Article Analysis The Purposes Of Teaching Canadian History


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Introducing Academic History students to the idea of historical consciousness.

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Article Analysis The Purposes Of Teaching Canadian History

  1. 1. Article Analysis: “The Purposes of Teaching Canadian History” Peter Seixas, Canada Research Chair in Education, University of British Columbia Canadian Social Studies, Volume 36, Number 2, Winter 2002 Tuesday, September 1, 2009 1
  2. 2. Introduction Quote Meaning pg 1 - “Defining the purposes -we have to make the aims, or goals or objectives of any intentions, and expectations enterprise is a crucial task. of our program clear - it’s without knowing our ends, essential, because if we don’t choosing our means, know what we want to becomes impossible... What achieve, we won’t know how are our purposes - what to get it should our purposes be - in teaching Canadian history?” -what is the point - or should be the point - of teaching Canadian History? Tuesday, September 1, 2009 2
  3. 3. Introduction Quote Meaning pg 1 - “Neither historians nor -job of the school shouldn’t school history teachers be to keep promoting stories should think of their job as from our past which cannot making more of (myths). be objected to, or protested Distinguishing between myth against and history can help to clarify what the job should be.” -need to be able to tell the difference between myth & history, really spell out the task Tuesday, September 1, 2009 3
  4. 4. Introduction Quote Meaning pg 1 - “Myths evoke strong -we tend to protect our feelings. They do...reinforce myths, because they tell us collective identities, social who we are - as a community, values, and moral as a nation - and what we orientations... The whole think is important point of myths is to pass them on unchanged to the -entire purpose of myths: pass next generation. Heritage is them on without change to similar. It involves myth-like our children narratives in which people can believe deeply and -heritage (tradition, culture) faithfully.” requires myth-like records or stories that everyone can buy into Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4
  5. 5. Introduction Quote Meaning pg 1-2 - “In our own 21st -current modern problem: in century predicament, with a nation with so many different pasts, different different cultures, all with cultures butting up against their own myths & histories, one another, traditional the established / usual practices are no longer methods of teaching history adequate for supplying aren’t good enough to help meaning, largely for this us understand what reason: they provide no way something means or why it is of reconciling different important - the old, standard stories, different accounts in a history lessons don’t allow us multicultural society.” to find a balance between the different points of view and histories Tuesday, September 1, 2009 5
  6. 6. Introduction Quote Meaning pg 2 - “This is the promise of -what we’ll certainly get from critical historical discourse: analyzing, while discussing / that it provides a rational studying / debating history, is way, on the basis of evidence a logical method using proof and argument, to discuss the and reasoning to look at the differing accounts that jostle various stories & records that with, or contradict each collide with or go against other.” each other Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6
  7. 7. Intensified historical consciousness... Quote Meaning pg 2 - “All around us, there -there are lots of signals and are signs of intense and clues that more and more intensifying interest in the people want to know about past... Interpretations of the the past past in museums, movies and monuments - as well as in -the ways that people have schools - have recently tried to understand the past, aroused bitter and think about it - how they controversies...” have presented their understanding to the world - have caused arguments Tuesday, September 1, 2009 7
  8. 8. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 2-3 - “1. ...interest in the -people seem to pay more past - in the form of history - attention to history when emerges, paradoxically at customs, practices, and social exactly the moment when values that everyone has tradition falls apart... A been used to are changing society that lives comfortably dramatically - it doesn’t seem and unconsciously with a to make sense traditional past does not expend the effort on -people who are happy with a constructing... ‘heritage’...” time-honoured past don’t worry about putting together a cultural history Tuesday, September 1, 2009 8
  9. 9. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 3 - “2. ...the migration and -increasingly less separation mixing of peoples and between groups of people cultures... [P]eople come with from different nations and different histories, and thus, in communities - this has a some ways, different visions bearing on whether people of the present and the are happy or comfortable with future.” the past, when different stories and perspectives rub up against each other -having different histories can mean having a different way of seeing the present, different expectations for the future Tuesday, September 1, 2009 9
  10. 10. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 3 - “3. many areas of -changes in leadership or the world, old regimes have government cause us to see toppled... Writing history history differently, because always involves hindsight. someone else is in charge Hindsight from 1999 in with a different idea of what Khabarovsk, was very is important or ‘real truth’ in different from hindsight in the past 1989.” -we always see events more clearly after they happen Tuesday, September 1, 2009 10
