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Wesleyan University

The Didactics of History in West Germany: Towards a New Self-Awareness of Historical


Studies
Author(s): Jrn Rsen
Reviewed work(s):
Source: History and Theory, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Oct., 1987), pp. 275-286
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
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THE DIDACTICSOF HISTORYIN WEST GERMANY:
TOWARDSA NEW SELF-AWARENESSOF HISTORICALSTUDIES

JORNRUSEN

The standardopinionof whatthe didacticsof historyis, howit works,andwhere


it is situatedin the realmof the humanitiesgoes as follows:historicaldidactics
is a formalizedapproachto teachinghistoryat primaryand secondaryschools,
whichplaysan importantpartin transforming professionalhistoriansintoteachers
of historyat these schools. It is a disciplinethat mediatesbetweenhistoryas
an academicdisciplineand historicallearningand educationat school. Thus,
it essentiallyhasnothingto do withthe workof historiansin theirowndiscipline.
It servesas a tool which transportshistoricalknowledgefrom the full vessels
of academicresearchto the empty heads of pupils.
This opinion is extremelymisleading.It fails to confront the real problems
concerninghistoricallearningandeducationandconcerningthe relationshipbe-
tweenhistoricaldidacticsand historicalresearch.Furthermore,it ideologically
narrowsthe historians'perspectiveon theirpracticeandon the principlesof their
discipline.ThoughI wishto concentrateon the didacticsof historyin WestGer-
many,I shall not limit my observationsto the developmentof a subdivisionof
historyand pedagogicsin a singleWestEuropeancountry.InsteadI wouldlike
to use WestGermanyto illustratethe broaderissues of how one thinks about
history,whatarehistory'soriginsin humannature,andwhatareitsusesforhuman
life. These are the basic questionsthat a valid didacticsof historyshould con-
sider,which, when done, would make the didacticsof historyan integraland
importantpart of historicalstudies.'
Forthoseawareof the historyof the disciplineof history,especiallyof its trans-
formationinto a professionalized,academicactivity,it shouldnot be surprising

1. ForgeneralinformationseeHandbuchderGeschichtsdidaktik, thirdedition,ed. K. Bergmann,


A. Kuhn,J. Rusen,andG. Schneider(Dusseldorf,1985);Geschichtsdidaktik: Theoriefur diePraxis,
ed. K. Bergmannand J. Rusen(Dusseldorf,1978);Geschichtsdidaktische Positionen.Bestandsauf-
nahmeundNeuorientierung,ed H. Suissmuth(Paderborn,1980);Geschichtsdidaktik, Geschichts-
wissenschaft,Gesellschaft,ed. G. BehreandL.-A. Norborg(Stockholm,1985);Geschichte:Nutzen
undNachteilfurdas Leben,ed. U. A. J. Becherand K. Bergmann(Dusseldorf,1986);E. Weymar,
Geschichtswissenschaftund Theorie:Ein Literaturbericht(Stuttgart,1979);E. Weymar,"Dimen-
sionen der Geschichtswissenschaft: Geschichtsforschung-Theorieder Geschichtswissenschaft-
DidaktikderGeschichte,"in Geschichtein Wissenschaft
und Unterricht(Stuttgart,1982),1-11,65-78,
129-153.

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276 J6RN RUSEN

that didacticscan playan eminentrole in historicalwritingand understanding.


Beforehistorianscameto look at theirworkas merelya matterof methodolog-
ical researchand beforethey conceivedof themselvesas "scientists,"historians
discussedthe rules and principlesof historicalcomposition as problemsof
teachingandlearning.Teachingandlearningwereconceivedin thebroadestsense,
as beingfundamentalprocessesandphenomenain humanculture,not restricted
simplyto the school. The well-knownsaying,"historiavitae magistra"(history
is the teacherof life), which definedthe task of Westernhistoriographyfrom
antiquityto the last decadesof the eighteenthcentury,indicatesthat the writing
of historywas directedby the moraland practicalproblemsof life, not by the
theoreticalandempiricalproblemsof methodicalcognition.Evenduringthe En-
lightenment,whenthe modernformsof academicresearchand discoursewere
beingforged,professionalhistoriansstilldiscussedthe didacticprinciplesof his-
torical writingas being fundamentalto their work.
But due to increasinginstitutionalizationand professionalizationof history,
the importanceof historicaldidacticswaseitherforgottenor minimized.During
the nineteenthcentury,when historiansdefinedtheir disciplinethey began to
lose sightof one importantprinciple,namely,that historyis rootedin the social
needto orientlifewithinthe framework of time.Historicalunderstanding is guided
fundamentallyby basic humaninterests:as such, it is addressedto an audience
and playsan importantrole in the politicalcultureof the historian'ssociety.As
nineteenth-century historiansstroveto makehistorya science,thataudiencewas
forgottenor redefinedto includeonlya smallgroupof trained,like-mindedprofes-
sionals. The didacticsof historyno longer was at the centerof the historian's
reflectionabout his own profession.It was replacedby the methodologyof his-
toricalresearch.The "scientification" of historyentaileda consciousnarrowing
of perspective,a limiting of history'spurpose and goal.2 In this respect,the
scientificationof historyexcludedfromthe purviewof rationalhistoricalreflec-
tion those dimensionsof historicalthoughtinseparablycombinedwithpractical
life. Fromthis point of view,it can be said that scientifichistory,despiteits ra-
tionalisticclaims,has led to what I wouldlike to call the "irrationalization" of
history.

