When entering school, kids are not empty pots. They know many things, including things about the past of their society. Getting into the body of this historical knowledge is an interesting business. It reveals to what extent assimilated family souvenirs and community memories and templates are important in shaping children’s historical knowledge and historical consciousness.
If family souvenirs and community memories are structural components in kid’s historical consciousness, they also represent limitations to take students out of the mythistories – a mix of brute facts and historical romance – they’re trapped in when telling the past. One of the main challenges to teaching the past to kids is to get them outside the thinkable they’ve been accustomed to in living in a particular society and being subjected to its broad representations.
The aim of the talk is to discuss a pragmatic approach to teaching the past to kids in the context of a strong presence of community memories and templates everywhere in society, assuming the fact that kids learn history in and out of the classroom. The proposed approach – to start from memory in order to get out of it – comes from an innovative study effectuated in Quebec in the last decade (www.tonhistoireduquebec.ca) which consisted in collecting short narratives (N = 5000) and phrases (N= 3423) produced by students responding to two basic questions: 1) “Tell me the story of Quebec as you know it;” 2) “If you had to summarize in one sentence the historical experience of Quebec, what would you write personally?”