Why teach history?

Ten case studies (South Africa, Germany, Canada, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Vietnam) in issue 69 of the Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres.

Why do we teach history? This might seem like a strange question to ask in France, where we firmly believe it is necessary. There is no doubt, however, that the way history is taught in different countries varies widely in terms of content, programs, methods, and roots both epistemological and ideological.


Issue 69 of the Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres features ten case studies (South Africa, Germany, Canada, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Vietnam) that discuss the goals and objectives of institutions in setting up a history program, assess the methods applied, and select events and historical figures.


This contemporary comparative overview has produced some unexpected results.


Across the globe, teaching history raises urgent questions that take almost exactly the same form, particularly when they relate to memory and the narrative told by a country or community.


We also find that, in all these countries, there is a clear opposition between two methods of teaching: one more traditional, which tends to emphasize a national narrative, and another that tries to take a critical approach. Both methods are used everywhere, but with reservations (and occasionally remorse) in certain countries.


The definition of history itself may hang in the balance: who holds the keys to writing it? Those who remember? Politicians? Why is it so rare for articles to expand beyond the national perspective? Why are students at all levels so uninterested in the subject, as the authors note?


Based on these contributions, it seems that everyone is seeking the utility of this particular subject, which combines scientific concerns, social needs, and the urgent demands of living together.

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