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"It Wasn't a Good Part of History": National Identity and Ambiguity in Students' Explanations of Historical Significance


by Keith C. Barton & Linda S. Levstik — 1998

In this study, we investigated middle graders' understanding of significance in U.S. history through open-ended interviews with forty-eight students in grades five through eight. Students pointed to steadily expanding rights and opportunities as a central theme in U.S. history, but they also had difficulty incorporating some historical patterns and events into their image of progress. This study suggests that students need experience with the complexities of the past within a context that provides some framework for making critical sense out of both legitimating stories and alternative, vernacular histories.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 3, 1998, p. 478-513
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10274, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 11:37:24 AM

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About the Author
  • Keith Barton
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author

  • Linda Levstik
    University of Kentucky

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