The Place of History in Multicultural Education, pp. 5 of 15

History education is an invaluable partner in this enterprise: “History can teach us about other societies, other beliefs and other times, and so make us more tolerant of differences in our world and it can provide us with more democratic civic education to help us built a better world for the future” (Foner, 2005, p. 7). But History’s potential is not merely to teach but to question why the continued presence of disrespectful, demeaning or selective historical narratives. Other questions include why the intensity of the current History “wars” around the globe expressed as a resistance to a more inclusive narrative and inadvertently a preference for the protection of current political, social and cultural power structures from question and with that “change”? (Howard, 1993) History is and will continue to propagate simplified and specious “truths” of the “other” as expressed by dominant groups unless a more critical eye is demanded and embraced both within and beyond the classroom. To question means to acknowledge the centrality of a complex truth that reflects diverse and equally significant experiences rather than acquiesce to the “power” that institutionalises as Judt describes “pleasant lies” (Grimes, 2010) stripped of the inconvenience of uncomfortable narratives for dominant groups.

In spite of claims being made for the inviolability of a History textbook with the “correct” answers’, History and history education is never objective even with its canon of accepted “facts” as it is ultimately unadulterated interpretation (Carr, 1961) and therefore reflects the particular experiences, assumptions, aspirations and interpretations of a particular group. As Keith Jenkins famously concluded, “History is never for itself, it is always for someone” (Jenkins, 2003, p. 21). Similarly, while a historian would also like to think of him or herself as having no country and owes their allegiance to the craft, a multicultural educator and history teacher is inevitably a subjective creature with his or her own set of assumptions and motivations.

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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