The year 2017 marks the centennial of a series of events that changed the course of history: the Russian revolution. In order to commemorate these turbulent times, EUROCLIO – in cooperation with the St. Petersburg Academy of In-Service Teachers’ Training, led by Konstantin Bityukov – hosted the International Scientific and Practical conference “Revolutions in Contemporary History: Facts, Interpretations and Educational Strategies” in Saint-Petersburg, Russia on 27 and 28 October 2017.
Over the course of these two days more than 150 history educators from all over Europe and Russia came together at various venues, such as the local school Gymnasium 209, to listen to lectures, participate in workshops and to exchange their ideas and teaching strategies about the Russian revolution. With the beautiful city of Saint-Petersburg as a backdrop, the participants were truly immersed in history. By visiting the Hermitage, wandering through the same opulent rooms as the Bolsheviks did one hundred years ago, and the Museum of Political History, showcasing the famous balcony Lenin held his fiery speeches from, the participants got a chance to walk in the footsteps of the revolutionaries.
To broaden the scope of this conference, EUROCLIO has developed a survey, which we would kindly like to ask you to fill out. By means of this survey we would like to expand the findings of the conference and identify different approaches to teaching the Russian revolution. To fill out the survey, please click here.
We had the opportunity to meet and discuss with many historians from around the world and a lot of familiar faces and EUROCLIO friends. The House of European History in Brussels and a lot of museums across Europe were well represented by curators and historians sharing their views, concerns and thoughts on the narrative, the aims and the educational methodology and means of a museum. The United States and Canada had the most presentations as well as a lot of prominent public historians – naturally as Public History prominently comes from these areas. New publications, new proposals on museums, research projects, digital and oral history, education and a lot of theoretical discussion on the field were among the interesting moments of the conference.
We spread the news on the successful San Sebastian Conference and the next Marseilles Conference celebrating the 25thanniversary of our association, whilst raising the possibility of working together on something related to Mediterranean Dialogues in the area next year.
We presented our thoughts in theoretical issues related to Public History and some small scale research on attitudes and the limitations of history teachers, based a) on the international EUROCLIO Facebook group discussion on the case of a history teacher fired in USA after comparing the recently elected president Donald Trump to Hitler and b) a questionnaire and interviews with history teachers in Messinia, South Peloponnese, Greece on how they deal with clashes among pupils on the topic of Golden Dawn’s trial and radicalisaton within classrooms.
The general conclusion reached during our presentation and discussion panel include: public historians and the peculiar kind of public historian that teachers are, should collaborate to build up a quality history education (a thought echoed in EUROCLIO’s Manifesto).
It was interesting and refreshing to visit the beautiful byzantine-medieval city of Bolognia with its stunning monuments, temples and mausoleums, its fine mosaics and the Ravenna Festival dedicated to Dante’s ”Inferno”, as here he spent his last years, guest of the noble Guido Novello.
The TV offer - A general impression of the offer of history on Dutch television
The main history offer on Dutch TV consists of history documentaries that are produced in the Netherlands, co-funded by public money, and broadcasted on public channels. Yet a significant bulk of historical TV are international productions, consisting of historical movies (mostly blockbusters from Hollywood), and some history documentaries.
The most important and well-known history programme is Andere Tijden (different times), which has been broadcasted since 10 March 2000. This weekly show, which is every year broadcasted during several months, covers a large variety of Dutch historical events and developments. In a typical episode, the presenter, who is also a historian, introduces a topic and goes on a quest to find more information. Interviews with experts and eyewitnesses follows, and is complemented with original footage.
In addition to Andere Tijden, several history documentaries focusing on Dutch history have been produced. These documentaries delve into topics such as ‘The Golden century’, ‘The Iron century’, ‘Slavery’, and ‘Liberation’. To mark the 200-year anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, several programmes were made about the history of the royal family. These were Het koninkrijk (the Kingdom), Drie Vorstinnen (Three Queens), and Drie Koningen (Three Kings).
The history documentaries produced in the Netherlands tend to focus on national history, but there has been one notable exception: the documentary series In Europa, (in Europe). It covers the whole of the European history in the twentieth century, with eyewitnesses and relatives of historical events interviewed, and places of memory visited.
In the last decade, several commercial movie productions focused on history. This trend started with the movie Zwartboek (Black Book) that was produced in 2006 and is to date the most expensive movie produced in the Netherlands of all time. In terms of popular culture, the focus of Zwartboek on the Second World War, and the Dutch resistance in particular, fits in a longer tradition. Especially in the field of literature, the Second World War has been by far the most common history topic.
