Tag Archives: History Curriculum

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.

Click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the more developed article.

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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.

Please click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the published paper.

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Interrupting History

Parkes, R. J. (2011). Interrupting history: Rethinking history curriculum after ‘the end of history’. New York: Peter Lang.

Interrupting History Book CoverSince the emergence of postmodern social theory, history has been haunted by predictions of its imminent end. Postmodernism has been accused of making historical research and writing untenable, encouraging the proliferation of revisionist histories, providing fertile ground for historical denial, and promoting the adoption of a mournful view of the past. This provocative book re-examines the nature of the alleged ‘threat’ to history posed by postmodernism, and explores the implications of postmodern social theory for history as curriculum. Interrupting History will be of interest to curricularists and critical pedagogues around the globe, and to history educators at all levels of education. Making an important contribution to the struggle for critical and effective histories, it is a must-read text for those studying or teaching history today.


Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education Series (No. 404)
General Editor: Shirley Steinberg

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History Curriculum as Postmodern, Postcolonial, and International Text

Since the emergence of postmodern social theory, history has been haunted by predictions of its imminent end. Announcing a crisis of representation, the postmodern condition has placed in doubt the historical narrative’s claims to truth (Jenkins, 1991). Postmodernism has been accused of making historical research and writing untenable, encouraging the proliferation of revisionist histories, fostering uncritical relativism, providing fertile ground for historical denial, and promoting the adoption of a mournful view of the past (Evans, 1997; Windshuttle, 1996) . Tethered to state political interests, historical narratives are frequently studied and taught in national categories (Curthoys, 2003); and history as a school subject is regularly an area of public debate, government disquiet, and a site of struggle over collective memory and cultural literacy (Macintyre, & Clark, 2003; Nash, Crabtree, & Dunn, 1998; Richardson, 2002; Taylor & Guyver, 2011). The emergence and recognition of counter-memories from Indigenous minorities, and the de-centering of the nation inside global histories, have interrupted the incontestability of the nation-building project. One area of my work in History curriculum sits at the intersection of these concerns. I am interested in the various ‘ends of History’ these concerns signal, and have worked to re-evaluate the apparent ‘threat’ to history posed by postmodernism, and the implications of postmodern and postcolonial theory for History education. I am increasingly interested in History education and the problem of the nation, and how this sits in tension with forces of internationalisation. Many of these themes are taken up in my recent book Interrupting History: Rethinking History Curriculum after ‘the End of History’; and I am currently co-guest editing with Professor Monika Vinterek (Darlana University, Sweden), History Curriculum, Geschichtsdidaktik, and the Problem of the Nation, a special issue of the journal ‘Education Sciences’ which will also attempt to explore how these issues are being addressed in various regional traditions of History education.


Curthoys, A. (2003). Cultural history and the nation. In H.-M. Tiq & R. White (Eds.), Cultural history in Australia (pp. 22-37). Sydney: UNSW Press.

Evans, R. J. (1997). In defence of history. London: Granta Books.

Jenkins, K. (1991). Re-thinking history. London: Routledge.

Macintyre, S., & Clark, A. (2003). The history wars. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Nash, G. B., Crabtree, C., & Dunn, R. E. (1998). History on trial: Culture wars and the teaching of the past. New York: Alfred A, Knopf.

Richardson, G. H. (2002). The death of the good Canadian: Teachers, national identities, and the social studies curriculum. New York: Peter Lang.

Taylor, T., & Guyver, R. (Eds.). (2011). History wars in the classroom: Global perspectives. London: Information Age Publishing.

Windschuttle, K. (1996). The killing of history: How literary critics and social theorists are murdering our past. New York: The Free Press.

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