The Place of History in Multicultural Education, pp. 6 of 15

An inextricably linked effort between history education and multicultural education will have to internalise the generally unacknowledged aspects of History within the formal framework of an education enterprise. This means the process of knowledge construction and in the classroom, execution (Banks, 1993, p. 11; Levstik, 1997; Zanazanian & Moisan, 2012; 264). Notwithstanding the different perspectives of History for nation-building (Wang, 1968) or consolidating a fragile national identity, History works for national and international dominant groups for monumental celebratory and nostalgic reasons and also for judgment and condemnation: a form of judgment that does not occur in a vacuum but steeped with political orientations, personal experiences and cultural assumptions of the “other”. For multicultural education with the unquestioned value placed upon diverse experiences and respect, the demand is to be cognizant on how an “accepted” or mainstream version of history is institutionalised and in some cases should not be questioned. In questioning the impact of institutionalised history and multicultural education as a transformational reform process, it is fundamental to consider both subjects not just about power and influence but how these forces are being produced.

The questioning framework must include such questions as who gets to decide which, how, when and what versions of a narrative gets told in both traditional and cyber platforms of information. Power is facilitated by “control” and with that can keep its consumers “ignorant and stupid” (Griffen and Marciano in Loewen, 1995, p. 275). Unquestioned triumphalist history can be unalloyed legitimation exercises in maintaining control over groups of people based on class, colour, gender and faith with counter-narratives can be seen varyingly as unpatriotic and “dangerous” to “truth” but in most case, a threat to entrenched social-political order.

Notwithstanding the above, history education and multicultural education have produced affirming outcomes from questioning hegemonic narratives (Loewen, 1995) to introducing and transforming “uncomfortable” to acceptable narratives (Zinn, 1980). Other outcomes demonstrated an evolutionary inclusive narrative (Khamsi & Morris, 2014) and a signal an “awareness of the need for such a change” (İnanç, 2014, p. 148). Concurrently the “multicultural explosion” of multiple expressions of recognition, acceptance and inclusion has also inevitably produced myriad forms and expressions of resistance sometimes described under the umbrella term of culture wars (Glazer, 1998, pp. 1-21). These counter-responses are part of an inevitable ongoing process of contestation over terminology, meanings, concepts, approaches, directions, intended outcomes and society in general: in essence, power to control, sustain and maintain hierarchical social-political order. All politics might be local, and all issues regarding history and multicultural education are indeed political but one cannot champion an interrogative approach to education without acknowledging the breadth and depth of these challenges within and beyond national realms. It is a tired cliché but George Orwell still hovers: “He, who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future” (Orwell, 1949)

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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