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Seixas, Peter. “The Place of the Disciplines within Social Studies: The Case of History.” In Trends and Issues in Canadian Social Studies, edited by I. Wright and A. Sears, 116-29. Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, 1997.


In this chapter Seixas argues that history education should provide students with the ability to read history critically. As such, history education should provide the students with the conditions necessary to ask : “Who constructed this account and why? What sources did they use? What other accounts are there of the same events or lives? How and why do they differ? Which should we believe?”

Seixas identifies six elements of historical thinking. The first, significance, refers to students’ need to distinguish between the significant and the trivial aspects of historical accounts. The second, epistemology and evidence, focuses on how students make choices about who and what resources to interpret as experts and therefore who to believe. The third, continuity and change, considers how students understand change occurring over time based on their age as well as their previous lived experiences. Progress and decline, the fourth element, refers to how students evaluate historical change as either progress or decline. The fifth element, empathy and moral judgment, focuses on the need to both understand the similarities and differences between those in the present and those in the past. Lastly, historical agency considers how people made decisions and choices in the past so as to remove them from their position as victims.

Seixas provides history educators with suggestions on how to incorporate these six elements into their teaching so as to foster critical thinking. Specifically, in response to the fact that history teaching in Canada is most often taught as a part of the social studies curriculum, Seixas makes suggestions for distinguishing “generic ‘critical thinking’” from the critical thinking necessary for history education.

Ana Laura Pauchulo