Teaching history (M. Colas)

The profession of history and geography teacher has undergone many upheavals in recent years, between training reforms (the famous "mastering"), changes in programs, the history of the arts, or the optional switch of this teaching in Terminale S. To this, we must add everything related to teaching in general, technical developments among others (the computer tool). Martin Colas's book, Teach history. Between freedom and responsibility (Sedes), aims to help the future history teacher find his way around.

A new context for the history teacher

Training reform, common base and skills booklet, new programs (at college and in high school), ICT more and more present and indispensable, ... the history teacher must face a real revolution, while always being confronted with the responsibilities of his teaching profession, which moreover in a discipline regularly present in public debate, especially in recent years around memorial issues or more recently on programs (“disappearance” of great men, etc.).

The author therefore proposes a "Guide to reflect on current issues in history teaching and to prepare for oral examinations, but also for teaching". The work is organized, like a good historian, in three parts: what history for the school? Why teach history in school? How to teach history in school?

What story for the school?

The first chapter of this guide is very classic, since it begins with a history of the teaching of history in France, from the Revolution to the present day, with an important part given to the Third Republic, "Mother of history".

Then, we enter a more interesting part since it concerns the way of doing history today, through the making of programs for example, the place of chronology or more recently of the history of the arts.

Finally, the last part of this chapter addresses two fundamental questions for the history teacher: the question of the "national novel", and that of the duty of memory / duty of history.

Why teach history in school?

The second chapter gets a little more into the heart of the matter by questioning the purposes of the profession of history teacher.

Intellectual purposes first, for "Understand the story" and serve critical thinking. Civic purposes then, with the role of the history teacher in "Citizenship education".

Finally, cultural purpose, with a "The social objective of a shared culture", including the history of immigration and the history of women.

How to teach history in school?

Finally, the method and the tools. First, how to go from "Scholarly history to school history", by placing the different methods in their context (historical trends), and by emphasizing economic and social history, and political history.

Then, how does the history teacher work, with what tools? Important question in the context of the gradual implementation of IT and digital tools. Here, the author emphasizes more particularly the importance of the document, which is as essential in the teaching of history as in research and the profession of historian in general. Questions around the story and the lecture are also dealt with.

The opinion ofHistory for all

The appendices to the book are rich, with official texts and a very practical thematic bibliography.

Throughout his guide, Martin Colas remains very close to official texts precisely, returning to skills, the Common Base, program instructions. His book is therefore useful for a candidate for competitive examinations, but also for a more experienced teacher who would like to refresh the approach to his profession a little from a clear and well-structured book. To be sure, most of the book's themes can be found in other textbooks, such as historiography, but it has the merit of being a good synthesis, practical to use.

On the other hand, we can only regret the virtual absence of geography and civic education (even if the author tries to justify it at the end of the introduction). This is unfortunately too common in the textbooks of the competitions, but the CAPES is indeed that of history-geography, and the professor is also in charge of the ECJS. He wonders about these three disciplines, and how not only to teach each one, but even more to coordinate them. The logic and spirit of this profession would therefore finally see the light of day a true teacher's guide encompassing history, geography and civic education.

About the author: Martin Colas is a college professor of history, geography and civics.

- Mr. Colas, Teach history. Between freedom and responsibility, Sedes, 2011.

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