Educational Resources: Trends in Curricula, Textbooks, Museums and New Media

In the previous part, different authors have presented their views on what history to teach, why and how. They discussed what kind of prior historical knowledge students and citizens already possess when they face historical instruction, how this prior knowledge could interact with their learning activities and ultimately modify their historical knowledge and attitudes. The focus has been on how history education evolved from a set of teaching activities based on a rather passive view of the learner to an approach increasingly focussed on higher abilities like thinking and dialogue. Part IV presents an analysis of the different cultural artefacts present in these developing modes of history education. It will cover traditional and new resources for the teaching of historical content. It includes classical topics such as history textbooks, and history curriculum organization and development, including binational initiatives of textbook production as a means for peace and reconciliation. It deals also with informal and very influential new advances in areas such as TV productions and Internet initiatives, showing the increasing influence of visual culture and ICT media. Finally, museums and exhibitions as historical learning environments will also be considered. As mentioned above, these aspects have been considered from a historiographical point of view in the chapters by Burke, Kansteiner as well as Korte and Paletschek in Part I.

This part of the handbook starts with the chapter by Nicola Brauch about curriculum design and teacher formation. Even though textbooks have great importance in history education, in any educational system the teachers are the most important actors. For this reason, teacher formation is central to any attempt to improve educational organizations. In general terms, some of the best education in the world has been successful due to the great effort invested in teacher formation. For example, in some countries high school history teachers need to have a Master Degree in History, but this is not the case at all in many other societies. Also in some countries high school teachers receive an extensive pedagogical preparation, but in others this preparation is very scarce. All these factors influence the way teachers use educational materials and particularly textbooks. Moreover, it is well known that the same textbook can be used in very different ways by different teachers. Therefore, textbook contents need to be analysed in the context of their relation to curriculum design, particularly in countries where either the regional or national curriculum is decided upon by the Ministry of Education or related institutions.

In this vein, the contribution by Brauch, analysing the relationship between teacher education and curriculum design and decisions in western countries is important. The chapter provides some interesting, specific comparisons between Germany and New Zealand and also some examples from other European countries. Brauch defends initiatives to make future teachers more independent in how they deal with the curriculum and the textbook, through curriculum-independent specialized academic qualifications. After all, it is to be hoped that the knowledge of the epistemology of history curricula encourages future history teachers to make use of it with content-driven creativity, favouring the student’s chances of becoming a reflective citizen in terms of historical consciousness (See also the chapter by Tutiaux-Guillon about the relationship between textbooks and curriculum in the case of France in Part II).

Anthony Taylor and Stuart Macintyre elaborate on the relationship between history textbooks and nation-states’ regulations about their use and production. In their analysis, the authors compare three specific cases, Australia, the United States of America and Russia. The analysis yields illustrative differences that contribute to the understanding of how modern nationstates exerted different influences on both the textbooks and the curriculum. One of the most important issues is probably the degree of centralization of the educational systems and their curricula. For example, the United States of America curriculum regulations are the most decentralized. Therefore, the Washington administration exerts very little direct influence on history textbooks. By contrast, Russia has a highly centralized educational system, and so the influence of the centralized curriculum is very high. In this particular case, it is exerted by President Putin himself. However, some US states such as Texas have traditionally had a very conservative position on these issues. Texas’ influence on historical textbooks has been and it still is considerable, enhancing very nationalistic, religious and traditional historical contents. In any case, this influence is not being exerted through a centralized curriculum but the textbooks themselves. As Taylor and Macintyre point out, this happens because of the existence of three types of textbook culture in developed nations, the pluralistic approach, the adopted textbook approach and the endorsed approach. In the first system, as in Australia, rival publishers compete to have more schools and teachers using their books. In the second system, publishers aim at being adopted by a particular administration, as in some states in the United States. In the third, the state keeps the right of approving the publication of textbooks, as in Russia. It is important also to consider the influence of publishers as private corporations because the textbooks industry is an extensive business producing enormous profits. In this vein various analyses (Apple and Christian- Smith, 1991; Lindaman & Ward, 2006; Shorto, 2010) have established a clear relationship between the low disciplinary and educational quality of textbooks in the USA and the influence of that business. It is important to note that as USA has a very decentralized educational system, the pressure of publisher corporations is on the local councils because they have to take the final decision on textbooks use (see e.g. disputed-history-texts-for-schools.html?_r=0). Another interesting result of the comparison of these three countries is that the more traditional, nationalist and conservative education systems tend to strongly emphasize empiricism and memory-orientation.

