ABSTRACT

National narrative, master narrative, textbook narrative, counternarrative, multiple narratives--the language, though not the ideas behind it, was new to me and to most if not all the high school and college teachers in the audience when our keynote speaker at aNational Endowment for the Humanities summer institute in 1994 challenged us to "problematize the national, the master, the textbook narrative ... to make history messy!"l

As social studies and history teachers in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, we leamed through personal experience that the teaching of history had been on trial in this country for years. Despite the 1988 declaration by the Bradley Commission on History in the Schools that teachers "should feel free to choose their own emphases and ways of teaching, according to their own teaching conditions, interests, and talents," all veterans ofthe classroom in that 1994 summer institute audience knew that the commission's statement did not always ring true.2