Prof. Richard Harris (Professor of History Education, University of Reading), together with Saiba Sandhu (his former BA in Education Studies dissertation student) and Meggie Copsey-Blake (his former Master’s dissertation student) gave an invited research talk, titled ‘Absence, distortion and disconnection: the challenge of history teaching, identity and ethnicity’ for the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Research in Race and Education.
The talk is based on Saiba’s undergraduate dissertation project which looks at young adults’ experience of history education and how it has contributed (or not) to their sense of self. Interviewing 20 young people from a range of ethnic backgrounds, the study found that the majority of participants genuinely felt history was an important subject and that it should be used to explore the past from multiple perspectives, and had the potential to create a more cohesive society based on deeper mutual understanding of history. However, this was being hampered by a history curriculum that presents a white, Anglo-centric narrative template about the past. Consequently, many students struggled to connect to school history, and many encountered an absent, partial or fractured narrative of their heritage. This in turn creates additional hurdles for them in their adolescent years. Participants’ personal and on-going research into ‘their’ histories helped many find a stronger sense of self.
For this project, Meggie served as the research assistant and did much of the interviewing, transcription. All three team members contributed to the data analysis and the writing of the project’s resultant article.