A more recent example of a commercial movie produced in the Netherlands and focussed on history is Michiel de Ruyter (published in English under the title ‘The Admiral’ in 2015). The movie focusses on Michiel de Ruyter, who is most known for the navel battles he fought against the British in the 17th Century. Much historical debate followed with a number of groups finding it problematic that no attention was given in the movie to slavery. Some historians argue that Michiel de Ruyter should be judged in the context of his time, and some argue that he did conquer back forts that were enabled slavery to take place.
History on TV during a “typical week”
The project team agreed to look in more detail at a typical week of TV. This means that there should be no holidays or national remembrance days during this week. For our analysis, we analysed the programmes that were on offer from 17 June - 23 June 2016.
During this week, there were 6 programs broadcasted related to history. Four of these programs were part of a documentary type series, called De Strijd (“The Battle”) describing the emergence of the labour movement in the Netherlands. The other history related offer consisted of a movie, The Young Victoria, and one other documentary called Drie Vorstinnen van Oranje (“Three female sovereigns of Orange”).
Except one movie, all history related programs are documentaries. The topics are related to the history of the 19th and 20th century. None of the programs focuses on one specific event, as many programmes highlight a broader theme, rather than a specific historical moment. The people that account for the past in the programs vary from witnesses, to voiceovers, actors to historians. Almost all programs were analytical in the sense that the topic or issue of the documentary is looked at from different perspectives. With the exception of the Young Victoria movie, all programs broadcasted this week, were co-financed with public money. This could imply that not many commercial channels think it would be profitable to broadcast or produce programs that are related to history. Finally, the viewing statistics are relatively low. The history programmes had between 50.000 and 311.000 viewers.
In sum, the history offer on TV in the Netherlands consists mainly of history documentaries focussed on different aspects of national history, made with the support of the government. There are also commercial movies related to national history, reaching different audiences, typically focussed national heroes. There is little attention for history that is not directly related to the history of the Netherlands.
Dutch TV Offer on Remembrance Days
Of all three Remembrance Days (4 May – commemorating all Dutch victims of war since the beginning of the Second World War; 5 May – commemorating the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi German occupation; and 1 July – commemorating the abolition of slavery in Surinam and the Antilles in 1863), the 4 May Remembrance Day receives most coverage on TV. Whereas the broadcast of the Remembrance Ceremony of 4 May was watched by 2.560.000, the Remembrance Ceremony of 30 June, was watched by 95.000. The difference in time of the broadcast – the 30 June ceremony was broadcasted at 23:40 - 00:15 – is likely to be part of the explanation why less viewers watched this ceremony compared to the ceremony on 4 May. The history offer related to the Remembrance Days are almost exclusive made by national institutes and co-funded by the government.
The history offer on TV in the Netherlands mainly looks at history through a national lens. The history offer on TV mostly consists of national productions co-financed with public money in the form of history documentaries. The most watched programmes are part of a series giving an overview of national history in a particular period. Recently, there are more movies being produced commercially. These commercial movies focus on national heroes.
In terms of remembrance, most attention is given to remembering the victims of the Second World War from the Netherlands. There is an official Remembrance Day commemorating the end of slavery on 1 July, but except for the news broadcast, it does not impact the offer on TV. No TV programmes are related to the celebration of Europe Day and is not mentioned in the news as well.
Several debates related to history in the Netherlands are related to the colonial past. Examples are the debates about the use of the Golden Carriage by the King and Queen during prinsjesdag, the protest related to the release of the Michiel de Ruyter movie, the ongoing debate about the Black Pete, the celebration of the VOC mentality by then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The media, including newspapers and radio programmes pick up these debates and provide background information and present different points of view.
To view the full report and its findings (as well as matching analyses for Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom), visit http://www.e-story.eu/observatory/.
Teachers as Researchers is the first Special Interest Group (SIG) within the EUROCLIO community that is established for individual members, and I hope that many of you will join.
For me the combination of being a teacher and a researcher is very enriching. As a lecturer of history education and didactics in teacher training, I’m am convinced that research can contribute to the improvement of history education in schools and teacher training colleges. Next to my teaching job, I work two days a week on research for my PhD, on “The improvement of the understanding of historical time for primary school pupils”.
The understanding of historical time is not only an important basis in history education, but also essential for the overall development of children. Through placing historical phenomena in time and comparing these with each other, children learn to understand the present and to think and reason critically. With the continuous availability of information on contemporary and historical events, the development of the understanding of historical time is becoming increasingly important. In this research we constructed a developmental model of stages of understanding historical time for pupils aged 6 to 12. More information about this research, the model, and some publications can be found on my website: http://www.historischtijdsbesef.nl/en/.
