Canada is failing history
Old 06-17-2009, 10:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Marc Chalifoux and J.D.M. Stewart

Canada is failing history
To function in a modern democracy, citizens must understand the country’s past. We must teach them.



As high school students across the country sit to write their final examinations this month, Canadians may be shocked to discover that few of them will be tested on what they know about Canada's history.

For more than a decade, the Dominion Institute has commissioned surveys chronicling the national malaise about Canada's history: Four in 10 Canadians cannot name our first prime minister or identify the year of Confederation. Young Canadians often know even less about our country's past than their parents or grandparents.

The Dominion Institute decided to find out what exactly was required of high-school students in Canada when it comes to learning about the country's past. What events, people and themes are they required to learn in our nation's classrooms? What skills are they expected to acquire?

The results, found in the just-released Canadian History Report Card (the full report is available at report-card.dominion.ca), are troubling. The institute's analysis of provincial and territorial curriculums revealed that:

Four provinces failed and deserve the F they received;

No province received an A;

Only four provinces - Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia - require Canadian history as a mandatory course in high school. The others do not;

Most provinces simply offer courses in “social studies,” catch-all courses that generally ignore Canadian history (with the notable exception of British Columbia).

The report's findings showed that, as a country, we are letting our students down when it comes to educating them about Canada's past. Too many provinces do not take the teaching of Canadian history seriously. Provincial ministries of education must be responsible for what they ask - or do not ask - teachers to teach their students.

Why should we care about the teaching of history? Class time is limited and there are many important subjects to teach, but Canadian history cannot be lost. For citizens to function in a modern democracy such as Canada's, they must develop an appreciation and understanding of the country's past.

We believe that all provinces and territories in Canada should change their graduation requirements by insisting on not one but two courses in Canadian history before leaving high school. Currently, only Quebec requires two history courses to graduate.

A single course in Canadian history is not enough to develop a deep understanding of the past. In Ontario, for example, high-school students do not learn about the 50 years following Confederation, skipping everything it seems from John A. Macdonald to the settlement of the West. Courses that try to cover 400 years of history in a single course - such as Manitoba's - will inevitably skim over crucial content.

The curriculum must also find the right balance between national history on the one hand and provincial/regional history on the other. The usual suspect in this regard, Quebec, has recently reviewed its curriculum and should be applauded for adopting what appears as a far more pan-Canadian perspective.

The Dominion Institute recommends that a core body of knowledge and terms of national significance be developed and included in all history curriculums across the country. It is unacceptable to think that students can graduate from high school without learning about the First or Second World War, Canada-U.S. relations or about the history of aboriginal Canadians.

Learning about history is not only about the specific knowledge that students acquire, but also the important skills - critical thinking and research, for example - that they develop in the classroom. The history curriculum must allow students to learn to use primary sources (diaries, artifacts, treaties, photographs, interviews) as they bring students face to face with history; these can ignite a lifelong passion for the subject. If your child is being taught history only through a textbook, you should be worried.

The Dominion Institute does not pretend to have all the answers, but it is clear that something must be done. The goal of the Canadian History Report Card is to begin a wide-ranging debate on the teaching of Canadian history to the next generation of citizens.

If we intend to nurture the past and give a vital “thrust of intention into the future,” in the words of political philosopher George Grant, then we are going to have to do a better job of educating our young people about our history.

The facts are in. We are not teaching enough Canadian history in our schools. As a result, we are failing our students and putting our country's future in jeopardy. We must demand better.

Marc Chalifoux is executive director of the Dominion Institute and J.D.M. Stewart is a teacher of Canadian history at Bishop Strachan School in Toronto.
Interesting article and I couldn't agree with it more. The fact that very few people don't know about Canada's role in WWI or the important Rebellions in Manitoba or hell, the significance of the Orange party in early Canadian politics irks me.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:00 AM   #2 (permalink)
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same thing goes for geography. york university used to have a world class canadian department. after the last retiree from that department left they replaced him with an autocad instructed and a gis technician. very valuable staff, undoubtedly, but there is no longer anyone that teaches canadian.

with no sense of history, no sense of the geographical history, and no sense of the polarization between regions of the coutry, it's remarkable that our high school grads have any idea how this country works. and this is by no means their fault. our curriculum has some incrediby ill-conceived intentions.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I completely forgot about regionalism. Most Canadian Historians/Political Scientists aware of how complex an idea it is and become incredibly frustrated that the youth of Canada have no apparent clue about it. Canada is an incredibly complex society. Hell, even our borderlands are complex.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Geography and History were two of my favourite subjects.

They don't pay the bills though.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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that's eactly the problem pb. universities have become job training, which is the traditional role of community college, instead institutes of higher learning. using the 'paying the bills' rationale, we should all become highjly specialized in particular tasks or trades, but what kind of world would that leave us in?
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:20 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I know I'm not saying they don't pay the bills for me...although they don't, I mean they don't pay the bills for anyone, and unfortunately, that's what universities are for nowadays, paying the bills, getting a job.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:20 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Here's the catch though history taught me how to research, analyze, critically think and most importantly write.

Too often today we're simply caught up in numbers and numbers only, yet we refuse to think. History, English etc. taught me skills that are invaluable today. Sure they don't "pay the bills" but I'm glad that I had the opportunity to learn what I did as I'm a better person for it.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I was once told, the person who goes to university to get a job will always be a failure. The person who goes to university to learn leaves a wealthy man.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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They pay if you become a geography/history prof or teacher.