In relation to these conclusions, the chapter about South-Korea by Hohwan Yang is very relevant. It represents the new developments in history education in a country where the state had a strong control over history teaching for decades, allowing only one textbook. As a result and in the context of important political and social changes, new practices were initiated at the beginning of the 1990s. Since then, the interest to develop historical thinking has increased among history teachers. The view of historical thinking developed by Yang is close to Wineburg’s approach described in the chapter by Nokes. The Korean research is also influenced by British work, for example by Peter Lee. Therefore, a number of relationships between this chapter and the chapter by Cercadillo, Chapman and Lee can have been found. In particular both see the students’ historical thinking as a process of construction, in which the representations of the past should be a result of learning and cognitive activities instead of copying textbook and curriculum contents.

Side Wang, Yueqin Li, Chencheng Shen and Zhongjie Meng discuss the history education reform in China. They provide another interesting case of the relationship between curriculum development and textbook policy. These authors examine the main changes that have taken place in the nation recently. They elaborate on the six most important changes. A centralized curriculum for the whole of China has been transformed into diverse curricula in different parts of the country. Of course, this also implies the existence of other textbooks, although the State still controls their production. The historical outlook changed from an explicit and orthodox Marxist view on historical developments in China and the world to broader social and political views in which some democratic values have been included. The new emphasis is on the importance of the learner’s activity through different inquiry activities instead of maintaining the traditional emphasis on the passive memorization of school content. Nevertheless, these authors mention the lack of empirical studies on the effects these changes are producing because “nationwide surveys carried out by the Ministry of Education are still confidential” (p. 668). Finally, the authors also recognize that major unsolved problems include the construction of “an understandable framework to represent global history without patriotism, which has been the master narrative for decades ... and the representation of controversial and conflicting views of historical events?” (p. 668).

Among the most important applied contributions made by history education to the current social and political problems in societies all over the world are peace and reconciliation initiatives. Particularly, the attempts made for years by the George Eckert Institute for International Textbooks Research and by NGOs as CDRSEE should be acknowledged. Robert Maier’s chapter reviews several projects carried out in different parts of the world with the purpose of developing fruitful dialogue between conflictual representations of the past. Historical conflicts and history education have been considered also in chapters by Karrouche, Millas and Barreiro et al. in Part II. But in this case, these conflictive processes imply the work of commissions of historians and history educators for several years. The goal of these dialogues has been to produce some agreement on historical contents either in divided societies or between two nations previously engaged in armed conflict. The final products of these efforts have been joint textbooks, as in projects that centred on Poland and Germany or on Israel and Palestine, or educational materials for history teachers. Some of these materials are also appropriate for students. In his chapter, Maier admits that this work faces difficulties and resistance, mostly for political reasons. On the one hand, participating governments are not supportive enough. On the other, societies, in general, do not easily accept these educational efforts because historical stereotypes are difficult to overcome. Therefore, it is important to be extremely patient about their implementation and to have little expectation of dramatic success. In this line, it is also important to consider that flexibility and creativity might be the two essential ingredients for the success of such programmes.