  11. 11. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 3 - “4. ...the empowerment -groups who used to be of previously disempowered heavily controlled and treated groups. Thus, in those world disrespectfully are more free regions, as well as throughout to be themselves and demand North America...the new respect (e.g. women, ethnic position of women and ethnic groups) minorities, even in regimes that have not undergone -people in these groups are radical political changes, has using their new power to forced a re-examination of look into the past from their the stories of the past.” perspectives - rather than just stopping at the official, time-honoured, or standard version Tuesday, September 1, 2009 11
  12. 12. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 3 - “5. ...globalization and -businesses, organizations, and its technologies have brought corporations that are different peoples of the world expanding world-wide in part into communication with because of the Internet and each other in new ways, even telecommunications have when they are not physically created new opportunities closer to each other.” for contact, socializing, conversation, and relationships, even when there are great distances between peoples Tuesday, September 1, 2009 12
  13. 13. Why now? Quote Meaning pg 3 - “These changes -changes making us more intensify historical aware of our history: consciousness. People now 1) less interest in tradition puzzle over and stumble over 2) mixing of peoples & cultures in questions that used to have communities easy answers supplied by 3) changing government authorities myth:” 4) empowerment of previously powerless groups 5) globalization & technology bringing peoples into contact -solutions to historical questions aren’t as easy to find Tuesday, September 1, 2009 13
  14. 14. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 3 - “ ‘historical -awareness of history centers consciousness’...revolves on basic questions that are around some very basic, but implied - suggested, hinted at, often implicit and taken for granted - and unarticulated questions, difficult to express which all memory practices - that is, both history and myth -history and myth are both - attempt to answer.” ways that we try to answer these questions Tuesday, September 1, 2009 14
  15. 15. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 3 - “1. How did things get -what features or to be as we see them today? characteristics of society Which aspects are signs of suggest that certain things continuity over time, and continue without interruption, which, signs of change?... These and others are changing? questions, and the accounts they demand, are not morally -these questions, & the neutral or disinterested. They explanations we’re looking for, ask for accounts of the past to have to do with right & wrong explain the present, and their (ethics) - how we answer these answers have implications for questions will influence or have the future.” an effect on the future Tuesday, September 1, 2009 15
  16. 16. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 3 - “ 2. What group or -who do I belong to? groups am I a part of, and what are its origins? In fact, -where did this / these my identity has various group(s) come from? Why? aspects which take me to various different points of -no-one can be judged as a origin.” single stereotype - each person has multiple characteristics or features that come from many different places and communities Tuesday, September 1, 2009 16
  17. 17. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 4 - “3. How should we -how do we decide or figure judge each other’s past out whether each other did actions, and therefore, what the right thing in the past? debts does my group owe to others and/or others to -how do we determine our mine?” obligations to others, to make up for wrongs that were done? -how do we determine what others need to do for us, to make up for mistakes? Tuesday, September 1, 2009 17
  18. 18. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 4 - “4. Are things basically -is this as good as it will get getting better or are they for us - our society, our getting worse? This is the country, for humanity in question of progress and general? decline. Should we have believed...that ‘the worse is -what’s going to happen next? yet to come?’” Tuesday, September 1, 2009 18
  19. 19. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 4 - “5. What stories about -how do I know what’s real, the past should I believe? On and what’s been made-up what grounds?...What counts after the real thing happened? as evidence?” -how can I find out what’s real - how can I learn the truth? Tuesday, September 1, 2009 19
  20. 20. Questions of Historical Consciousness Quote Meaning pg 4 - “6. What stories shall -what parts of our history we tell? What - about the are more important than past - is significant enough to others? pass on to others, and particularly to the next -what should our young generation?” people (YOU) be learning, that you’ll pass on to your own children? Tuesday, September 1, 2009 20
  21. 21. From myth and heritage to history Quote Meaning pg 4 - “Though asking these -we only recently started questions is natural in the asking these questions - Canada of 2001, formulating once, nobody argued with good answers to them is historians at all anything but. To answer them well, people have to move -putting together good beyond the simplicity and faith of answers to these questions is the complexity of difficult... we have to understand the distance between the present remember that history isn’t and the past, and the difficulty of simple or perfect, and that we representing the past in the will never completely ‘get’ present.” what it was like in the past - its reality is too far from where we are today Tuesday, September 1, 2009 21
