Making History Teaching Fashionable in Canada. (A Matter of Trust)

By Morton, Desmond | Canadian Speeches, May-June 2002 | Go to article overview

Making History Teaching Fashionable in Canada. (A Matter of Trust)


Morton, Desmond, Canadian Speeches


Ignorance abounds in Canada concerning our history and heritage. The lack of emphasis on history and understanding the roots of our country is common in the educational system. Understanding our history is imperative to Canada's future as a country, to understanding today's social, political and civic issues that stem from the past. Organizations such as Historica, and the History Channel are striving to dispel this ignorance of our history to better benefit our future. A lecture at McGill University, Montreal, Apr11 18, 2002.

"The past is a foreign country," wrote an otherwise obscure English novelist, L.P. Hartley, "they do things differently there." An American scholar, David Lowenthal, borrowed the phrase for a book that distinguishes between history and heritage. History, he suggests, is the past; heritage is what we make of it. You see the difference at Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, at Old Fort Henry or in the Secondary Fourth History Exam in Quebec. We start with a concern for the past; we finish preoccupied by a concern for politically-correct interpretation, for attracting paying visitors, for ensuring that approved values and concepts have been memorized by the young.

The past does not change but its interpretation can alter radically. In Quebec, for example, Laval's Jocelyn Letourneay caused deep offence to the nationalists by arguing that their cause has worked. French is stronger. There is, in contemporary Canada, both "sovereignty and association."

More radically, Gerard Bouchard's proposed "Americanicite" invites us to trace our roots from America's first people, as is common in Mexico and Peru, rather than from European ancestors. This does not change history but certainly alters the perspective and the "us." Both Bouchard and Letourneau use history as a feedstock for altering heritage. Both use the past to interpret the present, for reasons that are not hard to understand. Neither is utterly new. Marius Barbeau, T.F. McIlwraith and other Canadian ethnologists in the 1930s antedated Bouchard's arguments and George Brown, George Stanley and other English-speaking historians denounced the doom-laden teaching of Lionel Groulx's disciples in the so-called Montreal School. History is perennially "new" and also old.

"We haven't a clue"

Back in 1997, the Donner Foundation financed the young Dominion Institute to hire pollsters from Angus Reid to ask more or less the same kind of questions of 1,024 Canadians, 18 to 24. The results, announced on Canada Day, 1997, were more or less what the reporter usually discovered. Most Canadians had no idea when Confederation happened and a third did not even know the right century. Most (63%) knew that MacDonald was our first premier though, in Quebec, the share dropped to 28%. En revanche 79% of the Quebeckers knew that Wilfrid Laurier was our first francophone prime minister, but only 33% of the Newbrunswickers. Two out of every five imagined the Canada had fought France, Britain, and Russia during the two world wars. No one could define "responsible government" because no one dared ask the question.

Later the year, on. the 50th anniversary of Citizenship Day, 1947, the Institute announced that 45% of 1,350 Canadians had flunked a standardized twelve-question citizenship test. Respondents could not name all three of the oceans that border Canada nor the event that brought the original provinces together. Most thought that Canada's head of state is the prime minister (come to think of it, so did Brian Mulroney). And the tests keep coming. Last Remembrance Day revealed that some Canadians believed we attacked Pearl Harbour. Some kind of wish fulfillment, perhaps. In ensuing years, Canadians have grown used to a twice-yearly reminder that "we haven't a clue" about ourselves.

Canadian ignorance of our history is now commonplace, and not just among professors. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Making History Teaching Fashionable in Canada. (A Matter of Trust)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.