How Quebec students view the province’s turbulent past.
If obsessive rumination on one’s own history is a measure, Quebec is now highly civilized. Consider the widespread publicity accorded to University of Laval historian Jocelyn Létourneau’s new book, Je me souviens? Le passé du Québec dans la conscience de sa jeunesse. Provocatively, the book’s title is Quebec’s proud motto (“I remember”) undone by a question mark. A study of historical memory in Quebec based on questionnaires completed by more than 2,700 students, it has attracted numerous…
Project Leader: Dr Robert Parkes Principal Researchers: Dr Debra Donnelly, Dr Heather Sharp, Dr Josephine May, Dr Jill Barnes, Mrs Vicki Parkes, Dr Paul Zanazanian, Dr Mark Sheehan, Professor Monika Vinterek, and Mr Robert Thorp.
This project adds a comparative and international dimension to a domestic pilot study funded in 2014. Many nations have experienced public struggle over the national narrative; concerns over whose history is being taught in schools; reports that teachers and school students find history of little interest; and anxieties over what the public knows about the nation’s past. Much of the concern has been driven by survey research that expects an encyclopaedic knowledge of the past. TheRemembering Australia’s Past [RAP] pilot project explored what pre-service History teachers do know, understand, and believe is important about Australia’s past, using an adaptation of a highly successful narrative research methodology developed by Canadian Professor, Jocelyn Létourneau (2006), whose work [See www.tonhistoireduquebec.ca] has already had purchase in parallel projects throughout Europe.
This international comparative pilot project will utilise the same narrative collection methodology that was successful in the 2014 Australian pilot study. Participants will be asked to write for 45 minutes in response to the request to “Tell the history of the nation in your own words”. This project builds directly upon the RAP project work, and extends the scope of the Australian study by: (1) expanding the sampling to include primary pre-service teachers; and (2) adding an international comparative dimension. The sample will include pre-service primary teachers and secondary History teachers in four countries: Australia, Canada, Sweden, and New Zealand.
Why include pre-service primary and secondary History teachers in the sample?
In the 2014 study, narratives were only collected from pre-service secondary History teachers. With the completed roll out of the Australian Curriculum, History is now a mandatory subject from Kindergarten to Year 10 in all Australian states and territories. This means that all Australian primary teachers will also be teachers of history. Expanding the scope of the sampling to include pre-service primary teachers in addition to secondary History teachers, captures a purposive typical case sample of all those who will eventually be teaching history to the nation’s young people. The extended scope of the sample will allow for domestic comparisons between the historical consciousness of pre-service primary and secondary History teachers, and has the potential to speak to a range of public concerns, including (History) teacher preparation.
What criteria have been used to select the four nations participating in this comparative study?
Each of the four nations has been selected because it has a significant Indigenous population that has historically found itself in conflict with the dominant ethnic group. The nations are different, however, in their varied histories of reconciliation between the dominant and Indigenous groups; the part Indigenous histories play in the official stories of the nation; and the degree of attention to Indigenous history in the History curricula (and teaching media) of each country. Key to the comparative study will be determining how the Australian, Canadian, Swedish and New Zealand participants address the Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, First Nation, Sami, or Maori) histories of their nation.
Note: This project is funded through the Faculty of Education and Arts Strategic Networking and Pilot Projects Scheme, at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
7th Graders and Their Pasts: A New Brunswick Case Study
University of New Brunswick
This research presents findings from a case study that involved an entire class of Anglophone 7th grade students in New Brunswick. It expands upon the scholarly work of Canadians and Their Pasts as well as current research surrounding historical consciousness in Canada. The data provides a rare micro glimpse into the ways in which Anglophone youth in New Brunswick are currently engaging with the past. It also reveals some of the collective memory narratives students employ when remembering New Brunswick’s (as well as Canada’s) past. The findings present several points for consideration by both educators and public historians in this province.
“It is perhaps the recent pan-Canadian survey led by Létourneau and his team, Canadians and Their Pasts, that provides the most comprehensive review of people’s understanding and use of history. Using a detailed questionnaire with a representative sample of nearly 3,000 adult Canadians across the country and in both official language, Canadians and Their Pasts offers powerful evidence that “no matter what its source, the extend of the public’s engagement with the past in Canada and elsewhere is remarkable, suggesting that historical consciousness is alive and well.”
“Honestly, I don’t recall anything. But I think there were lots of troubles between French and English Canadians… ” says one 17 year old student when asked to recount the history of Canada. Like many of her counterparts, Annie was initially baffled by the task of writing a historical narrative of Canada because, as she put it, “I don’t recall anything”. Public surveys periodically remind Canadians of the catastrophic state of historical knowledge among youth. “Canada is failing history,” as one newspaper even put it.
