James F. Voss University of Pittsburgh Mario Carretero Autonoma University
As mentioned in the Preface, this book is about cognitive and instructional processes in history and social sciences, with an emphasis on history. Why a book about these topics? Is history an important topic for people who are not historians or history students? Does history deserve the interest of cognitive and instructional researchers? We think it does, even though until recently there has been a scarcity of such studies. Looking at the mundane, we find that best-selling novels in many countries are historical, and these novels frequently became movies, movies that indeed may distort history. Also, the industry of tourism, which has grown so much since World War II, may in part reflect an interest of people to look at their past. From a religious point of view, Christians and Jews visiting Israel, and Muslims visiting Mecca, and other cities may be providing such a meaning.
What about the teaching of history? Assume that an academic goes on sabbatical to an African or Asian country. If her children attend a local school in that country, the history lessons are probably quite different from those found in Europe and the United States. Indeed, with different European countries the contents of history may differ as well as even within different regions of the United States. Moreover, not only would the lessons differ in contents, they would also likely differ with respect to the role that history and social sciences play in the school system as well as in the state. The nature of both history and history teaching thus becomes a function of context.
Let us take another example. Are monuments always viewed in the same way? The Roman forum was totally forgotten as an important historical site until the 18th century, and then it became as important as the Alhambra