Amer._Ed._Res._Journal - American Educational...

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American Educational Research Journal March 2007, Vol. 44, No. 1,pp. 40-76 DOI. 10.3102/0002831206298677 © 2007AERA. Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Consciousness Sam Wineburg Stanford University Susan Mosborg University of Washington Dan Porat Hebrew University ofjerusalem Ariel Duncan Oberlin College How is historical knowledge transmitted across generations? What is the role of schooling in that transmission? The authors address these questions by reporting on a thirty-month longitudinal study into how home, school, and larger society served as contexts for the development of historical con- sciousness among adolescents. Fifteen families drawn from three different school communities participated. By adopting an intergenerational approach, the authors sought to understand how the defining moments of one generation-its "lived historyL-becomes the "available history" to the next. In this article, the authors focus on whatparents and children shared about one of the mostformative historical events inparents' lives: the Vietnam War. Drawing on notions of collective memory, as articulated by the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, the authors sought to understand which stories, archived in historical memory and available to the disciplinary community, are remembered and used by those beyond its borders. In con- trast, which stories are no longer widely shared, eclipsed by time's passage and unable to cross the bridge separating generation from generation? The authors conclude by discussing the forces that act to historicize today's youth and suggest how educators might marshal these forces-rather than spurning or simply ignoring them-to advance young people's historical understanding. KEWoRDs: history learning, historical consciousness, collective memory, social studies, popular culture
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Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum J ohn Coleman, a sixteen-year-old student in a high school history class, sat down to talk with us about the Vietnam War.I Interviewer: What do you think was behind the war-what do you know about it? John: Well [pause] there's been a lot of talk about how the war was purposeless, like there was no cause to it. It's pretty hard to fight without a cause. Interviewer: Where did you learn about the war? John: Just [pause] . . . I guess ... I don't know-class? Interviewer: Books you read for class? John: Yeah. I've heard about it too, from my parents. Just people. Interviewer: Do you remember exactly from where or from whom? John: [with growing exasperation] From a lot of people-I don't know! It's just common belief that the Vietnam War didn't have a cause. John struggles to remember where he learned that Vietnam "didn't have a cause." School, books, parents, "just people"-he remains uncertain. Indeed, John displays an impatience we rarely witnessed during our two-
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Amer._Ed._Res._Journal - American Educational...

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