Friday, September 06, 2013
On Becoming a Scientist
Native Content in the Alberta Social Studies Curriculum
The situation has improved somewhat since then, but while the blatant racism is gone and the absence of First Nations content after 1900 is gone, I think we may still have the problem with the dancing minority trick and the repetition of the same limited material over and over again.
And now we have another variation of #1, which is the intrusion of native content...the need to get authors to stop ignoring First Nations after 1900 led to Departments of Education having to say, "include First Nations content or else!" to textbook writers, and that was a necessary and good thing, because authors writing about WWII discovered that there were First Nation's heroes in both WWI and WWII worth writing about, once they thought to look. So that worked out. But now that "First Nation's content?" is one of the items on textbook checklists, publishers are sticking it in whether it is relevant or not. So, I'm re-editing a series of biographies on Canadian PMs from another publisher, and in the middle of a discussion of this or that PM, there suddenly appear a couple of pages on native people of that era...and it's just kind of inserted at random. Not, "what was this PM's policies on First Nations?", but just sort of, "Meanwhile, back on the reserve..." What the hey? And of course, these fact pages are the exact same 'facts' as in every other book...creating mind-numbing repetition to turn kids off any possible interest in First Nations. Head:Desk. So nice try, but no cigar.
Thursday, September 05, 2013
On Canadian History
Me: "That was fast. What did you write on?"
Kasia: "How I feel about Canadian history. " Hands me an 8.5X11 sheet of paper covered on both sides with a continuous row of "Z"s.
But the thing is, Canadian history is actually really interesting. Fascinating piece on Albertan Two-gun Cohen this morning on CBC morning a case in point. After listening to his story, interviewer asked, "How come we never heard of this guy before? It's a fantastic story!" And the journalist essentially shrugged on air and said, "it's how Canadians teach history: they leave out all the interesting characters".
Drives me crazy.
My students never found Canadian history boring, but then the story of confederation is one of bribery, booze, and backstabbing when I tell it. And McKenzie King! Who could find King boring? How cool is it to find out that Canadian foreign policy was dictated by his dead mother (via a psychic)? "Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription" is one of the great bafflegab statements of all time. And compare King's handling of the Bing scandal with say, Watergate. And what other world leader stole stones out of Buckingham palace for their private estates as King did with Kingsmere?
I'm telling you, Canadian history is engrossing if you actually know any of it.