The current relevance of populist history in schools : the attitudes of Cape Town youth to history

Bam, June Catherine (2001-12)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis exanunes whether the historical consciousness of grade 10 youth would increase should there be an intervention facilitated for this purpose, that is that they would show a heightened consciousness of the relation between school history and current affairs, politics and other societal issues. This intervention comprises the My New World text produced within the populist historiographical tradition in South Africa. The notion of historical consciousness is defined as the complex relation between an interpretation of the past, a perspective of the present and expectations of the future ROsen (1989; 1994). The investigation comprised a theoretical and empirical component. The theoretical component is informed by the theories of epistemology, knowledge, schooling and curriculum. The empirical component is based on the Youth and History Survey conducted on historical consciousness amongst youth in Europe in the early 1990s. Both this study and the European study were conducted during periods of political transition. The chosen research methodology was that of triangulation, combining quantitative with qualitative methods. The quantitative component was based on the measurement used in the European study, and comprised an experimental pre-test and post-test research design, measuring "inside school" and "outside school" historical consciousness. The study was conducted in 8 grade 10 classrooms at 8 schools in Cape Town, representative of class, race, language and gender. The teachers acted as facilitators of the intervention. The conclusion reached in the research is that although the intervention resulted in an increased enthusiasm amongst individuals for school history and interest in political issues and an understanding for the present as in evidence from the qualitative data, this was not reflected in the quantitative data which showed no significant increase in the "inside school" nor "outside school" historical consciousness amongst youth of average 15 years in grade 10 history classrooms in Cape Town. It can therefore not be empirically concluded that when youth are exposed to populist history over a limited period that they would show an increased "outside school" or "inside school" historical consciousness even though an intervention might aim to increase such a consciousness. A significant finding is that the case for an already existent historical consciousness related to the variables of class and gender holds. Instead of increasing the levels of historical consciousness, the intervention resulted in a surfacing of long-held attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of people, society, the past, the present and the future. The intervention succeeded in bringing these complex layers of variables and related factors that impact on perceptions and attitudes to the surface. Given this complexity, it was also concluded that an empirical study of historical consciousness amongst youth through an intervention over a limited period of time is risky, if not of little value.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die vraag of die historiese bewussyn van graad 10-leerders sal toeneem indien daar vir hierdie doe I 'n intervensie sou plaasvind, met ander woorde of hulle 'n verhoogde bewussyn van die verhouding tussen die yak Geskiedenis op skool en sake van die dag, die politiek en ander gemeenskapsake sal aantoon. Die tersaaklike intervensie behels die teks van My New World wat daargestel is binne die raamwerk van die populistiese historiografiese tradisie in Suid-Afrika. Die begrip 'historiese bewussyn' kan omskryf word as 'n komplekse verhouding tussen die interpretasie van die verlede, 'n perspektief oor die hede, en verwagtinge oor die toekoms (Rusen 1989; 1994). Die ondersoek bevat 'n teoretiese sowel as 'n empiriese komponent. Die teoretiese komponent is gebaseer op epistemologiese, onderwys- en kurrikulumteoriee. Die empiriese komponent vind sy grondslag in die Youth and History Survey ondersoek oor historiese bewussyn wat in die vroee 1990' s onder Europese jongmense geloods is. Beide hierdie studie en die Europese navorsing is in tye van politieke oorgang onderneem. Die navorsingsmetode wat gebruik is, is die van triangulasie wat uit 'n kombinasie van kwantitatiewe en kwalitatiewe metodes bestaan. Die kwantitatiewe komponent lS gebaseer op die meting wat in die Europese studie gebruik is, en bestaan uit 'n eksperimentele voor- en natoets navorsingsontwerp wat die historiese bewussyn "binne" en "buite" skoolverband meet. Die studie is geloods in agt graad 10-klaskamers by agt skole in Kaapstad wat klas, ras, taal en geslag verteenwoordig het. Die betrokke onderwysers het as fasiliteerders vir die intervensie opgetree. Die gevolgtrekking waartoe in die ondersoek geraak is, is dat, alhoewel die intervensie tot verhoogde entoesiasme vir Geskiedenis as skoolvak en tot belangstelling in politieke kwessies en 'n begrip van die hede onder individuele leerders gelei het (soos afgelei kon word uit kwalitatiewe data), hierdie tendens nie weerspieel is deur die kwantitatiewe data nie: eersgenoemde het nie 'n beduidende verhoging in die historiese bewussyn "binne" of "buite" skoolverband onder leerders met 'n gemiddelde ouderdom van 15 jaar getoon nie. Daar kan dus nie empiries tot die gevolgtrekking geraak word dat wanneer leerders vir 'n beperkte tyd aan populistiese geskiedenis blootgestel word, hulle 'n verhoogde historiese bewussyn "binne" of "buite" skoolverband sal aantoon nie, selfs al sou so 'n intervensie dit weI ten doel he om so 'n bewussyn te verhoog. 'n Beduidende bevinding is dat daar 'n saak uitgemaak kan word vir 'n reeds bestaande historiese bewussyn wat in verband staan met die veranderlikes van klas en geslag. In plaas daarvan om die vlakke van historiese bewussyn te verhoog het die intervensie die gevolg gehad dat lank bestaande houdings, persepsies en oortuigings oor mense, die gemeenskap, die verlede, die he de en die toekoms, na die oppervlak beweeg het. Die intervensie het dus daarin geslaag om hierdie komplekse lae veranderlikes en verwante faktore wat persepsies en houdings beinvloed, na die oppervlak te bring. In die lig van die kompleksiteit hiervan, is daar ook tot die gevolgtrekking geraak dat 'n empiriese studie van historiese bewussyn onder jongmense oor 'n beperkte tyd deur middel van intervensie riskant is, indien nie van min waarde nie.

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