Educating Britain? Political Literacy and the Construction of National History

Journal article


Brocklehurst, Helen 2014. Educating Britain? Political Literacy and the Construction of National History. Journal of Common Market Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12211
AuthorsBrocklehurst, Helen
Abstract

Despite the reflexive nature of historical enquiry and the degree of national interconnectness now theorized by historians in the United Kingdom, education debates over history teaching in Britain often yield a comforting defence of Britain's 'island story'. The singular 'island story' is an economical narrative device favoured by politicians and further mediated through newspapers which profit from such national cryogenics. Maintenance of a currency, or crisis, of Britishness can also be contrasted with the relative absence of longitudinal or comparative enquiry into identity and school curricula. In addition, the teaching of states, connections and post-sovereign communities is largely under-theorized, potentially contributing to the sterility of future debates about citizenship, agency and Britain’s wider political reach. It is argued here that the public framing of history as nationhood and the underdevelopment of children’s political literacy are mutually reinforcing conditions by which the state has constructed a stabilizing, yet shifting presence of the ‘national’.

Despite the reflexive nature of historical enquiry and the degree of national interconnectness now
theorized by historians in the United Kingdom, education debates over history teaching in Britain
often yield a comforting defence of Britain's 'island story'. The singular 'island story' is an
economical narrative device favoured by politicians and further mediated through newspapers
which profit from such national cryogenics. Maintenance of a currency, or crisis, of Britishness can
also be contrasted with the relative absence of longitudinal or comparative enquiry into identity and
school curricula. In addition, the teaching of states, connections and post-sovereign communities
is largely under-theorized, potentially contributing to the sterility of future debates about citizenship,
agency and Britain’s wider political reach. It is argued here that the public framing of history
as nationhood and the underdevelopment of children’s political literacy are mutually reinforcing
conditions by which the state has constructed a stabilizing, yet shifting presence of the ‘national’.

KeywordsNational identity; Education; History curricula; Politics; Children
Year2014
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12211
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10545/607741
hdl:10545/607741
Publication dates2014
Publication process dates
Deposited03 May 2016, 14:15
ContributorsSwansea University
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