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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