History Syllabus Has Us Gasping': History in Canada Schools -- Past, Present, and Future" by Ken Osborne
Canada's history as a nation goes as far back during the 10th-16th centuries, where prehistoric civilization and eventual colonization of its people happened. After the colonial period, Canada finally achieved its freedom from the British and French forces in 19th century, where the American Revolution and War of 1812 that occurred in the United States influenced Canada's freedom from colonial rule.
Thus, as the 20th century arrived, Canada is rebuilding its country as a nation. Social institutions were established, which includes the educational system, considered as an essential tool in developing Canada's citizens as future leaders and providers to the country's progress. After two world wars that left the whole world crippled, Canadians had once again rebuilt their nation during the years 1930s-1940s, wherein significant social changes have occurred. These social changes involves themes like Canadian Nationalism, emphasizing on the role of each citizen to partake in knowing the country's historical heritage and the vital role of the society and the individual to do their duties and responsibilities as citizens of the nation.
Indeed, developing a sense of nationality, citizenship, and patriotism in every Canadian citizen is an issue that Ken Osborne tackles in his discourse entitled, "Our History Has Us Gasping': History in Canada Schools -- Past, Present, and Future." In this article, Osborne analyzes the nation's struggle in propagating and teaching Canadian history to its students (through educational institutions). The author posits that, more than any other factor that influences perceptions about Canadian history teaching, the ability to think historically is society's ability to apply Canada's history to issues (past and current) that are significant and relevant in the development of nationalism, patriotism, and citizenship in the minds of every Canadian. The texts that follow discuss Osborne's analysis and suggestions to solve the problem of teaching history to Canada's young citizens (students).
Early on in his discourse, Osborne presents to his readers that the Canadian government faces as it tries to promote a nationalistic and patriotic character among its citizens by educating the people about Canada's history. Osborne sets out to question whether, indeed, national identity and citizenship can be developed through an education of Canadian history. He states, "[s]hould the teaching of history be related to the practice of citizenship?... should history be... A vehicle for the formation of national identity?... The best way to explore these questions in a Canadian context is to examine the teaching of history historically..."
The author's discussion regarding the history of history teaching in Canada's educational system is categorized into two phases, or periods: the first phase includes the years 1930-1950s, considered as the Traditional mode of teaching history in schools, and the second phase emerged in 1960s and continues up to the present year, dubbed as the Progressive mode of history teaching. Each mode subsisted to various techniques that brought about significant changes in developing important points that must be kept in mind when teaching history via classroom lecture and discussion. Both modes, however, have different effects on history teaching in the classrooms: Progressive mode of teaching resulted to a more positive reception of Canadian history as a class subject compared to the more technical and boring Traditional mode of teaching history.
In the Traditional mode of teaching history, "history was... consisting only of 'a recital of facts in chronological order'... saying nothing about the reasons and motives underlying events, and totally failing to fulfill 'its proper functions of giving one background for a better present and future citizenship." The Traditional mode, in effect, focuses more on the technical aspects of teaching history, which only involves the transmission of information about Canada's history from instructor to the students. Because of this technical transmission of information, "Canadian history... has been and is 'factualized' to the point of boredom..." Osborne also discusses how the method of "information transmission" in history subjects makes the history "a static recital of facts," causing boredom and passive participation on the students' part.
Osborne puts emphasis on the receptivity and interest of history teaching to students, since the youth are the primary receivers of this information (Canadian history). The importance of the youth in understanding and developing in them their nation's history is reflected on the fact that…