Three chapters consider different matters related to the importance of images in history education. Tatyana Tsyrlina-Spady and Michael Lovorn, Stephan Klein, and TerryHaydn and Kees Ribbens deal with history imagery but also with some other specific questions such as the use of the Internet for history education. When their ideas and results are compared a number of interesting conclusions can be made. In the contribution by Tsyrlina-Spady and Lovorn, the role of historical images in present Russian history textbooks is discussed. They examine the role of specific images as motives for moral and nationalistic identification. Their analysis is focussed on recent Russian history, from the Soviet Revolution to the present day. The Russian textbooks, they argue, are nationalist, confirming the analyses provided by the chapters of Taylor and Macintyre and Maier. For example, the figures of Stalin and Putin receive privileged attention in the Russian textbooks. Also, in general terms, the entire communist past is presented in a biased manner: episodes and issues like the Gulag receive almost no attention at all. The most popular images are patriotic ones celebrating the power of Russia and the former Soviet Union.

On balance, Russian school textbook seem far removed from academic history writing (e.g. Hein & Selden, 2000). School history develops a powerful political propaganda through texts as well as images. Twenty-five years after the collapse of the communist regime historical textbook images are not changing towards the development of critical historical thinking but to the recovery of old forms of political domination and indoctrination. Ironically, rephrasing the words of Marx and Engels it could be concluded that a spectre is haunting Russian history textbooks: the spectre of nationalism. But in this case the spectre is not persecuted but fueled by the Russian state.

The chapter by Klein makes a valuable contribution to the study of historical imagery on Internet websites, particularly those dedicated to the memory of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade in Europe. He situates the contribution by Internet websites in the context of two essential developments in history education. First, he describes the changes experienced by history education in the last decades from very traditional imagery like wall charts to the use of web pages for the development of critical thinking. Secondly, his chapter considers the change of school historical contents from nation-based grand narratives to postcolonial views, focussing on The Netherlands. From this perspective, the presence of slavery as an important educational issue related to the historical period known as the “Golden Age” is not only of great importance but constitutes a very meaningful change. This change represents the appearance of a new historical subject at the centre of the historical scene and the possibility for the students to consider the causal relationship between the economic impact and slavery on the achievements of the Golden Age. This chapter shows in a very detailed way how the topic of slavery, which was affecting up to 11 million human beings, has moved from being non-existent on the traditional wall charts to becoming an important presence in Dutch as well as British curricula. A number of websites dedicated to the historical development of slavery across time and space are analysed, including their instructional features and their relation to the development of historical thinking.

As mentioned above, Haydn and Ribbens also present a contribution about historical images. However, this analysis is carried out in the broader context of the present debates on the importance of new technologies and social media for history education. It makes a lot of sense to consider this relation because nowadays a significant amount of historical images are presented by those media and technologies. However, it is also important to consider that new technologies, compared to books and journals, not only provide images in a massive way but that they provide texts and of course the possibility of sharing all this information in the context of social interaction as well. This chapter greatly contributes to debunk a number of myths about the advantages of new technologies for learning in general and for learning history in particular. Haydn and Ribbens provide important insights into the constructive interaction between Internet-based history teaching resources and the learner. Their chapter, like the ones by Seixas, and by Cercadillo, Chapman and Lee, stresses the importance of helping students to develop the distinction between the past and the way it is historically constructed, and how this is possible within the reflective and disciplinary teaching of historical contents.

History museums have been an essential institution for the transmission of different views on the past. They have played a principal role in the consolidation of both nations and empires in the last two centuries. However, in many cases they have lost their influence on societies for remaining very traditional in their approaches to knowledge transmission and very conservative in confronting otherness, colonial pasts, national views and related issues (see e.g. Gonzalez de Oleaga in Part I). Nevertheless, in recent decades museums in general and historical museums in particular are increasingly reconsidered (Knell et al., 2011). This has to do with new challenges as to how learning takes place and new ways of attracting citizens to museum activities. In this vein, museums are nowadays approached in the context of new and restructured environments. In these environments, very powerful informal learning activities can take place with long-lasting results, particularly in comparison to traditional and formal activities like reading and copying school history textbooks.