That this processcan and should be reversedis my majorthesis;and contem-


porarydevelopmentsin the didacticsof historyin WestGermanypoint in this
direction.There,the recentdevelopmentof the didacticsof historycan be de-
The
scribedas a processof regainingthe lost scope of historicalself-awareness.
didacticsof history,whichhad originallybeen interpretedas an externalappli-
cation of professionalhistoricalwriting,has achieveda status withinthe aca-

2. H.-J Pandel, "Historikerals Didaktiker:GeschichtsdidaktischesDenken in der deutschen


Geschichtswissenschaftvom ausgehenden18.bis zumEndedes 19. Jahrhunderts," in Gesellschaft,
Beitragezu einerGeschichtedes Geschichtsdidaktik
Staat,Geschichtsunterricht: unddes Geschichts-
unterrichtsvon 1500bis 1980,ed. K. BergmannandG. Schneider(Dusseldorf,1982);VonderAufk-
larungzum Historismus:ZumStrukturwandel des historischenDenkens,ed. H. W. Blankeand J.
Rusen(Paderborn,1984).

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THE DIDACTICSOF HISTORYIN WEST GERMANY 277
demicdisciplinewhereit againcanfacilitateandenhancehistoricalunderstanding,
but now within its new, highly rationalizedacademicforms.
Originally,the didacticsof historyin Germany,as elsewhere,had beenguided
by the practicalneeds of trainingteachersof history.This trainingtook place
on two levels.Onewaspurelypragmaticand dealtwiththe methodsof teaching
historyin the classroom.The secondwastheoretical:it focusedupon the condi-
tions and the basicpurposesof teachingand learninghistory.On the firstlevel,
the didacticsof historywas and is relatedprimarilyto pedagogics:it is taught
and learned by doing. We call it the methodologyof instructionin history
(Methodikdes Geschichtsunterrichts). On the secondlevel,the didacticsof his-
tory is discussedin relationto those disciplineswhichdeal with the phenomena
of teachingandlearning- for examplewiththe socialsciences,whichinvestigate
the socialconditionsof teachingandlearning,withpedagogics,whichinvestigates
the aims,forms,andprocessesof education,and,of course,withhistoricalstudies,
whichinvestigatehistoryas subjectmatterto be taught.On this level we speak
of the didacticsof educationin history (Didaktikdes Geschichtsunterrichts).
In my opinion,the secondlevelshouldprecedethe first.The didacticsof educa-
tion in historyestablishesthe objectivesand formsof historicaleducationwithin
a given political, social, cultural,and institutionalcontext. The methodology
of instructionin historyestablishesthe practicalmeanswherebytheseobjectives
are to be met.
Until the 1960s,the didacticsof history in WestGermanywas treatedas a
geisteswissenschaftliche Padagogik,a term which cannot easily be translated.
I preferthe Englishversion,pedagogicalhermeneutics,or hermeneuticalpeda-
gogics,consideredas a liberalart.The best-knownrepresentative of this concept
of didacticsis ErichWeniger.3Accordingto this view,educationin historycan
be definedas an historicalprocesswhich can be analyzedwith the theoretical
andmethodologicaltools of hermeneutichistoricism.The teacherhas to under-
standeducationas the historianhas to understandhistory- that is, hermeneuti-
cally,as a kind of text constitutedby intentionalhumanforcesand containing
a meaningwhich can be decipheredto revealthe reader'sown intentionsand
the possibilitiesof interactionbetweentext and reader.The presuppositionof
this hermeneutical,historicistconceptionis thathistoryis constitutedby mental
forceswhichthe historian,being an activeinterpreter,can "rethink"or appro-
priate,and which guide his historicalquestionsand interpretations.Achieving
empiricalknowledgeof the past wouldlead to an insightinto the movingforces
of the present.This insightwould enablethose who acquirehistoricalknowl-
edge to live withinthe mainstreamof historicaldevelopmentand to accommo-
date their political life to it.
Boththe didacticsof historyand historicalsciencesharedthis historicistposi-
tion. Theyboth positedthe sameideaof the "educatingforces"(Bildungskrafte)

3. Mainworks:ErlichWeniger,Die Grundlagendes Geschichtsunterrichts: Untersuchungenzur


geisteswissenschaftlichen
Didaktik(Leipzig,Berlin,1926);ErichWeniger,Neue Wegeim Geschichts-
unterricht[1949](Frankfurt,1969).