I hope to contribute to the SIG Teachers as Researchers, by sharing experiences with other researchers, hoping that we can learn with and from each other. I’m very curious what topics of research you are involved in or would like to be involved in in the near future?
Join this SIG and write a post!
Marjan de Groot-Reuvekamp, EUROCLIO-ambassador and lecturer of history education and didactics at Fontys University for Applied Sciences, School for Child studies and Education in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.
As a teacher, we notice certain trends in our classroom: what makes our students focus, what helps our students understand, what divides our students, what engages them… This kind of information is not always common knowledge, nor is it always common to each classroom. What I have noticed in the last two years of working on my doctorate is that many academics lack these contemporary understandings of what a classroom is like. This is not to say that academics do not strive to develop connections with today’s students, because many of them do. But, teachers can offer a valuable, frontline link for effective research projects, whether that is as consultants, advisors, field specialists or project leads. Active teachers can offer a lived experience in the now, as well as a viewpoint that comes from being surrounded by students rather than being overloaded with the related academic literature. For this reason, I believe that the Teachers as Researchers Special Interest Group can be a valuable vehicle in supporting teachers to get involved in the research process. Just imagine research being done on the best football practices, and not involving any leading coaches! It just wouldn’t make sense! So, why do we do so much research in education without always including active teachers?
Before I began my PhD in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was teaching in Brussels at an international school. I was fortunate enough there to work under a principal that supported research in education and the sharing of good practice beyond the school walls. He was also very supportive of teachers having a say on what path of professional development they wished to go down in their career. It was in this environment that I was able to participate in three research projects with groups in Europe as well as in Canada through the University of Toronto. It was exciting to be part of projects that were putting the time and money into investigating history education. It was also inspiring to have a space to have deep and meaningful conversations about teaching practice and pedagogy. This is something that we as teachers do not always have time for with the hectic demands of planning, assessment and classroom management. But, it is so vital that we continue to be involved in the research related to our field of history education. We need to continue to strive to reflect, investigate and share best practice. For me, it was because of these positive experiences with research projects that I decided to do my doctorate in the field of history education. Throughout my research I have always ensured to include the valuable input of teachers.
What we hope this SIG will provide is an opportunity for teachers to learn more about prospective research opportunities, create a network between teachers and research institutions, provide a place where people can discuss questions, concerns or suggestions about research (funding, ethics, etc.) and also provide an avenue for dissemination of research findings. To do this, we will use facebook, email, the EUROCLIO website, webinars and face to face meetings and trainings. We hope that everyone in the EUROCLIO community will be interested in supporting this initiative, because everyone has expertise and valuable experiences that can be shared. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities with the SIG!
By: Sinéad Fitzsimons (Queen’s University Belfast)
On November 13 Jonathan Even-Zohar, the director of EUROCLIO, posted an article on Facebook about Frank Navarro, a Californian history teacher who got suspended for holding a lesson in which he examined parallels between the rise of Trump, and the German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Jonathan asked himself and his friends on Facebook a question: ‘What are the limitations for history teachers to talk about present politics?
It did not take long before history teachers from at least two continents and over ten countries were engaged in a lively debate about the question posed by Jonathan. Are history teachers free to draw parallels between the present and the past? Are they free to draw parallels between whoever and whatever they want? If not, what exactly are the limitations? Who decides what the limitations are?
Many teachers who participated in the discussion were cautious. The issue at hand was a sensitive one. We are responsible for the learning process of students, and as teachers we should not impose our political views on them. That is why some of the discussants proposed to let students research the matter for themselves: do not tell students there are parallels between Trump and Hitler, but rather pose a question that they can research. For instance: are there parallels between the rise of Trump and the rise of Hitler? One American history teacher wrote that by comparing Trump and Hitler in class, you already imply there are similarities. Most teachers would never set up a comparison between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Iljitsj Lenin.
As a teacher and a professional, the last thing I want to do is indoctrinate my students with my personal (political) views. I decided to ask my students in 6 VWO (age 17-18) the same question Jonathan asked us: what are the limitations for history teachers to talk about present politics? They read some articles and got familiar with the Frank Navarro case. I arranged coffee and a student brought cake. We spent about an hour discussing the issue. I discovered that I sometimes try to influence my students as well, without even being aware of it. Apparently, I always say the following when I try to influence the way they think: “I don’t want to influence you, but…” Students told me they did not mind this. A girl told me that teachers can share their views with students as long as they make clear that those views indeed are personal. In my case, she remarked, it was very obvious. We all had to laugh. As for Navarro, the students came up with yet another way of looking at it. You do not have to compare Trump to Hitler in class. You can refer to the ongoing discussion in the media and ask how students feel about that. That way it is not the teacher who makes a comparison. He or she merely points out there is a comparison being made in the media. What are the arguments against such a comparison? Are there any arguments in favor of the comparison?
