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VanSledright, Bruce. “Narratives of Nation-state, Historical Knowledge, and School History Education.” Review of Research in Education 32(1) (2008): 109-46.


The author begins this article by suggesting that in the United States late 20th century immigration patterns have been perceived by some who consider themselves American natives because they were born in the country (even though their ancestors are of European stock) as threatening to soften the glue that preserves their vision of the right and true American culture. To explore the role changes in immigration patterns may play in how public school history education is shaped, understood, taught, and with what consequences in the United States, the author examines selective recent historical scholarship in that vein. After briefly attending to this scholarship as a means of providing some historical context, he moves to analyzing what often passes for U.S. history education in American grade-school classrooms--a narrative of national development and progress. Using additional research on teaching and learning U.S. history, the author turns to considering a series of consequences that stem from asking children and young adults to accept a collectively memorialized nation-building story as their own, as a part of their cultural identity. In particular, he labors to show that the U.S. nation-building story that sits at the center of how most children are taught and learn in history classes in American public schools is largely a prescriptive and conserving one that often molds and shapes in particular ways. He ends the article by exploring alternative conceptions of history education, ones that might result if educators pursued different visions of what such an education might accomplish.