  22. 22. From myth and heritage to history Quote Meaning pg 4 - “Good answers have to... -understand that there can be different ways to see and ‘read’ 1. Comprehend the interpretive evidence from the past; there are choices and constraints involved also limits to what we can do in using traces from the past to with historical evidence construct historical accounts. -remember that it was a very 2. Understand the pastness of different world in the past - we the past... can’t just overlay the way we live and think now on people back 3. Acknowledge complexity and then, like in Hollywood movies uncertainty; deal with multiple causes, conflicting belief -accept the twists, turns, and systems, and historical actors’ unreliability of history; cope with differing perspectives many causes, opposing ideals, and multiple points of view in the past Tuesday, September 1, 2009 22
  23. 23. From myth and heritage to history Quote Meaning pg 4 - “These criteria allow a -these standards (for distinction here between answering historical intensifying historical questions) permit us to show consciousness and... advancing the difference between it. Films, historical sites, creating interest and historical fiction are excellent involvement in the awareness at intensifying historical of history & its importance, consciousness...Schools are in and moving it forward the best position to advance it.” -Hollywood, tourist attractions, and romance novels promote history -schools are best to help it Tuesday, September 1, 2009 23
  24. 24. From myth and heritage to history Quote Meaning pg 4 - “example of what it might -people have tried to put mean to advance historical together a common story or consciousness. It has always tradition about the beginning been a challenge to construct a of our country using the mythology of Canadian origins Fathers of Confederation, but around the Fathers of the trouble is that these men Confederation. The late were not perfect or heroes - nineteenth century was simply no-one was, at that time not a heroic moment for politicians in Canada or elsewhere.” (see example provided) Tuesday, September 1, 2009 24
  25. 25. re: John A. Macdonald’s speech (1885) • In what ways has there been change between 1885 and now? • Does the change represent progress in racial attitudes? • How should we judge Macdonald? ★condemning Macdonald as a racist villain is too simple... instead, we should look at the way we use language differently now, and how it affects our reading of this speech... we should look at the reasons why he was making this speech, the political games he was playing, and the social values of the period Tuesday, September 1, 2009 25
  26. 26. re: John A. Macdonald’s speech (1885) ★a well-thought analysis of this speech would also question how the attitudes revealed in his words affect(ed) the way we see ourselves, as a nation -it is difficult for us to see his reality - the world he was living in, speaking to, and reflecting - because our world is so different “Students should also come to understand that one document - or one excerpt from one document - can contribute to historical understanding, but is insufficient for reaching a robust historical judgement.” -you cannot make a complete or significant analysis of an historic event by looking at just one account or one piece of evidence Tuesday, September 1, 2009 26
  27. 27. So what should schools teach? • teaching “one coherent story” (heritage & myth) as “‘what happened in the past’” (pg 5) will not help you when you leave school • creating new, more progressive myths won’t work either; “[s]tudents are exposed to too many competing claims and narratives outside of school - in their families, films, community commemorations, and popular music. These - like the successful Heritage Minutes - are excellent vehicles for intensifying historical consciousness, but not for advancing it.” (pg 5) Tuesday, September 1, 2009 27
  28. 28. Schools have an important advantage... • taking history courses over ten years or so could enable students to become increasingly good at, and committed to, the problem of looking critically at the past ★ you can learn to look at history thoughtfully and in complex ways ★discussions about school history could start with questions like, “which story should we tell?” and “how can we make it interesting?” (pg 6) Tuesday, September 1, 2009 28
  29. 29. Therefore... • “...the goal of history in schools should be both a) a deep understanding of the past [the variety, the difference, the strangeness of life in the past, the interplay of continuity and change, the multiple causes and consequences of events and trends, the role of individuals, collectivities and states, etc.] and b) a deep understanding of history [the processes of knowledge-making, the construction of a historical narrative or argument, the uses of evidence, and the nature of conflicting historical accounts] This second level of understanding acts as the best insurance against dogmatic transmission of a single version of the past, a practice which violates the core tenets of the discipline.” (pg 6) Tuesday, September 1, 2009 29
  30. 30. conclusion • once you realize that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute - that history isn’t ‘just the facts’ - will you lose interest? • you’ve already met with conflicting historical interpretations, whether you’re aware of it or not - you need to be able to judge and consider the myths you encounter all around you, to explore the layers and complexities, and the school should help you do it better Tuesday, September 1, 2009 30