The Place of History in Multicultural Education

As a multi-disciplinary subject, history education has been perennially a case of interpretative management of narrative mythologies. In this, multicultural education as a reform process that strives for dignity, equity and social justice has a natural home in history education not just by affirming and empowering pupils marginalised by hegemonic narratives but through its potential in nurturing multicultural values that can benefit all pupils. This paper nevertheless contends that teaching of History and its multicultural component has been subjected to the overarching matter of History as a political, power embedment tool at national, regional and global levels. Within persistent History “wars”, rather than generating awareness, the drawbridges have been raised to counter perceived loss of “power” or influence by dominant groups. Through hyper-globalisation, increasing global inequity and an inherently racist framework in the “global war on terror” narratives, contestations of old continue to sustain and replicate institutionalised power in an “age of insecurity”. This paper contends that these are not new challenges and within the ambit of multicultural education advocates who can complement history education in the pursuit of social justice and global citizenship.

The Power of History=The History of Power

History and history education has the capacity and potential for powerful impact remains true before and more so now in this alleged “age of insecurity” (Judt, 2010, p. 33). History’s intrinsic task is to recount past narratives and with that express a storyline but History is also about the “power” and myriad influence to embed a specific narrative. Power can be manifested in various direct and indirect forms and can impact differently among groups of people. The powerful influence of History can indeed suggest possibilities for a more just world but the history of power underlines the fact that outcomes are affected by relational differences of an individual or groups based on their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, faith or absence of faith, gender, sexuality, abilities and skin colour. In complex human encounters replete with culturally diverse people, the impact of History can be an unexamined privilege for some or a crippling marginalisation for the designated “other”.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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