Curriculum debates: Increasingly, school history has become the focus of public interest, although the fault lines of related debates seem to fall along predictably and often polarised political orientations.
What interpretations of Mexico-United States relations will the new curriculum of Mexican history recommend? What should we study to prepare a critical citizenry?
Biculturalism? In the high-autonomy curriculum environment in New Zealand, it is history teachers who are charged with the responsibility of engaging young people with controversial aspects of postcoloniality.
If we examine most of troubled pasts presented in educational scenarios, two features clearly appear. Most of the historical events have a national character and most of them happend just recently.
"When historical dates are meaningless in history lessons" – this is the headline of a polemic article "Die Welt" has recently published to argue against the new history curriculum in Saxony-Anhalt.
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El 2 de julio de 2015 se conmemoró el centenario luctuoso del dictador Porfirio Díaz, quien gobernó México, en la silla presidencial o detrás de ella, entre 1876 y 1910, cuando fue derrocado por la revolución mexicana. La opinión pública aprovechó la coyuntura para discutir una vez más sobre el significado de su figura en la historia de México, pero en el mundo educativo nada se modificó sustancialmente, pues los tiempo educativos son de larga duración. El significado histórico de Porfirio Díaz en los programas de estudio y los libros de texto se ha sedimentado: enseñar como legítima la desigualdad económica que lacera a México.
Porfirio Díaz es uno de los villanos de la historia que mejor ha recuperado su imagen en la actualidad. Díaz fue un dictador. Su periodo, denominado Porfiriato, se caracterizó en lo político por reelecciones infinitas, violencia contra la oposición, control de la prensa y un centralismo autoritario. En lo social la desigualdad y la exclusión fueron las características centrales, con una pequeña élite inmensamente rica, grandes sectores de la población en indignante pobreza y algunos otros en semi esclavitud dentro de las haciendas.
Whilst war remembrance in New Zealand is dominated by ANZAC and Gallipoli, there is a growing momentum to commemorate the colonial wars of the 19th century between indigenous Māori and the British/colonial forces. This raises questions about how post-colonial nations such as New Zealand address the difficult features of their past as well as ensure that young people engage with different perspectives on war remembrance that are inclusive of difference and encourage them to think critically about such issues.
Waimarama Anderson und Leah Bell
War remembrance in New Zealand is closely aligned with an ideal of ANZAC identity that primarily focuses on this country’s part in the unsuccessful attempt by the Allies in 1915 to invade the Gallipoli peninsula, the sovereign territory of what is now Turkey.
However, there is a growing momentum to also commemorate the colonial wars of the 19th century between Māori and the British/colonial forces and this has recently gained traction from an unexpected quarter.
The question about the relevance and applicability of historical knowledge becomes particularly urgent in the context of local history and regional history. Learners are currently not very motivated to occupy themselves with local and state history as far as centralised examinations are concerned. Life designs based on migration und multiple localities also give rise to the very practical, everyday problem of transferring what has been learned.
No Place for Local History
Centralised examinations and performance measurements have led to a marginalisation of contents related to local and regional history because, as is well known, these are hard to generalise and their specifics run contrary to the trend towards standardisation in educational policy. Locations that have Roman ruins or medieval buildings offer a variety of starting points that differ from those in towns and villages that have contemporary monuments or a memorial site dedicated to the history of the 20th century. If, nevertheless, local or regional history does make an appearance in the textbooks or syllabi of the 16 German states, then it usually serves to illustrate and concretise history in general, and with the aim of strengthening the identity of the inhabitants of Saxony, Bavaria, or Brandenburg etc.
Poor Québec history program! It is going through another round of ministerial revisions. This time, the competency-based approach of the current course of study was deemed “too radical.” In a recent report to the Minister of Education entitled “The meaning of history,” Jacques Beauchemin and Nadia Fahmy-Eid recommended to “reconcile the history program with its national framework” by reinstating the “narrative structure” into the organization of the program.
A national framework for history in school
The actual course of study, the authors claimed, lacks coherence and chronology and hinders the development of a “sense of shared memory.” The response of the educational community came fast and furious.
Currently, throughout Europe, various forms of nationalism are sprouting, as if decades of peaceful European cooperation had never existed. History education is looking on helplessly. Instead of providing students with the ability to orient to a future that is historically undefined, which is neither good nor bad, educational ministries are succumbing either to national hullaballoo (the UK and the Netherlands) or to curricular cluelessness (Switzerland, Germany). The future is not regarded as an opportunity for the present but, instead, almost exclusively as a threat. In other words: since the reorganization of Europe into a community of states in 1989, history education has lost its future. The past is used instrumentally for the present or is regarded only for its own sake.