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278 JORN ROSEN

of historicaldevelopment.But the formalrelationshipbetweenhistoryand the


didacticsof historywas characterizedby a strict division of labor. Historical
studies were still limited to a pure academic or "scientific"pattern of self-
understanding. Questionsconcerningthe interrelationship betweenhistoricalre-
searchand the experientialworld(Lebenswelt)of this investigator,as wellas all
questionsconcerninghistoricaleducation,wererelegatedto a separate,extra-
historicaldiscipline:hence,formalhistorydid not addressthe essenceof histor-
ical scholarshipdirectly.Historiansconsideredtheirdisciplineto havebeenlegi-
matedby its mereexistence.AlfredHeuss madethis clearin the 1950swhenhe
claimed:"Historyas an academicdisciplineis a creaturewhichlegitimatesitself
by simplybeingthere."He comparedhistoricalstudiesand its outputof knowl-
edge to a treeproducingleaves."Thetreelives as long as it has leavesand it is
its destinyto live and to haveleaves."4Heussexplicitlyrefusedto accordhistory
any practicaluse or realfunctionin those culturalareaswherehistorycan serve
as a mediumfor collectiveidentityand for an orientationtowardslife. On the
contrary,he thought that the methodologyof historicalresearchdestroysthe
practicalfunction of history.
The didacticsof historyduringthis periodreinforcedthis narrow-mindedness.
It viewedhistoricalknowledgeas beinggeneratedsolelythroughthe internaldis-
course of professionalhistorians.The task of the didacticsof history was to
transmitthis knowledgewithoutpartakingin the generationof this discourse.
Historicaldidacticscompensatedfor this modestrefusalto engagein historical
researchby translatingthe results of this researchinto generalphilosophical
presuppositions. It consideredthesephilosophicalcategoriesas essentialelements
in shapingone's orientationtowardslife. Hence,these categorieswerethought
to playa centralrolein the processof education.However,despitetheseabstract
components,the primaryand secondaryhistorycurriculumconsistedof nothing
morethan a simplifiedabstractof standardhistoricalstudies.Thus, at its best,
the didacticsof historyprovidedfundamentalstatementson theeducationalfunc-
tion of historicalknowledgeand on the correspondingobjectivesfor teaching
historyin school.Butit alsoincludeda hiddendidactic,thatof simplyreproducing
historicalstudies:in so doing, it loweredits levelfromthe mountainsof research
into the valleysof classes (this is called copy or reproductiondidactics).

In the 1960sand 1970sthe whole scenechanged.5The scholarlyarrogancethat


assumedhistoricalstudiesto be legitimatedby its mereexistencelost its persua-

4. A. Heuss, Verlustder Geschichte(Gottingen,1959),44.


5. Forgeneralinformationon the developmentof historicalstudiesin WestGermany,see H.-U
heute,"in Stichwortezurgeistigen
Wehler,"Geschichtswissenschaft SituationderZeit,ed. J. Habermas
(Frankfurt,1979),11,709-753;G. Heydemann,Geschichtswissenschaft im geteiltenDeutschland:
Entwicklungsgeschichte,Organisationsstruktur,Funktion,Theorie-undMethodenprobleme in der
BundesrepublikDeutschland undderDDR(Frankfurt,1980);G. G. Iggers,NewDirectionsin Euro-
pean Historiography,revisededition(Middletown,Ct., 1984),chap.3; J. Rusen,"Theoryof History
in the Developmentof WestGermanHistoricalStudies:A Reconstructionand Outlook,"German
StudiesReview7 (1984),11-26;R. Fletcher,"RecentDevelopmentsin WestGermanHistoriography:
The BielefeldSchool and Its Critics,"GermanStudiesReview7 (1984),451-480.

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THE DIDACTICSOF HISTORYIN WEST GERMANY 279
sivepower.A newgenerationof scholarsradicallycriticizedthe traditionalcon-
cept of historicalstudiesand propagateda new theoreticalconceptwhichthey
wereableto put into practice.Theyconceivedof historyas a social sciencewith
close ties to the other social sciences.6In so doing, they raisedimportantques-
tions concerningthe basic task of historicalcognitionand of the politicalfunc-
tion of historicalstudies.This redefinitionwas only a part of a wholesalecul-
turalreorientation thattook placein Germanyduringthattime.Hence,anequally
importantreorientation towardshistorywasalso feltat the schools,whichresulted
in a crisisof legitimacyfor the teachingof history.The assumptionthat history
playedan integralrolein primaryandsecondaryeducationwasincreasinglyques-
tioned,especiallyas the attacksagainsthistoricismgrewin degreeand intensity.
New formsof politicaleducationwith correspondingnew contentswereintro-
duced into the schools.
The didacticsof historyalso underwenta changethat reflectedthis general
culturalreorientationand the shift in the educationalsystem.Its hermeneutical
conceptionwasradicallyalteredand transformedinto a new mode of argumen-
tation.It experienceda so-calledturnto curriculumtheory.7Now,historicaledu-
cation has no longerbecomethe simplequestionof translatingthe forms and
valuesof professionalscholarshipinto the classroom.The basic questionthat
is beingposed is whetherthat knowledgeand the form of thoughtit represents
meets a pregivenand extradisciplinaryset of educationalcriteria.8Historians
wereconfrontedwith the challengeof legitimatinghistory'srole in culturallife
and in education.9They respondedto this challengeby broadeningthe scope
of historicalself-reflectionand self-understanding. Historiansbeganto respect
those dimensionsof historicalstudieswhereneeds,interests,and functionsap-
pear as determiningfactorsof historicalthinking.10In simpleterms,the study
of historyin WestGermanyunderwentwhat we might describeas a paradigm
shift."
This shift coincidedwith the urgentneed for self-presentationand legitimacy
byhistoriansconcernedwiththe fieldof education.Together,bothmomentscon-
tributedto the formationof a newhistoricalmovementcharacterizedby a com-
mitmentto a deeperand broaderreflectionon the fundamentalsof historical

