What Kind of Medieval History should be Taught and Learned in Secondary School?
By Jorge Sáiz
Imago temporis: medium Aevum, No.4 (2010)
Abstract: This study presents a reflection on the teaching of history in secondary education. Specifically, it addresses what topics of the history of the Middle Ages are taught and learned and to what end. We review the “regulated history”, that is to say the current curriculum, in order to later examine its interpretations and possible teaching methodology. on the one hand we have the perspective of the major publishers of textbooks, representing the main “taught history”. On the other hand, we have the alternative proposal by representatives of innovative teaching as a minor “ideal history” that comes from a critique of the present problems encourages the development of educational competences. Finally, the existing relationships between this new option and educational innovation at university level are discussed.
Introduction: This paper is a critical analysis of the current state of the teaching and learning of history, from the perspective of the history of the Middle Ages, in Spain’s compulsory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO), specifically in the Valencian community. As a teacher of ESO but also an active researcher in Medieval history and in teaching history, I intend to share my thoughts with the community of medievalists and, in general, with anyone interested in the teaching of Medieval history at different educational levels. The Middle Ages as an historical period are covered in the second year (Segundo Curso) of ESO in the subject area of “social science, geography and history,” which is compulsory for the four years of this stage. Until recently, the content of Medieval history overlapped only slightly with human geography in this second year of ESO. But since the academic year 2008-2009, after the reorganization following the fundamental law of education (Ley Orgánica de Educación or LOE), it overlaps with geography, the same as Modern history, in a broad perspective of preindustrial societies. the majority of teachers agree that this is an accumulation of excessively dense material for students at this level (13-14 years old), who might be overwhelmed by covering the medieval period in the classroom in only one trimester. But perhaps this is a lesser problem given that it would depend on the interpretation of the curriculum, i.e. the current legal framework, and, as such, on the subsequent selection and organization of material and objectives. In the following pages I intend to critically assess both the curriculum and its possible interpretations, realised through different materials (textbooks, teachers’ regulated books, etc), each of which can lead to certain teaching methodologies.