Citizenship through Secondary History

By James Arthur; Ian Davies et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Communitarianism and the teaching of history

Community and identity

The past is where our roots lie, and we have much to learn from it. What we urgently need today is a sense of our histories and cultures as a shared past, one that brings together our diverse experiences and informs our understanding of the present. Only then can we take a full and active part in realising our vision of a shared future.

(Commission for Racial Equality 1996: p. 121)


Introduction

The relationship between communitarianism and the teaching of school history is not an obvious one that most teachers would notice. Communitarianism is, after all, a new philosophical stance originating from academia and there has been, in the context of British communitarianism, almost no literature on its implications for school history. There has also been practically no discussion in the educational literature of the potential worth of communitarian theory for the teaching of history or of how this new philosophical and political movement might assist our understanding of diverse communities in modern Britain or of the contribution it may make to an individual's personal identity (Goldby 1997; Arthur 1998, 2000). This chapter introduces and reviews the meaning of communitarianism and explains some of the possible implications for history teaching in British schools. It examines the potential relationship between communitarianism and the teaching of history, and discusses the teaching of 'British' history in the context of a communitarian understanding of community formation. The chapter will attempt to consider history teaching from a communitarian perspective and will present two examples of religious and racial controversy in the teaching of history in British schools to illustrate the 'contested' nature of school history. There are clear connections between communitarianism and the place of both history and citizenship education in the school curriculum. The Crick Report (QCA 1998) placed considerable emphasis on community involvement in schools, and communitarian theory has much to offer in this area. Communitarian theory also connects with history teaching in terms of how we think about national identity and the requirements for membership of a historical community.

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