History - Teaching History

Teaching History

From the origins of national school systems in the 19th century, the teaching of history to promote national sentiment has been a high priority. In the United States after World War I, a strong movement emerged at the university level to teach courses in Western Civilization, so as to give students a common heritage with Europe. In the U.S. after 1980 attention increasingly moved toward teaching world history or requiring students to take courses in non-western cultures, to prepare students for life in a globalized economy.

At the university level, historians debate the question of whether history belongs more to social science or to the humanities. Many view the field from both perspectives.

The teaching of history in French schools was influenced by the Nouvelle histoire as disseminated after the 1960s by Cahiers pédagogiques and Enseignement and other journals for teachers. Also influential was the Institut national de recherche et de documentation pédagogique, (INRDP). Joseph Leif, the Inspector-general of teacher training, said pupils children should learn about historians’ approaches as well as facts and dates. Louis François, Dean of the History/Geography group in the Inspectorate of National Education advised that teachers should provide historic documents and promote "active methods" which would give pupils "the immense happiness of discovery." Proponents said it was a reaction against the memorization of names and dates that characterized teaching and left the students bored. Traditionalists protested loudly it was a postmodern innovation that threatened to leave the youth ignorant of French patriotism and national identity.

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