Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Discovering, Recovering, and Covering-Up Canada: Tracing Historical Citizenship Discourses in K-12 and Adult Immigrant Citizenship Education

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Discovering, Recovering, and Covering-Up Canada: Tracing Historical Citizenship Discourses in K-12 and Adult Immigrant Citizenship Education

Article excerpt

During the past twenty years, there has been a resurgence of interest in citizenship education in Canada in both K-12 schooling policy and program materials designed for adult immigrants. Because Canada has one of the highest rates of immigration in the world and was the first country to develop an official policy of multiculturalism,1 it is known for integrating diverse cultures. There is a pattern of tension between more assimilationist and more integrationist and equity-based interventions in education (Joshee, 2004), and these tensions reflect different approaches to diversity, citizenship, and changes in socio-economic and political conditions in the country (Osbourne, 2000a). A rise of neoliberal discourses in policy on education and citizenship that focuses on individualism and social cohesion has been widely documented by researchers and scholars (Joshee, 2007, 2009; Reid, Gill and Sears, 2010; Richardson, 2008; among others).

This paper offers a critical analysis of current discourses of diversity in Canadian citizenship education and the ways they reflect, revise, or reassert those that were prominent in the past. First, we outline the contemporary ideological context in which nationhood is iterated through citizenship and education policies and practices. We frame this context using Joshee's (2009) identification of three main ideologies driving discourses of citizenship and diversity in contemporary educational policy: liberal social justice, neoliberal, and neoconservative. Next, we build on the work of Joshee and Johnson (2007) who identify three historical discourses: commonwealth, mosaic, and social action. Using these points of reference, we conducted a critical discourse analysis to identify traces of the historical citizenship discourses relating to cultural diversity from K-12 educational policy and secondary school social studies curricula in two of Canada's largest English-speaking provinces, Ontario and Alberta. We compare these findings with discourses evident in the new citizenship study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, produced by the federal government for use by adults preparing for the citizenship test. (2) Finally, connecting to contemporary ideologies, we raise the implications of our findings for equity and diversity-oriented education policy. We find that the opportunities within educational curricula advocating liberal social justice discourses are taking a background to those that promote social cohesion and a narrow vision of Canadian identity and history. In this way, there is a silencing of more progressive ideals of engaging with difference and committing to social action policies formerly present in educational policy. At the provincial K-12 level, a neoliberal understanding of individualism is dominant. At the federal level, this shift recovers the imperial roots of Canadian citizenship ideals while covering up the strong history of equity, diversity, and civic action.

Context and Theoretical Framework

The concept of being a citizen of a nation involves drawing boundaries that determine who does and does not belong (Pashby, 2008). In Canada, citizenship status and membership in the nation has been tied intimately to the pursuit of colonial practices of territorial acquisition and encounters with so-called native societies (Anderson, 2006; Richardson, 2008; Willinsky, 1998). Citizenship in Canada, as in other countries, has historically been conceptualized in the image of the autonomous White male individual (Goldberg, 1993). French Canadians received certain language rights, and Catholic minorities in English Canada and Protestant minorities in French Canada received education rights. The government defined members of the diverse First Nations communities via a legal Indian status, which simultaneously provisioned certain rights and defined "Indians" in colonial terms as other than Canadian. This had a particular implication for women who lost this status if they married a non-"Indian. …

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