I am glad Jonathan posed that question on Facebook. Not only did we end up having a great discussion about a serious issue with history teachers from all over the world; we can also use these new insights in class and talk to our students about the pros and cons of historical comparisons. I am looking forward to discussing a new topic with all of you in the future. I do not want to influence you, but hopefully that does not involve another right-wing populist being elected…
About the author:
Fran van Rumpt is a history teach
Joke van der Leeuw-Roord speaking about History Heritage, Education and Citizenship Education through the lenses of the EUROCLIO Community during the Life Long Learning Week 2016
On 11 October 2016 founder and special advisor of EUROCLIO, Joke van der Leeuw-Roord was part of the panel during the event “Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?”, to discuss a 2015 UNESCO publication with the same title. The event was organised by UNESCO in cooperation with the International Council of Adult Education (ICAE) and the European Association for Adult Education (EAEA) as part of the Life Long Learning Week 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Van der Leeuw-Roord was asked to present EUROCLIO’s response to the publication dealing with reviewing educational structures and its aims to adapt to current and future challenges as well as to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and Education 2030.
What does it mean for History, Heritage and Citizenship Education through the lenses of the EUROCLIO Community?
Van der Leeuw-Roord considers the report as beneficial for EUROCLIO’s work as it is stresses the importance of education and learning and captures many of the views and principles we have within the EUROCLIO community and those we share with many other International organisations focusing on education.
The document goes beyond the utilitarian vision and the human capital approach, which has been dominant over the last years, and is moving focus to the quality of education and the relevance of learning. Surprisingly neither history nor history heritage education is explicitly mentioned, however the report implicitly includes many elements also found in EUROCLIO policy documents such as developing understanding of the complexity of global learning landscape and the interconnectedness and interdependency of societies, exploring alternatives of dominant knowledge, rejection of all forms of (cultural) hegemony, stereotypes and biases and building curricula based on intercultural education striking the delicate balance between pluralism and universal values.
According to Roord the document pays intensive attention to the needs for professional development for educators and proposes to rethink the content and objectives of teacher education and training along lines we only can applaud. We agree that a teacher should now be a guide who enables learners, to develop and advance through the constantly expanding maze of knowledge.
Roord also points out challenges in implementing the ideas and approaches as proposed in Rethinking Education such as international and national policy making, confusion of terms and concepts and lack of opportunities for practitioners.
Over the years Inter-Governmental Organisations such as UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe and the European Union have published various relevant educational documents containing similar messages as Rethinking Education. However the stage of implementation on national levels is still rather limited. The implementation of approaches advocated in these documents is also seriously hindered by the confusion about terms and concepts. Each time there are other ways to explain the audience what is understood by concepts such as knowledge, competencies, skills, attitudes and values. Last, it is still often problematic for educators to leave the classroom and participate in (international) professional development. Governments and schools have difficulty to recognize the importance of lifelong learning, and in many countries there are limited resources available, certainly if training is not directly related to national policy priorities.
On the occasion of the presentation of 20 new NWO PhD scholarships, on 12 September 2016, I was interviewed by the Secretary of State for Education, Sander Dekker. The interview was about my research: Improving the understanding of historical time for pupils between 6-12 years old.
Understanding of historical time is essential to the learning of history. Theories about children’s understanding of historical time are largely based on older research, which concludes that a full understanding of time is achieved at about the age of 11 and that the learning of clock- and calendar time are conditional for the learning of history. More recent English and American research indicates that young children do have an understanding of historical time. Still this research has made little impact on the teaching of historical time. In the Netherlands the history curriculum starts in the 5th or 6th grade at the age of about 9, although it would be more logical to start earlier with the advantage that children can work longer and deeper on their understanding of historical time, as is the case in England. Therefore, we compared the Dutch and the English curricula.
Data from national reports, in both the Netherlands and England, however, indicate that the teaching and learning of historical time are not always well-implemented in the curricula. This was confirmed by our research. Although chronology features in both the English National Curriculum and the Dutch Core Objectives, we found that the implemented curricula do not fully cover the objectives: for example in our sample, only a quarter of the English teachers pay attention to the chronological order of historical periods consistently and the majority of teachers in both countries does not use timelines.