6. H.-U Wehler,HistorischeSozialwissenschaft,secondedition(Frankfurt,1977);H.-U Wehler,


HistorischeSozialwissenschaftund Geschichtsschreibung:Studienzu Aufgabenund Traditionen
deutscher Geschichtswissenshaft(Gottingen, 1980); J. Kocka, Sozialgeschichte.Begriff-
Entwicklung-Probleme,second edition (Gottingen,1986).
7. Cf. A. Kuhn,"GeschichtsdidaktikundCurriculumentwicklung," in HandbuchderGeschichts-
didaktik,339-348.
8. A frequentlydiscussedexampleis A. Kuhn,Einfuhrungin dieDidaktikderGeschichte,second
edition (Munich,1977).
9. Cf. A. Sywottek,Geschichtswissenschaftin derLegitimationskrise.
Ein UberblickuberDis-
kussionum Theorieund Didaktikder Geschichtein der Bundesrepublik Deutschland1969-1973
(Bonn, 1974).
10. J. Rusen,FureineerneuerteHistorik:Studienzur TheoriederGeschichtswissenschaft
(Stutt-
gart, 1976).
11. J. Rusen,"GrundlagenreflexionundParadigma-Wechsel in derwestdeutschenGeschichtswis-
senschaft,"Geschichtsdidaktik11 (1986),388-405.

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280 JORN ROSEN

studiesandon its interrelationships withpracticallife in generaland witheduca-


tion in particular.This happenedat a time when the universitysystemunder-
wenta greatexpansion,whichcreatedenoughflexibilityto encouragethe forma-
tion of newconceptsabout educationand to allowtheirimplementation.Thus,
positionswerecreatedfor scholarsand teacherswho wishedto followthis trend
and to realizeit by research,training,and teaching.
Symptomaticof thisnewmovementin historicalstudiesandhistoricaldidactics
was the establishmentof two journals, Geschichte und Gesellschaft and
Geschichtsdidaktik. The firstwas foundedin 1975and embodieda newconcept
of historicalstudies.In the forewordwhichspelledout its goals,the editorsenvi-
sioned a two-prongedapproach.First, it would focus on new theoreticaland
methodologicalapproachesand seekto establishclose connectionsbetweenhis-
tory and the othersocial sciences.Second,it wouldemphasizethe connections
betweenthe academicstudyof historyand social practice.The editorsthought
this necessarybecause"historicalstudiesare influencedessentiallyby contem-
poraryinterestsas well as by the analysisof historicalprocessesand decisions.
Directlyor indirectly,historicalstudiesreactto topicalsocialconsciousnessand
practice."12 Geschichtsdidaktik, foundeda yearlater,representsthe newwayof
dealingwith the role of historyin educationand in practicallife. In a program-
maticalarticle,KlausBergmann,one of the editors,definedhistoricaldidactics
as follows:it is "adisciplinewhichexaminesthe importanceof history- all sorts
of historyand all of its constitutiveelements-for the receptiveand reflecting
subject.""He consideredemancipationand personalidentityas the two leading
ideas of this didacticalreflection.
Withinthe frameworkof this new approachto the use of historyin practical
life, the didacticsof historyestablisheditself as a specialdisciplinewith its own
questions,theoreticalconceptions,and methodologicaloperations.Duringthe
1970s,this movementwaslinkedto the needfor curricularchange.Thus,it could
be discussedwithoutresolvingthe questionwhetherthedidacticsof historyshould
be attachedto historyor to pedagogics.As long as it seemedplausiblethat the
leadingobjectivesof historicaleducationweredefinedand explicatedoutside
of historicalstudies,the didacticsof historystill servedas an auxiliaryto general
didactics:it was still seen as a pedagogicdiscipline.This was exacerbatedby the
traditionalnarrow-mindedness of manyprofessionalhistorianswho excludedall
questionsof history'spracticalfunction from serioushistoricalself-reflection.
The resultsof this attitudewereto pushhistoricaldidacticscloserto pedagogics
and to open up a gap between it and normal historical studies. This had
problematicconsequences.The fascinationwithcurricularreformstendedto un-
derestimatethe peculiarcharacterof historyas a fieldof learning.Historycould
be instrumentalizedfor the nonhistoricalobjectivesof teachingand learning.
The specificrole of historyin the whole areaof the social sciencesand in polit-

