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Revisiting the Case for History in the New Zealand Curriculum

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Some of the arguments for keeping ‘history’ as such out of the school curriculum in New Zealand can be challenged on the grounds of both international research and public interest. There is increasing acceptance of the value of a disciplinary approach to the teaching and learning of history, including examples of where this has been converted into historical thinking and historical literacy. Another justification for the exclusion of history from schools has been a perception that the subject can be manipulated to support a particular and politically-motivated view of the nation and its trajectory. However, history can be defended against this if teachers and teacher educators hold to a position which presents history as a fundamentally contestable subject allowing for multiple narratives which reflect plural identities. Nevertheless, there is still room for debate about the kind of civic society and model of citizenship that any nation, including New Zealand, would wish to promote for its schools. Within any history curriculum there must be opportunities for deep history and correspondingly deep understanding, and an acknowledgement that as New Zealand has the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) as its founding document, there must be a commitment, when seeking to contextualising New Zealand’s historical development, to empower teachers to become partners in what is essentially a hermeneutical enterprise, in which there can be engagement in ‘live’ historiography involving negotiation between sometimes conflicting narratives with deep knowledge, honesty and openness. Thus any pedagogical methods which include dialogic teaching and learning are to be encouraged as they run parallel with the aims and objectives of inclusive, participatory, representative and democratic citizenship, as well as the community co-construction of local histories.

Keywords: Maori; Treaty of Waitangi; citizenship; civic society; counter narrative; historical literacy; historical thinking; micronarrative; narrative; negotiation; public interest

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • World Studies in Education is a bi-annual, refereed, international journal offering a global overview of significant international and comparative education research. Its focus is on educational reforms and policy affecting institutions in the global economy.

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