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Epstein, Terrie. “Deconstructing Differences in African-American and European-American Adolescents' Perspectives of U.S. History.” Curriculum Inquiry 28(4) (1998): 397-423.


Recent proposals for reforming the K-12 history curriculum have recommended revising the traditional narrative on U.S. history by including the historical experiences of diverse racial groups. The proposals, however, have not considered the historical perspectives that young people bring to historical inquiry. After reviewing contemporary frameworks for teaching U.S. history in public schools, I present data from one teacher's history classes that demonstrate that African-American and European-American adolescents constructed different explanations of significant actors, events, and themes in U.S. history. The two groups also constructed conflicting beliefs about the credibility of secondary historical sources. Representative of more substantive differences in the perspectives that the adolescents brought to historical inquiry, the differences in adolescents' historical understandings arose from race-related differences in the lived experiences of the adolescents themselves and their family members. Given these findings, I point out the limitations of current public school history curricular frameworks and draw on contemporary scholarship to propose a curricular framework which takes into account the differences in historical perspectives constructed by the African-American and European-American students in this study.