What was the weather like yesterday? That’s what participants were asked at the start of this thought provoking workshop on understanding history and helping students develop tolerance.
Everyone in the room had their own take on the weather, some thought it was warm, whilst others thought it was cold. Some said dry and a few said wet. We had 30 eyewitness accounts yet not one person had exactly the same reflection on the weather. This is what is known as “multi-perspectivity” which formed the crux of the workshop on exploring different sides of a story. It was a simple question and we all witnessed it, yet it was very hard to establish the truth.
This is like history. History can be taught from a very much “Us” and “Them” perspective. Two pillars of this doctrine are pride and pain. We learn how great explorers or inventors from our country helped shape human destiny whilst we learn the pain and suffering we had to endure along the way at the hands of “them”. It can be very politically charged. What we tend to lack is the responsibility aspect, the war crimes, the occupations or other terrible acts.
This workshop was run by Jonathan Even-Zohar Director of EuroClio and Jacek Staniszewski history teacher and member of EuroClio. After this compelling introduction Jonathan outlined the Manifesto for high quality history heritage and citizenship education.
History cannot be neutral, the narrative reflects our values, what stories we are driven to tell and what questions we are lead to ask. Unfortunately, it all too often becomes abused as a political tool.
The group split off to perform a practical exercise and analysed postcards from World War 1, from both sides. They were asked to describe keywords describing how “us” and “them” were portrayed in the cards. We (us) were always innocent, gallant, brave and good but they (them) were evil, conniving and downright rotten. Does this sound familiar?
Oh and the weather? Turned out it was wet and cold in the morning and dry and warm in the afternoon, we were in Belgium after all!
Reporting by: Bill Griffin (CSS)