In order to optimize our primary history curricula with regard to chronology, we developed a model (http://www.historischtijdsbesef.nl/en/niveaus-van-historisch-tijdsbesef/), based on descriptions in the curricula and on empirical studies of chronology, with three stages: emergent, initial and continued understanding of historical time. In this model we defined pupils’ skills and knowledge for each stage based on five objectives:
apply the vocabulary of time
sequence events, people and historical eras in chronological order
use the timeline to place events and people in time
identify characteristic features of different historical periods and compare and contrast historical periods
Because we wanted to gain insight into how pupils in primary schools perform on these three stages, we constructed an instrument that was based on our model. The instrument consisted of two paper and pencil tests for younger and older pupils with, for each stage, multiple-choice items that corresponded with the five objectives in the model. We conducted the tests in seven Dutch primary schools totalling 1457 pupils. The results showed that in all three stages pupils in higher grades significantly outperformed pupils in lower grades. Furthermore, in all grades there was room for improvement.
In a follow-up study sixteen teachers of grade 4 (ages 7-8) and 7 (ages 10-12) were trained to teach with Timewise, a newly developed teaching method, in which they consistently paid attention to the objectives of historical time. In every lesson timelines were used, linked to stories, pictures and videos. The intervention with Timewise resulted in significantly improved performances of pupils in the post-test compared to the pre-test and compared to a control condition.
The research is now almost complete and I am working on the final chapters. In 2017, I hope to defend my dissertation. I enjoyed doing this interview, and Sander Dekker was very interested.
Timothy W. Ryback, director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation at EUROCLIO, has contributed to The New Yorker an interesting article discussing the controversial topic of the Golden Coach used during the Prinsjesdag in Netherlands. History of the Golden Coach is tied into the history of colonialism, and the article sheds light to both the current political situation and historical perspective on the subject.
“Don’t say globally something is good or bad, simply have an open mind.”
The sentence above is from Daniel Ocbe, a refugee from Eritrea, who spent a day at our school in June 2016. Daniel’s talks confirmed to me the immense value of face to face encounters for citizenship education.
It was in May that Daniel Ocbe contacted me via EUROCLIO Director Jonathan Even-Zohar, who had met him at a United against Racism conference in Torino, Italy. At our following meeting in Zurich Daniel impressed me from the first moment with his extraordinary strong will and his determination on one side and being such a kind and friendly and open minded person on the other side. Living in Switzerland now for a bit less than three years, he achieved a lot in this time (he speaks German really well!), but also has challenges ahead (the next big one is to find a place for an apprenticeship).
He accepted the invitation to come to our school, where he gave a presentation to two 10th grade classes. He talked about the current political situation in Eritrea, a country not very much is known about here, although there is a large group of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland. Then he talked about his escape from Eritrea via Sudan, Libya, the Mediterranean to Italy and finally to Switzerland. The students asked a lot of questions about his perception of Switzerland, about experiences of racism in Switzerland and a lot of other topics. They reacted very open and positive from the first moment on, so the planned time was over almost too fast.
Where do I see the value of those encounters?
For me it is crucial that we either go out of school a lot more, travel with youngsters AND meet people (travelling alone is not the point), travel to places they would not go on their own, expand their horizons, challenge their mindset by confronting them with different positions, make them familiar with experiences that are not part of their everyday life.
If travelling is difficult, then bringing people to school is also a big step of bringing “real life” to school and getting out of this very small school world.
Living in a time with ever more virtual communication, it is crucial for those youngsters to actually meet people – face to face. “You need to feel it, to see it, to touch it” – that is still an important point for me.
It is something completely different if we are talking about things or persons (like for example Eritrean refugees), or if we have direct encounters and talk with those persons. The longer I teach the more I think that face to face contacts are not replacable by anything – also not by virtual communication.
Meeting people that can be positive role models by living positive values and attitudes can be so important for youngsters.
Of course the personality of the person invited is also an important part. Students need to be able to really get in touch with that person. Talking about values like openmindedness or reconciliation for example, is only credible to the students, if the person lives those values. Therefore he or she needs to be an authentic person and whenever this is given, there is never a real problem with students, who are very sensitive to being authentic and credible.
The not always easy task is to find these persons, but having found them, it is no big job at all, bringing them to school. In case you might never have tried it, I would just like to encourage you to do it.
About the Author Daniela Zunzer was born in Germany and grew up in Germany and Switzerland. She studied history, geography and social anthropology in Zurich and Berlin. She has a master’s degree from Humboldt-University in Berlin in history (1996). After some years as a researcher at the Humboldt-University, she is teaching history in a high school in Fribourg / Switzerland since 2001 (grades 10-13).