12. Geschichteund Gesellschaft1, (1976),7.


13. Geschichtsdidaktik
1 (1976),8.

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THE DIDACTICSOF HISTORYIN WEST GERMANY 281
ical educationbecameunclear.Historycould thus be easily replacedby other
branchesof political and social education.
Those who wereopposedto this tendencyto instrumentalizehistorystressed
the peculiarityanduniquenessof historicalthinkingandexplanationandsought
to differentiatethem from the modes of thought employedin the other social
sciences.This movementbroughtthe didacticsof historyveryclose to the kind
of historicalself-reflectionthat I would like to call histories(Historik),a term
that pointsto the similarityof these reflectionswiththe type of questionsposed
by GustaveDroysenin his famousLectureson Encyclopediaand Methodology
of History (1857).14This kind of theoryflourishedin the 1970s.15It accompa-
niedthetransformationof historyfroma hermeneutical andhistoricistdiscipline
to an historicalsocial science.16The didacticsof historydrewargumentsfrom
this newconceptionof historyin orderto explicatethe specificand peculiarna-
tureof historicalthinkingand explanation.Once formulated,this idea of his-
torybecamethe mediumandobjectiveof learningandeducation.Thus,the basic
uniquenessof historicalthought guidedthe practicalproblemof formulating
a new historicalcurriculum.The didacticsof historyjoined practice-oriented
concernsaboutteachingandlearningin the classroomto a theoreticalawareness
of the processesand functions of historicalconsciousnessin general.
Giventhis orientation,the perspectivesof the didacticsof historyhavebeen
greatlyexpanded,goingbeyondmerelyconsideringthe problemsof the teaching
and learningof historyin school. The didacticsof historynow analyzesall the
forms and the functionsof historicalknowledgeand reasoningin daily,prac-
tical life. This includesa study of the role of historyin public opinion and of
presentationsin the massmedia:it considersthe possibilitiesandlimitsof visual
historicalpresentationsin museumsand it exploresthe manifoldfieldsin which
historiansequippedwith this expandedvision can work.
The analysisof these nontraditionalactivitiesfor historianshas just begun.
Hence,a cleardisciplinarydesignfor the didacticsof historyhas not beencom-
pleted.Butthe generaloutlinesfor sucha designhavebeenformulated,a formu-
lation whichis respondingto the presentchallengeto historicalstudiesin Ger-
manydueto the extremeshortageof openingsforteachersof historyin Germany's
school system.In this senseit could be said that the studyof historyis shifting
its emphasisfrom teachingand learningin a narrowsense to a more broadly,

14. J. G. Droysen,Historik,ed. P. Leyh(Stuttgart,1977).(Englishtranslationof his "Grundriss


der Historik":Outlineof the Principlesof History [1883](New York,1967).
15. Cf. theseriesTheoriederGeschichte. BeitragezurHistorik.
Vol.1:ObjektivitatundParteilichkeit
in derGeschichte, ed. R. Koselleck,W.J. Mommsen,andJ. Rusen(Munich,1979);Vol.2:Historische
Prozesse,ed. K.-G. Faberand C. Meier (Munich, 1978);Vol. 3: Theorieund Erzahlungin der
Geschichte,ed. J. KockaandT.Nipperdey(Munich,1979);Vol.4:FormenderGeschichtsschreibung,
ed. R. Koselleck,H. Lutz,and J. Rusen(Munich,1982);and Vol. 5: HistorischeMethode,ed. C.
Meierand J. Rusen(Munich,1987).
16. A systematicapproachto thesebasicfactorscan be foundin J. Rusen,HistorischeVernunft.
Grundzuge einerHistorikI:Die Grundlagen derGeschichtswissenschaft
(Gdttingen,1983);J. Rusen,
Rekonstruktionder Vergangenheit. GrundzugeeinerHistorikII: Die Prinzipiender historischen
Forschung(Gottingen,1986).

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282 JORN ROSEN

yet less clearlydefinedgoal. It is still an open questionwhetherthe emphasis


uponpubliclife in the didacticsof historywill finda positiveecho. But it should
be clearthat sincethe publiccannot digestthe output of the highlyspecialized
disciplineof professionalhistorywithoutmediation,thereis a definiteneed for
trainedpeople able and willingto accomplishthis mediation.What should be
evident is that the normal skills acquiredby a professionalhistorianare not
sufficientto effectthis mediation.