It's sad that the humanities are disappearing, but it's a sign of the times.

Unfortunately, Universities now conduct themselves like large corporations.
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Old 06-17-2009, 12:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I thought Universities were supposed to be places where you went to expand your mind... learn how to think.... regardless of what your studies centred on.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:32 PM   #11 (permalink)
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why do ppl become teachers when most of them dont like to teach?? i always wondered that, or do they lose their passion somewhere?? One signifigant teacher can change a childs life and how they view schooling in general, unfortunately i think those teachers are coming few and far between and are on the same level of "paying the bills", rolling thru their little answer books and just having kids memorize boring facts instead of exciting them about history and other things.
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Old 06-18-2009, 08:32 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I agree Ugo. I had, key word is had, friends who became teachers. None of them should've entered the profession as the majority saw it as a way to get a well paying job, with great benefits and time off. I called them out on it and well, now we're now longer friends.

It's sad though, because I'd probably argue that at most 40% of the people who do the job really like to teach. The rest do it as a day to day job.
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Old 06-18-2009, 08:48 AM   #13 (permalink)
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My friend is a high school English teacher. He pours his heart and soul into his job and has the ability to make even the most unmotivated, "troubled" students actually care about learning for eighty minutes a day.

From what I can gather, it's not so much the teachers that are failing students and for that matter the entire school system, but rather it's the school's administrations (principals and VP's) that are dropping the ball. Most of them are older, dont care anymore and are just counting down the days until they can retire.

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Old 06-18-2009, 11:04 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acie View Post
From what I can gather, it's not so much the teachers that are failing students and for that matter the entire school system, but rather it's the school's administrations (principals and VP's) that are dropping the ball. Most of them are older, dont care anymore and are just counting down the days until they can retire.
absolutely. I am married to a high school teacher so i hear a lot about the administrative workings of her school and the board. Yeah - most administration sucks big time. big time.
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Old 06-19-2009, 09:23 AM   #15 (permalink)
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When I was in school, it was the teachers. Four years of high school and I had, at the most, 5 quality teachers (out of, how many? 35?) . I did well in those classes and horribly in the others. People may say that was my fault but I was one of those students who, if the class and subject matter wasn't made interesting by a teacher who cared about his or her job, became disenchanted, bored and apathetic. I was fortunate that in my second last semester, I had 3 - count 'em, three! - excellent teachers. I remember thinking, "Is this what it could have been like?" Next semester was horrible and I gave up and dropped out. Through some private dealings, I was able to get into a prestigious art college program but by that point, I'd picked up so many bad habits, I was doomed to fail from the start and that was it for my educational journey.
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:14 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Nice attempt to blame others for your shortcomings as a student.
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:28 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Nice attempt to blame others for your shortcomings as a student.
Hey, you'll know who to look for when all of your guitars malfunction tonight.

I was a student who needed to be motivated. That's partly what teachers are - motivators. They motivate by making things interesting. When you have a teacher who leaves every 15 minutes to smoke in the teacher's lounge or one who keeps a bottle of rye in their desk drawer, like, what the hell. I barely passed most of the time but when the teacher was good, I was a totally different student.

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Old 06-19-2009, 10:32 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Hey, you'll know who to look for when all of your guitars malfunction tonight.

I was a student who needed to be motivated. That's partly what teachers are - motivators. They motivate by making things interesting. When you have a teacher who leaves every 15 minutes to smoke in the teacher's lounge or one who keeps a bottle of rye in their desk drawer, like, what the hell. I barely passed most of the time but when the teacher was good, I was a totally different student
Let's hope there's a wardrobe malfunction behind the bar.

And I agree, but I don't know how motivated you'd be to teach a bunch of disrespectful long haired twerps with blood shot eyes sleeping in the back of the class.

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Old 06-19-2009, 10:44 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Let's hope there's a wardrobe malfunction behind the bar.

And I agree, but I don't know how motivated you'd be to teach a bunch of disrespectful long haired twerps with blood shot eyes sleeping in the back of the class.
From what I remember, that wasn't a very large portion of the class. I was the same long-haired, crusty blood shot guy in Mr. Brown's class as I was in Mr. Misener's.

Teachers go on about how they want to 'make a difference' so that gives me the right to call them out. They know the affect they can have. I do think it's a lot different these days though. I think we had the last remnants of the old fashioned teachers with their brown slacks, wool vests and uber-functional shoes. Just thinking about them makes me want to fall asleep on this desk. Meet me in the smokehole.
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:50 AM   #20 (permalink)
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unsurprisingly, i have to disagree. education will never be effective unless you put your all into it. i had plenty of good teachers, and that definitley helped, but i had plenty of horrible ones too, and i still did well in ther classes. i was always just jazzed to learn, to seek out new things. the best teachers are teachers that can motivate, but the best students are the ones that can motivate themselves. and that doesn't stop when school is finished. there's a good reason that employers tend to look for self-starters. initiative is crucial in every facet of life, and that basic understanding and effort arises when you are just a kid. learn to motivate yourself and you will always be effective. learn to wait for others to motivate you, and you'll spend a lot of time, well, waiting...
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