Attitudes to history and senses of the past among grade 12 learners in a selection of schools in the Durban area, 2004 : a pilot study.
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This study explores attitudes to school history and 'senses of the past' among a sample of Grade 12 learners in a selection of six schools in the Durban area. It traces the history of history education in South Africa from its formal introduction to the Cape Colony in 1839 to the debates surrounding the revision of the history syllabus and the introduction of Curriculum 2005 in the present day. It makes the point that the context within which school history in South Africa arose and developed has led history education authorities to view school history as a subject with 'problems' for which they need to find 'solutions' from the top down. Thus, learners who come to school with an insufficient knowledge or awareness of the past must be encouraged to become more 'historically aware'. Recent developments within western academic history have led a number of historians to acknowledge the significance of histories produced outside the realms ofthe academy. Some of their literature points to complex and diverse ways in which ordinary people make and use the past in their everyday lives. These developments are of particular relevance when one considers learners at school because school history education authorities have given very little attention to the ways in which learners make and use histories in their everyday lives. This study set out to explore whether further investigations into learners' attitudes to history, their senses of the past and the relationship between the two would be a valuable line of enquiry for future research. It concludes that adolescents are just as much 'producers' of pasts as they are 'learners' of history and that far from showing how little learners know about the past, these senses tell us much about how learners feel in the present.