This book is a scientific study. What is a scientific study?
A study is research based on data gathered methodically and analysed rigorously to convincingly demonstrate one or more ideas.
How long did your study take?
The 3,423 statements that form the basic material for the study were collected between 2003 and 2013. This is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.
Who were the subjects of the study?
The statements were gathered from Secondary IV and V students in schools in many regions of Québec. The collection also includes statements produced by cégep and university students. The statements were gathered from Francophones, Anglophones and Allophones.
How did you conduct the survey?
The survey was held in class anonymously (the respondents did not have to identify themselves), suddenly (they were not prepared for the survey) and with few guidelines (no answers were considered unacceptable or inadequate out of hand).
Why did you conduct this study?
The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that young people know generally without knowing specifically. In other words, young people have strong visions of Québec’s past without detail knowledge of what happened. Indeed, the ignorance of the young people is not an emptiness waiting to be filled, but a fullness that can be turned into account.
Whose idea was the project?
I designed the project. I also began the research and obtained the funding required to carry it out. I engaged a team of assistants – master’s and doctoral students – who carried out various tasks. I want to mention in particular the extensive contribution of Raphaël Gani to this process. Many teachers and professors also helped gather the data by agreeing to have their students answer the survey.
What are the main results of the study?
There are many, many results, so I will limit myself to mentioning one: the historical perspectives of young people are complex, hard to understand and even more difficult to account for in light of the diagnosis of ignorance.
Why is this book interesting?
We know lots about the knowledge that is transferred to youth. We know far less about the knowledge they receive, internalize, understand and put to use to construct meaning that is useful to them. The value of this work is that it lays bare the system of representations that Québec youth hold about the past of their society. This is the most exhaustive study that has been led to date in Québec and in Canada.
Why is this book relevant to the reform of the teaching of history proposed by the Parti Québécois?
It is unfortunate that the PQ government has decided to reform the History and Citizenship Education program without first conducting a serious study of its virtues and shortcomings. Much has been said about the deficit of young people’s knowledge about Québec’s past. When it comes to ideas about history, the true religion in Québec, feelings run extremely high. This study provides fuel for a more grounded and more nuanced re-examination of the historical education of young Quebecers.
What makes the book original?
The idea behind the book is the simplest but also the most promising I have ever had. Studies based on mine have been conducted in France, Catalonia, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, English Canada and French Ontario. It is original in that, to test the historical conceptions of young people, rather than restrict them to the structure of an established questionnaire created to assess their answers according to standardized criteria, we let them speak freely and respected what they said and analysed it as stated. By doing this, we discovered what remains of what is transmitted to them; we also discovered the visions of history that they create from what they hear about the past. In this way, we got right into the heart of the structuring representations of collective identity that they translate to their own individual scale.
Who is this book for?
Teachers, professors and education students, of course, who are directly affected by the content of the book, but also anyone interested in young people’s relationship with the past; people who are concerned about the way history is presented in the public space; people who are worried about historical education; people who want to know whether, in terms of the interpretation of Québec’s past, there are differences between Francophones and Anglophones, between boys and girls, among young people at different educational levels, between youth and the general public, between youth who have taken the History and Citizenship Education course and those who haven’t.
Why did you choose this cover?
Besides the fact the Garnotte’s brilliant caricature is closely related to the content of the book, it is a nudge to people who, quick to judge, consider today’s youth to be ignorant of history, careless of their connection to their predecessors, uninterested in anything that relates to the past and depoliticized. It is true that most young people do not know the name of the first premier of Québec. So what? Their smart phone can tell them in three seconds! They may not have encyclopedic minds, but young people are nevertheless inhabited by visions of history that, in general, reflect the identity themes of their reference community, whether that community is Francophone or Anglophone.