bigotries (and certainly it is cursory and partial, rather than plural and critical history that bigots prefer). Second, that if trainee teachers practise well into the 21st century, then the children they teach will live to see the 22nd. In short, then, what we teach may well help to shape views which will be at the root of current childrens thoughts and processes in 50 or more years time. In re-thinking history, therefore, we need to consider what the future will look like (and in doing so, we need to take the same sort of creative leap that educationalists of the 1890s would have required in thinking about womens issues, say). By the middle of the next century 30% of the workforce will be British or European black; more than one career will be the norm (and these will be in service industries); more will work at home; there will be lengthier retirements; the phrase ethnic minority will not only be patronising, it will be wrong; third generation blacks in Britain will more clearly identify themselves as participants (and citizens) rather than as consumers of Britishness; national and cultural identities will need constant reconsideration; shifts in racism from colour to culture will need to be addressed; a shrinking world will make human rights and global issues of real and immediate concern.

This paper offers suggestions of how history in the classroom can be rethought and how the school curriculum can be interpreted and supported through the pedagogy of critical thinking, with a view to addressing such issues.

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