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69 | 2015
Pourquoi enseigner l’histoire ?

Why teach history?
¿Por qué enseñar historia?
Edited by Jean-Clément Martin

Why do we teach history? The question may come as a surprise given our conviction in the necessity of this subject in France. Yet it is clear that in terms of content, curricula, methods and epistemological and ideological roots, teaching of the subject varies widely from state to state.

Through ten case studies (Canada, Colombia, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Morocco, Russia, South Africa and Vietnam), Issue 69 of the Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres aims to study the goals and objectives of institutions when implementing history teaching, evaluating the methods applied and selecting facts and historical figures.

This contemporary comparative panorama produces unexpected findings.

The teaching of history raises urgent and almost identical questions in all the countries, particularly in terms of the relationship with memory and with the national or communitarian narrative.

It also emerges that, in each of these countries, there is a clear opposition between two teaching methods, one of which is more traditional and emphasizes the national discourse, while the other displays a critical approach. These two methods are universally used, yet with a degree of hesitation, or even remorse, in some countries.

Perhaps the very definition of history is at stake here. Who holds the keys to how it is written? Bearers of memory? Or politicians? Why does the supranational level appear only rarely in these articles? How can pupils’ lack of interest in this subject, as described by the authors, be explained?

Reading the contributions, it seems that across the board there is a concern to seek out the usefulness of this very specific subject, which straddles scientific preoccupations, social imperatives and the pressing need to live together in harmony.

Issue coordinated by Jean-Clément Martin,
emeritus professor at Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne University