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Joke van der Leeuw-Roord
Pre­si­dent {EUROCLIO}, The Hague
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What does histo­ry mean to young peo­p­le? 32,000 teen­agers of four­teen and fif­teen in 26/​27 Count­ries in Euro­pe, inclu­ding Isra­el and Pal­es­ti­ne, have been asked to reflect on this ques­ti­on. In a leng­thy ques­ti­on­n­aire they were exami­ned about issues such as their inte­rest in his­to­ri­cal topics and approa­ches, their asso­cia­ti­ons and atti­tu­des to and their under­stan­ding of histo­ry, about ways of tea­ching, con­cepts, and expec­ta­ti­ons for the future. The YOUTH and HISTORY pro­ject will be a rich source of data for many peo­p­le rela­ted to the fields of pedago­gy and social sci­en­ces. Par­ti­cu­lar­ly for histo­ry edu­ca­tors, the results of this rese­arch pro­ject are very signi­fi­cant, and ask for fur­ther con­side­ra­ti­ons. Almost ever­y­whe­re in Euro­pe media, poli­ti­ci­ans, and histo­ry edu­ca­tors are dis­cus­sing how histo­ry ought to be seen, what should be taught during the histo­ry clas­ses and how. Not only in Cen­tral and Eas­tern Euro­pe, whe­re histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on had to be alte­red after the chan­ges in 1989 ‑1991, but also in the other parts of Euro­pe, the­se issues are wide­ly deba­ted. And this is not only a Euro­pean phe­no­me­non, for exam­p­le in the United Sta­tes and South Afri­ca, the­se ques­ti­ons have also lead to hea­ted pole­mics. It often asto­nis­hes me, how easi­ly peo­p­le talk about the achie­ve­ments of histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on. It seems that we hard­ly ques­ti­on what is real­ly hap­pe­ning in histo­ry clas­ses. Befo­re the YOUTH and HISTORY pro­ject was star­ted, very litt­le data were available about the results of histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on. We easi­ly and hap­pi­ly assu­med that the, often ambi­tious­ly for­mu­la­ted, aims and objec­ti­ves in the cur­ri­cu­la were actual­ly rea­ched by the pupils. With this major inves­ti­ga­ti­on, histo­ry edu­ca­tors have rele­vant data about the results of their work. Histo­ry cur­ri­cu­la dis­play remar­kab­le ambi­ti­ons. The aims and objec­ti­ves of many cur­ri­cu­la usual­ly show litt­le doubt about the achie­ve­ments of histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on. Pupils sim­ply recei­ve know­ledge of the past, under­stan­ding of the pre­sent and ori­en­ta­ti­on for the future. In the ques­ti­on­n­aire, young peo­p­le in Euro­pe were asked if they con­sider the­se objec­ti­ves as being important for histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on. Most of them agree on the know­ledge of the past being important, alt­hough in Slove­nia and Den­mark they are not too sure about that. They ack­now­ledge the importance of under­stan­ding the pre­sent, alt­hough pupils in Greece do not real­ly go for this objec­ti­ve. Gene­ral­ly they ascri­be less weight to gai­ning ori­en­ta­ti­on for the future, but the­re are important dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween indi­vi­du­al count­ries. For exam­p­le, young peo­p­le in Lithua­nia, Rus­sia and Tur­key con­sider this an important objec­ti­ve too. Modern cur­ri­cu­la assu­me that histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on deve­lo­ps demo­cra­tic skills and atti­tu­des in young peo­p­le. Accor­ding to the ans­wers to the ques­ti­on­n­aire, it is far from cer­tain that histo­ry edu­ca­tors have been able to arou­se the inte­rest of young peo­p­le for topics like poli­tics and the deve­lo­p­ment of demo­cra­cy. Alt­hough most of the teen­agers belie­ve that in for­ty years Euro­pe will be demo­cra­tic, they show litt­le inte­rest in lear­ning about demo­cra­cy, except for the pupils in Greece and Tur­key. The results of this part of the inves­ti­ga­ti­on urge histo­ry edu­ca­tors to find ways to enga­ge their pupils’ inte­rest in tho­se topics, which are vital for the rein­force­ment of demo­cra­tic socie­ties. Accor­ding to many cur­ri­cu­la, histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on gene­ra­tes his­to­ri­cal con­scious­ness, wit­hout actual­ly defi­ning this con­cept. In this sur­vey the rese­arch tried to find out what his­to­ri­cal con­scious­ness means to young peo­p­le and how it is deve­lo­ped. To prepa­re the sub­ject for the Twen­ty First Cen­tu­ry, histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on is being inno­va­ted all over Euro­pe. Not only the ’nar­ra­ting tea­cher’, but also writ­ten and pic­to­ri­al sources, video and tapes, and acti­vi­ties like role-play, pro­jects and visits to muse­ums should be part of histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on. The ques­ti­on is, whe­ther the pupils have alre­a­dy noti­ced the­se deve­lo­p­ments. In France, Spain, Eng­land, Scot­land and Por­tu­gal, working with sources is real­ly a reco­gni­zed method, but the rea­li­sa­ti­on of this approach is far from gene­ral­ly accept­ed in the other count­ries. The use of video and tapes and the appli­ca­ti­on of alter­na­ti­ve acti­vi­ties like roll-play, pro­jects and visits to muse­ums seem not to be imple­men­ted at all throug­hout the who­le of Euro­pe. Do the pupils enjoy histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on? Histo­ry tea­chers are often con­vin­ced that histo­ry is a source of adven­ture and exci­te­ment. The results demons­tra­te quite some dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­on among the count­ries (in Rus­sia, for exam­p­le, pupils do con­firm this asser­ti­on). But most pupils do not real­ly agree that histo­ry is a source of adven­ture. The atti­tu­de of young peo­p­le towards their tea­chers is remar­kab­ly posi­ti­ve. Most of the teen­agers trust the cor­rect­ness of the repre­sen­ta­ti­on of the past by tea­chers, and even enjoy it. The Euro­pean pupils have given their tea­chers good marks for their per­for­mance. The results of this inves­ti­ga­ti­on more or less con­tra­dicts the pic­tu­re that ’nar­ra­ting tea­chers’ are only bor­ing. This con­clu­si­on should also be used in fur­ther deba­tes about edu­ca­tio­nal inno­va­ti­on. I hope that the results of this important pro­ject will con­vin­ce decis­i­on makers and histo­ry edu­ca­tors to use the out­co­me of the sur­vey. They should also invi­te rese­ar­chers to draw addi­tio­nal con­clu­si­ons and open fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons to spe­ci­fy cer­tain ans­wers. The­re is a risk that the results will only be used for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses. To pre­vent this it will be neces­sa­ry to recom­mend the con­clu­si­ons of the pro­ject for future histo­ry and civics cur­ri­cu­lum- and text­book deve­lo­p­ment and for tea­ching prac­ti­se in histo­ry les­sons. {EUROCLIO} is very gra­teful that the orga­nisers have been so per­sis­tent in working on this pro­ject. We know that it has been far from easy to bring tog­e­ther rese­ar­chers from so many count­ries and to find finan­cial resour­ces for this enter­pri­se. But their faith in a posi­ti­ve out­co­me kept the pro­ject going, and now offers a very rich source of infor­ma­ti­on about his­to­ri­cal and poli­ti­cal con­scious­ness among young peo­p­le. I can but con­gra­tu­la­te the orga­nisers and the natio­nal coor­di­na­tors who­le-hear­ted­ly to this monu­men­tal result and advi­se every per­son inte­res­ted in histo­ry tea­ching to stu­dy this book with gre­at attention.

The Hague, in Decem­ber 1996
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