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High school students' views on history

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The article reports the outcomes of a survey of 678 Dutch, English, and French students in multicultural high schools located in three urban areas, with the aim of developing insight into the sort of history they consider worthwhile. The research was undertaken in the context of widespread concern about the effects of recent migration patterns on the cohesion of the nation-state. The outcomes show that many of these youngsters do not construe their identity in primarily national terms; their interest in the past lies mainly in areas such as family, religious, and trans-national history. Using factor analysis, it was possible to identify five profiles of historical interest which could be related to students' backgrounds. In addition to uncovering facets of history that are of interest to young people, these profiles revealed some remarkable differences. Native boys valued 'Pride and connection with Dutch-English-French history' more highly than native girls and all non-natives. Non-native students valued 'Connection with history of migrants' more highly than natives; girls appreciated this profile more than boys. The conclusion suggests that recent attempts to revive history in primarily national terms may result in a model of school history that many students consider irrelevant.
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Keywords: history education; migration; national history; national identity; school history; social cohesion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands 2: Department of Sociology, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands 3: University of East Anglia, United Kingdom

Publication date: 01 April 2011

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