This project aims to explore what pre-service History teachers know, understand, and believe is important about Australia’s past. Australia has experienced two decades of public struggle over the national narrative; concerns over whose history is being taught in schools; reports that teachers and school students find Australian history of little interest; and anxieties over what the public knows about the nation’s past. Much of the concern has been driven by survey research that expects an encyclopaedic knowledge of the past. Using an open-ended narrative methodology, this study seeks to find out what participants do know and imagine about the nation’s past when given the opportunity to tell Australia’s history in their own words. The project draws upon a generative research methodology developed by Professor Jocelyn Létourneau (2006) and used over the past decade to investigate the historical consciousness of over 4,000 young French Canadians [See www.tonhistoireduquebec.ca for more details on the Canadian work that inspired our project]. Pioneered in Québec, the methodology has been appropriated by numerous scholars throughout Europe. Létourneau’s method involved approaching a room of participants with the invitation to “Please present or account for the history of Québec since the beginning, the way you see it, remember it, or understand it”. The RAP project seeks to adapt this methodology for an Australian pilot project. Currently, over one-hundred narratives have been collected from first-year pre-service History teachers, and the Research Team is in the process of analysing these narratives for what they tell us about the historical consciousness of pre-service history teachers.
Principal Researchers: Dr Robert Parkes, Dr Debra Donnelly, Dr Heather Sharp, Dr Josephine May, Dr Catherine Hart, and Dr Paul Zanazanian.
Our survey illuminates a number of important themes that have been prominent in media commentary in recent years. Have people lost contact with the past as a result of today’s extraordinary changes in communication? We say, emphatically, no.
This week, on THEN/HiER blog, Heather McGregor expresses her concerns about Canadians & Pasts survey, who’s “Ignoring the Territorial North, Again” :
Nowhere is there a mention of the territorial North broadly speaking, or the Yukon, NWT or Nunavut specifically. And what about Nunavik and Nunatsiavut? Nor (that I could find) is there an explanation for the decision to leave them out. The survey was conducted by phone across the country; that the territories could not be included in this effort puzzled me.
Jocelyn Létourneau was the principal investigator in Community-University Research Alliance Canadians and their Pasts. Here’s a short and recent article written by Del Muise, co-investigator in the project.
Poll Says Canadians Love Their History
Canadians and their Pasts, a Community-University Research Alliance project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, surveyed 3,419 Canadians on their engagement with and attitudes toward the past. Conducted as a telephone survey during 2007-08, its more than 70 questions per interview provide the most nuanced understanding of Canadians’ engagement with the past to date.
Among other things, the survey puts paid to commonly held notions that Canadians are uninformed about or uninterested in the past. In fact, considerable interest and activity regarding the broad field of history was reported; Canadians visit museums and historic sites and watch history related movies and television as well as reading history related books and magazines. So much more of Canada’s history is available in so many media that access to the past has flourished in the past few decades.
What can we conclude? Our survey illuminates a number of important themes that have been prominent in media commentary in recent years. Have people lost contact with the past as a result of today’s extraordinary changes in communication? We say, emphatically, no. Do they express any interest in Canada’s history? Yes, quite clearly they do. Are ethnic and religious loyalties evident in the pattern of their responses? Yes, without question, but regional and linguistic differences were not as significant as we had anticipated. Do immigrants differ in some way from the Canadian-born in their relationship to the past? Not nearly as much as has been suggested in public debates in other countries. Do interprovincial migrants have a distinctive view of Canada’s past? Yes, like immigrants, they express greater interest in Canada’s past than many of their fellow citizens. Do Canadians differ from Americans and Australians? In some matters, yes, but the bigger story is the presence of an internationally shared perspective.
Abstract of a talk to be made at Prague on October 10th 2014, in the conference School vs. Memory? Conflict, Identity, Coexistence
The aim of the talk is to propose a pragmatic approach to teaching the past to kids in the context of a strong presence of community memories everywhere in society, assuming that kids learn history in and out of the classroom. The proposed approach comes from a study effectuated in Quebec (www.tonhistoireduquebec.ca) which consisted in gathering short narratives (N = 5000) and phrases (N = 3423) produced by students responding to two questions: 1) “Tell me the story of Quebec as you know it;” 2) “If you had to summarize in one sentence the historical experience of Quebec, what would you write personally?”
Analysing this corpus is fascinating in that it brings us to where students are in terms of their knowledge of the past. Instead of addressing the question of history teaching from the perpective of the «abstract kid», we are more in tune with how kids make sense of the world, including past worlds, in amalgamating informations from different sources.
This presentation must be seen as a contribution to explore a more practical way to come to terms with the difficultness of the historical thinking approach, a method hard to implement in the classroom due to the strong presence of memories (family and community) in and out school.