Narrating National History examines the differences in white and African American children’s, adolescents’, and adults’ interpretations of US history in classroom and community settings. Based on ethnographic interviews with children, teens, and adults in a working class US city, the manuscript focuses on the difference in different grade levels’ interpretations of national history at the beginning of the school year. Also included are teachers’ views and instruction, vignettes from classroom discussions, as well as parents’ views of US history, contemporary society and citizenship.
The book sets this work firmly in social studies methods, and teaching and learning more generally, by noting how contemporary learning standards, textbooks, and some pedagogies can be disconnected from students’ cultural identities. The next three chapters shows that while teachers' historical interpretations were largely congruent with those of the White students, students of all backgrounds tended to ignore teacher or text interpretations that conflicted with their pre-instructional views. Also included are discussions of what methods teachers might have instead used done to create better, more just understandings of history. Finally, the concluding chapters provide research based examples of challenges and possibilities facing teachers who want to examine their own views toward teaching national history and society and engage in more culturally responsive pedagogy.