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.