Children's Understanding of the Concept of the State
Anna Emilia Berti University of Padova
Although the literature on children's understanding and learning of history is not so rich as that on the natural sciences, physics, and mathematics, it has nevertheless produced interesting results ( Beck & McKeown, this volume; Bombi & Ajello, 1988; von Borries, this volume, Calvani, 1988; Carretero et al., this volume; Jahoda, 1963; Jurd, 1978a; McKeown & Beck, 1990; Peel, 1967). In Italy, empirical studies are rather scanty, but theoretical research has been carried out on the peculiar characteristics of history and on the problems that arise in the teaching and learning of history. The procedures and concepts of this discipline as analyzed by historians and epistemologists suggest several sources of difficulties for learners. Of considerable importance among these is the historical lexicon ( Calvani, 1986; Guarracino & Ragazzini, 1980, 1991; Lastrucci, 1989; see also Halldén, this volume).
History does not have a large specialized lexicon; historians make abundant use both of everyday language and of language taken from other disciplines, such as law, economics, politics, demography, anthropology, and sociology. From a teaching and learning point of view, this poses a series of problems in comparison to natural sciences or to nomothetic human sciences such as economics.
Unlike nomothetic science textbooks, in which key terms are introduced by explicit definitions and according to a logical order that reproduces the hierarchical organization of the conceptual framework of the discipline, history textbooks follow the chronological order of the events and processes. The sociological, economic, and political concepts used are taken for granted and not explicitly treated. Learners, especially the younger ones,