By Samantha Cutrara
What is the purpose of learning history? Are we doomed to repeat it? Do we lose grounding? Are we stranded without space or place? Does history provide us with the skills for understanding evidence or content for narrating experience? As adults, as educators, as historians, we answer these questions with a blend of cliché and seriousness, never precisely getting at the reason we sense history’s importance, but never completely abandoning the dime store clichés that frame our popular engagement with the past either. The moral panic that accompanies these questions is often directed toward youth, as if the frivolity of adolescence will somehow erase the past and the lessons it can teach for the future.
It is with this fear that History and Social Studies is often racked with so much public debate about what, how, and why it should be taught. Education historian Ken Osborne has shown that these conversations have been happening in Canada for over a hundred years, with the pendulum shifting to a new fad every 25 years. These debates are often sparked by a panic about the decline of national identity and are used as a rallying call for educational reform by those who want straight facts, those who want historical redemption, or those who want greater transferable skills. But even with all these questions and panic and ideological shifts, do you know what Canadian youth are actually mandated to learn about Canadian history? Continue reading