Click on the image to read this short blog post: “Imagine you are in school and asked to write down, in a page or two, the history of your country, your nation or your homeland (patria) as you know it. While this task may sound trivial, it tells us some important facets of people’s ability to use knowledge of the past for constructing a meaningful historical narrative.”
“When I moved from Montreal to Toronto four years ago, I was startled by the contrast of assumptions in each city regarding what Canada stood for, its history, and what issues were most important.
My personal experience finds an echo in the “Je me souviens” project, a recent study showing the enduring gap of historical consciousness between Anglophone and Francophone youth, in spite of increasing bilingualism in Quebec. This gap is built into us, as the study shows, long before formal history courses, which provide more facts while doing little to change our broader perspective on Canada. How we think about our country derives not from our actual knowledge of its history, but rather from the general public sphere in which we are immersed.”
“The Debate on History Education in Quebec”, in New Possibilities for the Past : Shaping History Education in Canada, Penney Clark (Ed.), Vancouver, UBC Press, 2011, p. 81-96.
In a book that caused quite a stir when it first appeared, the French historian Marc Ferro said that history was under surveillance. How better to characterize the critical activity that since April 2006, has been unleashed against efforts by the Quebec Ministry of Education (MEQ) to transform the national history course previously offered to high school students into a history and citizenship education course. The term “unleashed” is not exaggerated here. It properly conveys the magnitude of the reaction provoked by the ministerial decision to have young Quebecers acquire a broader and more complex comprehension of the Quebec historical experience, with a view toward building the Quebec of tomorrow. As the opponents to the state’s initiative see it, the contemplated reform of the national history course had a quite different and utterly reprehensible goal: undoing the existing corpus of historical references underlying young Quebecers’ historical consciousness. Hence the need, felt by those protesting the new history curriculum, to represent the MEQ’s decision as a Trojan horse leading to the possible dismantling of a collective identity. Such a curriculum, one critic noted, would lead to nothing less than the “tranquil denationalization of Quebec’s identity.”
“Moving beyond the institutional implementation of historical thinking concepts, Thursday’s essays explore historical thinking and consciousness within the broader Canadian public. In the first post of the day, the ‘Pasts Collective’ (Del Muise, Marg Conrad, Gerald Friesen, Kadriye Ercikan, David Northrup, Peter Seixas and Jocelyn Létourneau) summarize the results from their large-scale study on how Canadians engage with the past. Their conclusions teach us much about the level of trust Canadians place in historians’ work and the institutions and resources developed around it. In the afternoon, Jocelyn Létourneau introduces us to the fruit of a similar study he conducted in Quebec, focusing on historical consciousness among Quebec’s youth and the disjuncture between teaching and learning. (Those of you who read French can get an early peek at this on our partner site, HistoireEngagee.ca; it goes live there today).”