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Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing? Students, national narratives and history education

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 26 November 2015

 Jocelyn Létourneau and Arthur Chapman.
Anxieties about national identity and its strengthening and preservation are common in countries around the world, and it is, of course, entirely natural that this should be so in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty.
These anxieties can cause our discussions of history education to tend to the negative and to become counter-productive and even irrational. Public discussion tends, first, to base itself on impressionistic surveys – hardly fitting for matters of consequence. Second, it tends to focus on deficits – on what children do not know. Finding the same absence – repeatedly – is not a constructive act (we learn nothing new by doing it) and, more importantly, a focus on what is not present tells us nothing about what is in children’s heads. Understanding the ideas that children do have is crucial if we want to help them build historical knowledge and understanding, and we are holding a symposium here at the UCL IoE on December 1st to discuss precisely these issues. It is more important to know how children (more…)