A Methodology for Comparing Syllabus Topics Across Educational Contexts
Jason Nicholls had star quality.
I first met him when he came to Oxford to be interviewed as a D.Phil. applicant. We were immediately struck by the warmth of his personality, by his huge intellect, and by his infectious enthusiasm for the topic he was proposing: a study of representations of the Second World War in the school textbooks of a range of countries. I agreed without hesitation to supervise his research.
From our early discussions following his arrival in Oxford it was clear that the subject of his thesis would be problematic. There was first the question of which countries to include. Germany was conspicuously absent from his plan, but Jason felt that without knowledge of the German language he would not be able to do justice to German sources of all kinds. (He was a proficient linguist, able to cope with material in the languages of the other countries initially proposed in his study.) And there was the problem of the precise focus – comparing textbooks could too easily become a catalogue of descriptive, juxtaposed presentations of the content of the textbooks concerned at all levels of the school curriculum and analysis would be difficult.
I suggested to him that he should instead focus on the problems involved in comparing textbooks, and in particular, history textbooks dealing with the War, and especially in selected countries: in other words, on how to undertake such a comparison. The study would then be essentially a contribution...
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