This study illustrates the processes by which eight pairs of adolescents in Northern Ireland struggled to come to grips with tensions between school and community history. Findings are based on data collected through open-ended, semi-structured interviews with students from a variety of backgrounds. Although these students appreciated the attempt by schools to present a neutral and balanced approach to the past, many had difficulty fully engaging with alternative historical perspectives. These findings suggest that a balanced history curriculum may fail to challenge students deeply enough to help them integrate competing views of the past in ways that withstand community pressure. Greater engagement with multiple historical perspectives may require that schools address the affective component of contentious history, that they help students reflect on contemporary representations of the past, and that they expose students to the diversity of perspectives that exist within seemingly monolithic political and religious categories. Keywords: empathy; history education; Northern Ireland; social identity
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