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Levstik, Linda S. “Articulating the Silences: Teachers’ and Adolescents’ Conceptions of Historical Significance.” In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg, 284-305. New York: New York University Press, 2000.


This chapter is grounded in research showing that history education is Eurocentric and teachers have little experience teaching about diverse ethnoracial groups. The author focuses on two studies previously conducted: 1) an investigation of adolescents’ understanding of historical significance, and 2) a study examining teacher and teacher candidates’ understanding of historical significance. Both studies used semi-structured interviews and a task that required participants to respond to a set of questions about a set of captioned historical pictures presented to them.

Generally, Levstik found that students were likely to maintain a historical narrative of American history that constructed the past as a consequence of factors such as prejudices and issues of exclusion and inclusion. In contrast, teachers and teacher candidates rejected these kinds of negative images of American history and identity. In conclusion, Levstik suggests that in order to avoid students replacing “nationalist self-satisfaction with cynicism,” teachers need to provide them with a critical framework for legitimating certain stories.

Ana Laura Pauchulo