II

In West Germanytoday, four main issues dominatethe discussionabout the


didacticsof history.They deal with the methodologyof instruction,the func-
tion and use of historyin publiclife, the establishmentof the goals for historical
educationin the schoolsand verifyingthat thesehavebeenmet, and the general
analysisof the nature,function,andimportanceof historicalconsciousness.Let
me deal brieflywith each.
Themethodologyof instructionin the classroomis stillan importantproblem.
Herethe concentrationuponcurriculumhasbeenpredominant.Combinedwith
the assumptionthat thereexists a generaltheory of school instruction(Unter-
richtslehre),the teachingof historyin the classroomhas tendedto becomea me-
chanicalaffair.It still has not been resolvedhow the peculiarityof historical
consciousness- thosementalstructuresandprocesseswhichconstitutea specific
form of humanculturalactivity-can be integratedinto this patternof educa-
tion. A gap still exists betweenthe programmaticintuition of a good history
teacherand the formaltraininghe or she receivesin the practiceof teachinghis-
tory. The reason for this gap is that the discussionconcerninghistoricalcon-
sciousnessand the constitutingfactorsof historicalthought has not been in-
tegratedinto the pragmaticsof teachingand learning.The insightsgainedin the
didacticsof historyabout the processes,structures,contents,and functionsof
historicalconsciousnesshavenot been translatedinto the analysisof teaching
and learningin the classroom.17
One examplefor this shouldsuffice.On the abstractlevel of a generaltheory
of historicalconsciousness,we knowsomethingaboutthe patternsof significance
whichgoverntheexperienceof thehumanpastanditsinterpretation as meaningful
Butwe knowverylittleaboutthe wayhistoryis perceivedandthe effects
history.18
of historyinstructionin the classroom.Some empiricalresearchwe havedone
at Bochumsuggeststhat the patternof exemplaryeducation-history as a col-
lectionof examplesleadingto generalrulesof humanbehavior-is the wayhis-

17. The best approachto this aim is K.-E. Jeismann,"Didaktikder Geschichte:Das spezifische
Bedingungsfeld in GeschichteundPolitik DidaktischeGrundlegung
desGeschichtsunterrichts," eines
kooperativenUnterrichts,ed. G. C. Behrmann,K.-E.Jeismann,andH. Sussmuth(Paderborn,1978).
18. J. Rusen,"DievierTypendes historischenErzahlens,"in Formender Geschichtsschreibung,
ed. Koselleck,Lutz,and Rusen,514-606;J. Rusen,"Geschichtsdidaktische Konsequenzen aus einer
erzahltheoretischenHistorik,"in HistorischesErzdhlen.Formenund Funktionen,ed. S. Quandt
and H. Sussmuth(Gottingen,1982), 129-170.

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THE DIDACTICS OF HISTORY IN WEST GERMANY 283
tory is appropriatedby pupils, without the teacherseven being awareof this.
The teachersweresurethat theywereimplementingthe patternsof modernhis-
toricalstudies.Butthe realityof the learningexperienceshowedquitea different
pattern.Thusthe processof teachingand learningin the classroomis governed
by a structureof historicalconsciousnessnot at all recognizedby the participants
themselves.
The secondissue is the analysisof the function of historicalknowledgeand
explanationin publiclife. This is a new field for historydidactics.Since there
are veryfew theoreticaland methodologicalapproachesto this problem,there
arenot verymanyempiricalstudiesof it available.Whatwe do havearethe first
stepsin definingthe discipline,discussionsof what are the problemsand what
shouldand could be done.19In orderto establishan adequateresearchstrategy
in this areafor the didacticsof history,it is necessaryto synthesizeits perspec-
tives,questions,and methodswith those of the specializeddisciplinesthat ana-
lyzepubliclife. Forexample,if one appliesthe modernapproachof the didactics
of historyto the use and functionof historyin the mass media,one is required
to come to termswith journalism.This meansthat the specificinsightsof the
didacticsof history-its conceptsof the specificityof historicalunderstanding
and its recognition of history's function in shaping social and individual
identity-must be translatedinto the languageof our understandingof mass
communication-that is, for example,into the semanticsof the cinemaandinto
the poetics of visual communication.
Thethirdissue- establishingthe goals of historicaleducationand discovering
how these goals havebeen met-has been one of the most importantissues in
WestGermany.20 For over a decade,the most desiredand discussedobjective
of historicallearningwasdefinedas "emancipation."21It washopedthatthrough
historicalawareness,pupilswouldgainthe abilityof self-determination, thatthey
wouldactivelyparticipatein the politicaldecision-makingwhichinfluencedtheir
daily lives.22This objective,however,was not simplyan historicalissue: it was
closelyconnectedto the othersocial sciencesand to generalpoliticaleducation.
As such, the historicalcontentof this programwas difficultto defineprecisely.
Thoughthis issuehasyet to be resolved,the desireto establisha curriculumwith
clearlydefinedobjectivesand the need to determineif the objectiveshavebeen
metled to a criticalinvestigationof the contentsof historicaleducation.History
as a subjectto be taughtand learnedhas to pass a didacticalexaminationcon-
cerningits applicabilityin orientingone to life.23

19. See, e.g., Geschichtsdidaktik


11(1986),No. 4.
20. Representative examplesareGeschichtsunterricht:
InhalteundZiele,ed. J. RohlfesandK.-E.
Jeismann(Stuttgart,1974);Geschichtsunterricht: EntwurfeinesCurriculumsfur die Sekundarstufe
I, ed. J. Rohlfes(Stuttgart,1974)(Extraissue of Geschichtein Wissenschaftund Unterricht).
21. J. Rusen,"Geschichte alsAufklarung?Oder:DasDilemmadeshistorischenDenkenszwischen
Herrschaftund Emanzipation,"Geschichteund Geseilschaft7 (1981),189-218.
22. A. Kuhn,Einfuhrungin die Didaktikder Geschichte.
23. Cf. R. Schorken'ssummarizingessayin "DerlangeWegzumGeschichtscurriculum: Curriculum-
verfahrenunterder Lupe,"Geschichtsdidaktik 2 (1977),254-269, 335-353.

