Exploring moral responsibility(ies) within argumentations for the use of historical consciousness

Year: 2018

Author: Edling, Silvia, Sharp, Heather

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Totalitarian and nationalistic ideas, violence, and mass-murder of dissidents are part of our history; Educational programs like Council of Europe and the Forum for living history are created with the aim that knowledge about moral and ethical violence in the past can support students’ sense of moral responsibilities in the present (Selman & Barr, 2009). In this context, moral responsibility means broadly an obligation not to harm others (Kamm, 2007). In the 1980s a ‘moral’ turn took place in historical scholarship which implied that questions concerning good and bad as well right and wrong were recognized as vital in history education (cf. Cotkin: 2008). This process was closely intertwined with the development of historical consciousness within the field of history education (cf. Jensen, 1978).  Following Rüsen (2004), historical consciousness can be regarded as a narrative competence, a narrative ability to generate well-grounded interpretations of the world in relation to the past, the present, and the future.
Accordingly, history education carries an important possibility to develop students’ commitment to moral responsibility and democracy in the present. However, the moral dimension in relation to the concept historical consciousness has, to date, only been raised in a general manner (Rüsen, 2004), which makes it difficult to theoretically understand the link between historical and moral consciousness.
With this as a background, the purpose of the paper is to conceptually deepen the understanding of moral responsibilities present in descriptions of historical consciousness. This is done by exploring how a) historical consciousness as a concept developed during the 1960s, b) its relationship to didaktik, and c) theme(s) of moral responsibility(ies) expressed in theoretical definitions of historical consciousness. As such, the research this paper draws on will provide a typology of moral themes aligned with the use of historical consciousness in education, which can function as a support for teacher judgments (cf. Schön, 1983).  Sources used about historical consciousness are a selection of those frequently referred to in various published literature and university-level text books for teacher education students in Sweden, Finland, and Australia.
Inspired by Faircloughs’ (1995) critical discourse analysis the material will be analyzed in three steps: (1) a text-analysis where the use of words and their intercorrelation have been essential to depict, (2) an interpretation, implying a structuring of the discursive themes found, and (3) an explanation of the themes discovered which are placed in a broader social context and research body.