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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Historical Perspectives in our School System

Over the past week a great deal of media attention and public hand wringing has been evident in the wake of a report by the Dominion Institute. This independent report looked at Canadian history education across the Country and came to the conclusion that there is a distinct lack of focus on Canadian history within the various education systems from coast to coast.

According to the study Newfoundland and Labrador, along with 3 other provinces or territories should receive a failing grade for the limited level of Canada history being delivered in provincial schools.

Members of the Newfoundland Regiment WWI

Personally I don’t know what the reason might be for specific levels of delivery in the other so called “failed” provinces but in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador I beg to differ with the position of the Dominion Institute that the situation is troublesome.

Remember that education is a provincial mandate and is controlled by the governments of each province. Remember as well that although Newfoundland and Labrador is indeed a Canadian province today this was not the case just 60 years ago. There in lies the difference between Newfoundland and Labrador and the other jurisdictions across Canada and the reason why the province should not have been lumped in with the rest of Canada for the purposes of this study.

Prior to 1949 (just yesterday really) Newfoundland and Labrador blazed its own trail, developed its own culture (or multiple cultures) and made its own stamp on history.

Historians, social studies experts and others will tell you without hesitation that it is extremely important to the social and mental well being of any culture that they understand their past because it is one of the biggest factors influencing who a person is.

Perhaps this is the reason for the trepidation expressed by the Dominion Institute and various media commentators since the report was released. Unfortunately they forgot that the history of Newfoundland and Labrador’s people is not, for the most part, tied to the history of Canada at all.

All you have to do is look at the sad story of aboriginal peoples across Canada to see what happens when a culture’s history is usurped and replaced by that of another. Over the decades many attempts were made to assimilate the native peoples of Canada at the expense of forgetting their own rich past. The results have been disastrous and are a major contributor to the problems many native people suffer with today.

In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, at least in recent years, more local history has been added to the curriculum in an effort to ensure that people never forget their rich roots and rightfully so. In fact it is Newfoundland and Labrador history courses that should be made mandatory and more accessible in the schools of the province, not Canadian history courses.

As far as Newfoundland and Labrador is concerned a large percentage of the Province’s current population still remembers quite well when Canada became a part of our history and the events that have taken place since then. Taken in that light, the brief moment of time since 1949 hardly demands the cost of introducing and teaching a full Canadian history curriculum in our high schools.

No offense intended to the rest of Canada but in Newfoundland and Labrador teaching Canadian history as a side note to World history courses should be more than sufficient to ensure that what little shared past we have is recognized.


Anonymous said...

I agree fully with the points made in your article. A new course is going to be offered in high schools across the province next year called Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 2205. It can be used as a Canadian Studies credit or a Fine Arts credit. Unfortunatley it is far from mandatory. I know of one school in which this course is being restricted to grade 10 basic students. The academic students are not allowed to take the course. They must pick either Canadian Geography or Canadian History.

Anonymous said...

The report very clearly includes Newfoundland and Labrador history within what it broadly describes as Canadian history.

As such your presentation starts from a completely mistaken premise.
It then carries on to reach a mistaken conclusion.

We do ourselves a disservice by promoting an ignorance of history.

Patriot said...

The provincial content for this study was weighted in relation to its balance with overall national history meaning less points for a focus on provincial history. The study also required provincial teaching to include 10 specific areas of study, one of which is "Canada on the world stage". Give me a break and the list of problems with the methodology goes on.

That said, I agree with you that we indeed do ourselves a disservice by promoting an ignorance of history but we do ourselves a far greater disservice if we promote someone elses history before ensuring that our own is fully entrenched in our people.

Like I said before, NL's shared history with Canada isn't really history when you consider that the vast majority of the people here have lived through most or even all of that time. It's more of a current event than a history situation.

Who knows how long the connection between Canada and NL will remain in place. If it does continue then perhaps in a hundred years we'll have enough shared history to actually consider making it a major componenet of the educational system but for now our own history is far more important to learn.

WJM said...

What is "our own history"?

Should Labrador students be exempt from learning about things that happened in Newfoundland before 1763, and between 1774 and 1809?

Patriot said...

Welcome back Wallace (WJM) once again I see you've opted to attempt to twist my words to suite your own personal agenda rather than opting to add something valuable to the conversation.

What a shame.

Anyway, in an effort to humor you, the answer to your question is certainly not, they should not be exempted. Neither should anyone from this province be exempted from Canadian history, world history or any other valuable lessons. Education is the cornerstone of a strong people.

That said, the people from Labrador should have a much stronger focus on Labrador history than on Canadian or Newfoundland history. Labrador first, Newfoundland and Labrador second, Canada third.

If you are not in agreement that your local history is important to your people then perhaps you've been too long in Ottawa my friend and I suspect this is the case.


Ussr said...

Wally, you must be falling behind my friend in your student loan payments. It would seem that you have to attack those that wish to do some good, or put forth questions that have no relevance to the article what so ever .If you have to ask a question ,” What is "our own history"? “, I would say my friend that its time to take some course maybe from M.U.N. Great school by the way.

OH and Patriot I can remember when it was mandatory to not only take two years of LABRADOR, and Newfoundland Culture in school, but you had to pass it as well in order to graduate. It would seem our education system has been neglected somehow.

I was wondering if I could ask Wally a question to Patriot. Not in this month issues of the Down homer Wally but the last. How do you feel about the people of Quebec’s north shore speaking out about the fact that Canada sold them out to Quebec? That they feel they should be apart of “Newfoundland and Labrador “, and not Quebec.

Looks like captain Canada screwed them over, like they screwed us over, OHHHHHH, how many times now.

Lets all keep singing Canada’s praise Wally. Pretty soon you’ll have to make space in that room of yours for all friends from the big land.

"Republic Of"

PS, just want to say that the pictures on the blog make a great addition to the site, the one of you seems to be a little outdated, doesn't it bud , ;)

Anonymous said...

"OH and Patriot I can remember when it was mandatory to not only take two years of LABRADOR, and Newfoundland Culture in school, but you had to pass it as well in order to graduate. It would seem our education system has been neglected somehow."

That's exactly the point the Dominion Insitute made.

Anonymous said...

Did they really anon? Or was the point related to Canadian history?

WJM said...

Hey Myles, you gonna allow this one through?

How do you feel about the people of Quebec’s north shore speaking out about the fact that Canada sold them out to Quebec? That they feel they should be apart of “Newfoundland and Labrador “, and not Quebec.

The Lower North Shore (which is one subset of the Quebec North Shore) was transferred back to what is now Quebec in 1825 by an act of the British Parliament... not the Canadian one.

Patriot said...

Not a problem Wally. You are correct about the source of the decision but, as usual, you chose to answer somebody's serious inquiry by splitting a hair and dodging what I believe was the real intent of the question which is whether those people should be allowed to seperate from Quebec and join Newfoundland and Labrador.

WJM said...

They might want to check with Labradorians before jumping in that particular pond of water.

By the same standard, though, Labraorians should be allowed to decide whether they want to be part of Newfoundland and Labrador... right?

Patriot said...

My point exactly. You seem to feel that Labrador has the right to leave the province if it so chooses so I hope your not saying those who want to seperate from Quebec don't have what you believe Labrador has the right to do.

Anonymous said...

"History 1201 is an excellent course that covers three centuries of Canadian history. It has
an excellent balance of national and provincial/ regional themes and
gives students a solid grounding in the country’s past. This course
should be mandatory for all high school students. A second mandatory
course should be created to allow students to gain an in-depth understanding of Canada’s national

At least I read the report.