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284 JORN ROSEN

The fourthproblem-the analysisof the nature,function, and importanceof


historicalconsciousness-is, in myopinion,the mostinterestingissuefor scholars
of historicalstudies.Historicalconsciousnessis the generalcategorythat deals
not only withthe learningand teachingof history,but coverseveryformof his-
toricalthinking:throughit one experiencesthe past and interpretsit as history.
Its analysisthus covershistoricalstudiesas well as the use and functionof his-
tory in privateand publiclife. The Germandiscussionof this subjecthas been
richand variedand it is impossiblefor me to sum it up here.24Letme, therefore,
mention what I considerthree of the most importantpoints.
First,historicalconsciousnesscannotbe merelyequatedwiththe simpleknowl-
edge of the past. Historicalconsciousnessgives structureto historicalknowl-
edgeas the mediumfor understandingpresenttime and for anticipatingthe fu-
ture. It is a complex combinationthat contains an apprehensionof the past
regulatedbytheneedto understandthe presentandexpectthe future.If historians
cometo realizethe essentialconnectionof the threetimedimensionsin the struc-
tureof historicalconsciousness,they could avoidthe widelyacceptedacademic
prejudicethat assumeshistorydeals only with the past: that it has nothingto
do with the problemsof the presentand even less to do with the future.
Second,historicalconsciousnesscan be analyzedas a coherentset of mental
operationsthat definethe peculiarityof historicalthinkingand the functionit
playsin humanculture.Herethe discussionaboutthe narrativestructureof his-
toricalexplanationis extremelyuseful.25Historicalnarrationis morethana single
specificformof historiography. Contemporaryinterpretersof this issue (for ex-
ample,HaydenWhiteand Paul Ricoeur)presenthistoricalnarrationas a basic
mentalprocedurethat makessense of the past in orderto orient practicallife
withintime.26Tounderstandthis operationfullywemustfirstidentifythe proce-
duresof historicalnarration,defineits manifoldcomponents,describetheirco-
herenceand interrelations,and constructa typologythat includestheirappear-
anceunderdifferentcircumstancesandtimes.27Whenthisis donewecanacquire
an understandingof how the past acquiresits specifichistoricaldesign,and of
how historyis constitutedby specificspeechacts, formsof communication,and
patternsof thought.All of this can give us an insightinto the culturalfunction
of historicalthought and argumentationin social life.

24. Aboveall seeK.-E.Jeismann,GeschichtealsHorizontderGegenwart:Uberden Zusammen-


hangvon Vergangenheitsdeutung, GegenwartsverstandnisundZukunftsperspektive (Paderborn, 1985);
R. Schorken,"Geschichtsdidaktik undGeschichtsbewusstsein," Geschichtein Wissenschaft und Un-
terricht23 (1972),81-89;and U. A. J. Becher,"Personaleund historischeIdentitat,"in Geschichts-
didaktik:Theoriefur die Praxis,ed. Bergmannand Rusen,57-66.
25. Cf. HistorischesErzahlen,ed. Quandtand Suissmuth; A. J. Becher,"DidaktischePrinzipien
derGeschichtsdarstellung,"in Geschichtsdarstellung:
Determinanten undPrinzipien,ed. K.-E.Jeis-
mann and S. Quandt(Gottingen,1982),22-38; and J. Rusen,HistorischeVernunft.
26. H. White,Metahistory:TheHistoricalImaginationin Nineteenth-Century Europe(Baltimore,
1973);H. White, Tropicsof Discoursew Essays in CulturalCriticism(Baltimore,1978);H. White,
"TheQuestionof Narrativein ContemporaryHistoricalTheory,"Historyand Theory22 (1984),
1-33;P. Ricoeur,"NarrativeTime,"CriticalInquiry7 (1981),169-190;P. Ricoeur,"TheNarrative
Function,"Semeia 13 (1978),177-202.
27. Cf. Rusen,"Dievier Typendes historischenErzahlens."