Mikel Asensio and Elena Pol consider some relevant issues in the current discussions about the past and present roles of history museums. The authors provide a critical view on how museums and exhibitions change as symbolic spaces approaching visitors with different types of discourses. First, they examine the very concept of heritage and museums as spaces of history presentation. Secondly, they elaborate on their changing role in society considering citizens as users, producers and decision-makers of such spaces. Museums are not only seen as a reservoir of historical pieces but also as cultural endeavours with economic, social, political and environmental impact. Finally, the authors provide a detailed analysis and comparison of four types of discourse, drawing specific examples from an analysis of a number of museums in different parts of the world. The four discourse models are descriptive, explanatory, narrative and participatory. The authors distinguish between a diachronic and synchronic analysis as they describe both how museums and heritage change over time and how they also possess some timeless common features. Their chapter describes the changes and innovations experienced by museum and heritage spaces as learning environments. Changes occurred from the nineteenth century’s classic conceptions of these spaces, through the empiricist views on knowledge acquisition and the maintenance of pieces and collections as the museum’s principal task, to a different varied perspective based on a participatory view of citizens as visitors. As research on museums has numerous relations to historical images and public history in general, the topics of this chapter are also connected to the contributions of Burke, Kansteiner as well as Korte and Paletschek in Part I.

Overall, the four parts of this Handbook demonstrate how history education operates in and impacts on diverse social, cultural, political and educational arenas. Thus history education goes well beyond mere school history, although the latter is an important part of what constitutes history education. It is such an extended notion of history education that lies at the heart of this handbook which, through diverse disciplinary perspectives, demonstrates the fruitfulness of thinking together what is all too often kept apart, namely the history of historiography, historical theory, the philosophy of history, the study of historical culture and popular history, school history and history didactics. All these sub-fields are present in the pages of this handbook and they are being treated in relation to a variety of other sub-fields, such as gender history, the history from below, cultural history, social history and global history. In particular, the treatment of history education in a global framework moving away from Euro- and Western-centric perspectives is an important step, and although we can at present only do small steps on that direction, we think that we have made at least a beginning here. The importance of postcolonial perspectives on an analysis of history education in global scope is powerfully underlined by several chapters in this handbook, as they are the strong hold of national historical narratives over history education in many parts of the world, despite and because of processes of globalization and regional transnationalization (such as Europeanization). Furthermore, different fields of study benefit from interaction between representatives from different disciplines. The authors of the handbook include historians, philosophers, psychologists, social scientists and education scholars, and we hope that readers of this handbook will be encouraged to continue with an ongoing dialogue between these different disciplines that all have important contributions to make to history education.

Today, both the academic history profession and history education face revolutionary epistemological and cognitive challenges, not only concerning globalization but also the proliferation of new (social) media and the digitalization of historical (educational) sources. The future consequences of urging the humaniora to use “big data” in the diverse research agendas are difficult to foresee. Be it positive or negative, students, coming from different religious and sociocultural backgrounds, increasingly encounter popular articulations of the past and use new media. This raises questions about historical accuracy, documentation, representation, teaching competencies and the accessibility of historical information around the globe. Next to history textbooks, curricula, films and museum exhibitions, the new media, such as current websites, 3D historical representations and interactive video games, provide fascinating new ways of readers, exhibition visitors and gamers interacting with each other, and with academic historians, educators and game developers. However, apart from generating genre cross-overs, the new media and the agency of users may easily result in the blurring of boundaries between facts and fiction, reality and hyperreality. Hence, following and analysing these developments, that deal with multiple pasts by means of virtual representations and digital tools, in an interdisciplinary dialogue—such as we have tried to do in this handbook—is of outmost importance for the future of history education. Only then can we expect to contribute to the education of critical citizens who are able to understand historically what is going on in present-day societies.

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