Category Archives: Essays and Articles

No outside history: Reconsidering postmodernism

Parkes, R. J. (2014). No outside history: Reconsidering postmodernism. Sungraphô [Agora], 49(3), 4-10.

PostmodernismIs Postmodernism really a threat to history? [From the Introduction]: In this paper, I want to explore the relationship between postmodernism and history. I will argue that postmodern theory, far from killing history as its critics suggest, is a profoundly historicist mode of thought that extends the gaze of the historian so nothing escapes it, not even themselves. This is its great challenge to the historian and history educator. Although it may seem a little late to be defending postmodern theory in history education, I am motivated in this task by the bad press postmodernism continues to receive, particularly whenever school curricula are brought up. While I share some of the concern shown by historians, educators, and social theorists towards aspects of cultural postmodernism, I offer a more sympathetic reading of postmodern theory (philosophical postmodernism) than is typical among historians and history educators. In particular, I will argue for the importance of recognising the complexity of postmodernism’s relationship to history, particularly the idea that nothing stands outside history, and make some brief comments regarding its implications for history educators. .
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Nietzschean perspectives on representations of national history in Australian school textbooks: What should we do with Gallipoli?

Parkes, R. J., & Sharp, H. L. (2014). Nietzschean perspectives on representations of national history in Australian school textbooks: What should we do with Gallipoli? ENSAYOS: Revisita de la Facultad de Educación de Albacete, 29(1), 159-181.

article2For almost two decades, History education in Australia has been a site of struggle over collective memory of the colonial past, and an object of concern for how this impacts students’ sense of national identity. Since the advent of the history/culture wars and their spill over into History and Social Studies (Society and Environment) curricula, conservative historians, politicians, and media commentators have been fighting to see an end to ‘black armband’ history – or what they see as an excessively mournful view of our collective history – and its replacement with what they argue is a more ‘balanced’, but usually celebratory, vision of the national past. The new Australian History curriculum, which has sought to get beyond so-called ‘black armband’ and ‘white blindfold’ histories, has recently come under fire for its perceived lack of attention to one of the nation’s founding mythologies, the battle of Gallipoli. To engage with this debate, we will draw on a framework first presented by Friedrich Nietzsche for thinking about the uses and abuses of historical discourse.
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Changing conceptions of historical thinking in History education: an Australian case study

Parkes, R. J., & Donnelly, D. (2014). Changing conceptions of historical thinking in History
education: an Australian case study. Revista Tempo e Argumento, Florianópolis, 6(11), 113‐136.

Changing conceptions of historical thinking in History education: an Australian case studyMany nations have experienced conflict over the content of their History curriculum, and debates over the relative importance of skills (historical thinking) versus content (historical knowledge). Australia is no exception. This paper seeks to contribute to discussions over the importance of historical thinking in History education by exploring the changing conceptions of historical thinking in the History curricula of New South Wales (NSW) (Australia’s most populous state; which evolved from the earliest British colony; has an uninterrupted tradition of History teaching in high schools; and a rather unique post-compulsory extension course). Recently, History has become a mandatory subject in all Australian schools from the foundation year through to the last year of compulsory schooling [F-10], for the first time since the federation of the Australian states (1901), when curriculum was constitutionally determined to be a State responsibility. This paper charts the changing forms and relative importance of historical thinking as an explicit outcome of History education in NSW History curricula, from its emergence in the 1970s elective History curriculum to current explication in the NSW syllabi for the mandatory Australian ‘national’ Curriculum. It also explores the nature and significance of the post-compulsory ‘senior’ History extension course in NSW, an option for History students in the final non-compulsory year of schooling. This extension course boldly incorporates the study of historiography, requiring students to apply their meta-historical insights in an original historiographic investigation, anchoring complex historical theory in an experience of being an historian. We argue that the move to incorporate historiography into the curriculum expands the notion of what constitutes historical thinking in History education. Thus, we conclude by reflecting on what these different ways of conceptualising historical thinking mean for the social and educational function of history, and what implications they suggest for History education.

cover_issue_306_pt_BRThis paper was translated into Portuguese by Fabrício Coelho.

PARKER, Robert J.; DONNELLY, Debra. Concepções em mudança do pensamento histórico no
ensino da história: um estudo de caso australiano. Revista Tempo e Argumento, Florianópolis, v. 6,
n.11, p. 137‐161, jan./abr. 2014. Título original: Changing conceptions of historical thinking in History
education: an Australian case study. Traduzido por Fabricio Coelho.

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Teaching history as hermeneutics

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Teaching history as hermeneutics: Critically and pedagogically engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. Paper presented at the biennial conference of the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA), Melbourne, 8-10 July.

In recent years, a federal government dedicated to using curriculum as a vehicle of social cohesion and cultural reproduction, has questioned the apparently ‘postmodern’ and ‘relativist’ History curriculum reform efforts of the 1990s that occurred in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Arguing for a “root and branch renewal” of Australian history, the federal government has asserted that the nation’s past was rewritten, during the decades prior to the Howard government, “in the service of a partisan political cause” (Bishop, 2006). In polemic fashion, contemporary conservative politicians and social commentators regularly collapse important distinctions between multiculturalism, pluralism, political correctness, and postmodernism, preferring to read all forms of contemporary social theory and practice as confusing and ideologically-loaded, while their own grand narratives are proposed as ‘common-sense’. In this paper, drawing upon important recent work in historiography, I rethink the ‘problem’ of narrative diversity in the curriculum. Arguing that relativism is not the inevitable conclusion of teaching rival historical narratives, I propose a hermeneutic approach to the teaching of history that by providing a curricular space for ‘critical pluralism’ pedagogically engages narrative diversity.

A more developed version of the argument was published in 2009.

Parkes, R. J. (2009).Teaching History as historiography: Engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 8(2), 118-132.

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School History as post-colonial text

Parkes, R. J. (2006). School History as postcolonial text: The on-going struggle for histories in the New South Wales curriculum. Paper presented at the Second World Curriculum Studies Conference, Tampere, Finland, 21-24 May.

This paper is concerned with theorizing a curricular response to what has become known in Australia as the ‘history wars’ (Macintyre & Clark, 2003). The central debate in the history wars is over the representation of the colonization of Australia. What is at stake in these history wars is not only national identity (Halse & Harris, 2004), but also our conceivable future, because as Bennett (1995) has argued, “more than history is at stake in how the past is represented. The shape of the thinkable future depends on how the past is portrayed and on how its relations to the present are depicted” (p. 162). History curriculum, as “a disciplining technology that directs how the individual is to act, feel, talk, and ‘see’ the world and ‘self’” (Popkewitz, 2001, p. 153), serves a function in the history wars by operating as an apparatus for the social re/production of national identities, through linking “the development of the individual to the images and narratives of nationhood” (Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001). Consequently, the importance of school history as a battlefield in these ‘history wars’ should not be underestimated (Clark, 2003). This study reserves as a context for its deliberations and ruminations, history curriculum in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The NSW context does more than simply anchor the discussion; it works as a case through which deliberations, in terms of the problematic, are rendered meaningful, and purposeful. Its significance is in the global trends that it reflects, and its possibility to speak to those trends it terms of a reconceptualized History curriculum. I argue that what has remained uncontested in the struggle for histories, has been the representational practices of history itself, and that addressing this null curriculum has significance for school History as postcolonial text and critical pedagogic practice.

A more developed version of the argument can be found in a paper published in the journal “Curriculum Inquiry” in 2007.

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Reading History curriculum as postcolonial text: Towards a curricular response to the history wars in Australia and beyond. Curriculum Inquiry, 37(4), 383-400.

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