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THE DIDACTICSOF HISTORYIN WEST GERMANY 285
Here the theory of history (which analyzesthe fundamentalsof historical
studies)andthe didacticsof history(whichanalyzesthe fundamentalsof histor-
icaleducation)coincidein theiranalysesof the narrativeoperationsof historical
consciousnesswithits attendantsystematicconnections.28 In so doing,theyover-
come the unfortunateseparationthat has existed between scholarlyreflection
upon the natureof historyand didacticreflectionon the use of historyin prac-
tical life. The didacticsof historyhas regainedthe position it had occupiedat
the beginningof history'sdevelopmentas a professionaldiscipline,namelyas
playinga centralrolein the processof reflectionon the historian'sactivities.The
disciplineof historycan no longer be consideredas an activitydivorcedfrom
the needs of practicallife.
Third,throughits analysesof the operationsof the historicalconsciousness
andthe functionit fulfills,thatis, by orientinglife withinthe frameworkof time,
the didacticsof historycan bringabout new insightsinto the role of historical
knowledgeand its augmentationin practicallife. We can learn that historical
consciousnesscanplayan importantrolein thosementaloperationswhichshape
humanidentity,enablinghumanbeingstherebyto preservethemselvesthrough
communicationwith others.By focusingupon the questionof historicaliden-
tity, the didacticsof historystressesa crucialelementin the understandingof
the internalstructureof historicalthoughtand argumentationas well as of its
functionin humanlife. If we can considerhistoricaleducationas an intentional
and organizedprocessof identityformationthat remembersthe past in order
to understandthe presentand anticipatethe future,thenthe didacticsof history
can no longerbe dismissedas being extraneousto the concernsof professional
historians.They now can considerand explicatetheir own historicalresearch
as part of that crucialprocessof identityformation.Historianscan now con-
sidertheir researchand writingas specificwaysto realizethose operationsof
historicalconsciousnesswhich providehuman beings with securityand self-
persistencein the faceof change.In addition,theycanpresentthe resultsof their
researchas conclusionsarrivedat throughthe use of reason. This reasoncan
be appliedto all those forms and uses of historicalthinkingwherearguments,
not poweror domination,should solve problems.
To concludethis discussion,I would like to raise one more question. With
which form of historicalinvestigation,with which theoreticalframeworkand
methodologicalapproachcouldthe didacticsof historybe treatedas a homoge-
neouspartof historicalstudies?How canall thesepointsI havementioned- the
methodologyof classroominstruction,curriculumreform,researchin the area
of publiclife, and investigationinto the structure,process,and functionof his-
toricalconsciousness-be combined?The didacticsof historyshould havethe
structureof a specialdiscipline.Weshouldbe able to distinguishit from other,
relateddisciplinessuchas epistemology,the sociologyof knowledge,pedagogics,

Prinzip,"in Geschichtsdidaktik,
Erzahlenals geschichtsdidaktisches
28. Cf. Rusen,"Historisches
Gesellschaft,ed. Behreand Norborg.
Geschichtswissenschaft,

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286 JORN ROSEN

and psychology.Giventhis imperative,the definitionof the didacticsof history


as that disciplinethat investigateshistoricalconsciousnessis too broad.
I wouldlike to proposea moremodestdefinitionof the didacticsof history's
objectof inquiry.Its goal is to investigatehistoricallearning.29Historicallearning
is one of the dimensionsand manifestationsof historicalconsciousness.It is
a fundamentalprocessof humansocializationand individuationand formsthe
core for all of these operations.The basic questionasks how the past is experi-
encedand interpretedin orderto understandthe presentand anticipatethe fu-
ture.Learningis the frameworkin whichthe differentfieldsof didacticalinterest
areunitedinto a coherentstructure.It determinesthe subjectmatterof the his-
toryof didacticsas wellas the specifictheoreticalandmethodologicalapproaches
to it. Theoretically,the didacticsof historyhas to conceptualizehistoricalcon-
sciousnessas a structureandprocessof learning.Hereit is necessaryto reformu-
lateideasabouthistoricalconsciousnessas beinga basicfactorin the formation
of humanidentityby relatingthese conceptsto the educationalprocess,which
is also basic to humandevelopment.Methodologically,the didacticsof history
can use establishedmethodsof psychologyand sociologyand restructurethem
to accordto the peculiarityof the historicalconsciousness.30 Withrespectto the
reflectionsupon the specificteachingand learningprocessesin the classroom,
the didacticsof historycan choose the elementsof pedagogicsthat pertainto
the peculiarityof historicalconsciousness.Whatone mustrememberhereis that
teachinghistoryaffectslearninghistoryand the learningof historyshapesthe
abilityto orientoneselfto life and to forma coherentand stablehistoricaliden-
tity. So too, in the field of public life, the focus upon the learningexperience
should lead to a coherentprogramof researchand explanation.Finally,with
respectto the realprocessof historyinstructionin the school, the emphasisupon
historicallearningcan reanimatethe teachingand learningof historyby em-
phasizingthe fact that historyis a matterof experienceand interpretation.As
so conceived,the didacticsof history,or the scienceof historicallearning,may
demonstrateto the professionalhistorianthe internalconnectionsamong his-
tory and practicallife and learning.This, morethan anythingelse, can give new
meaningto the phrase,historiavitae magistra.

Ruhr UniversitdtBochum

29. J. Rohlfes,UmrisseeinerDidaktikder Geschichte[1971](Gottingen,1976);J. Rusen,"An-


satzezu einerTheoriedeshistorischen LernensI: FormenundProzesse," 10(1985),
Geschichtsdidaktik
249-265;part II, ibid. 12 (1987), 15-27.
30. Cf. W.Reulecke,"Lernpsychologische Ammerkungen zum'historischen Geschichts-
Lernen',"
didaktik10 (1985),267-271.

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