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Dropping the torch? (wrong approach taken to teaching Canadian history).

There's not much doubt that Canadian history, as conceived for generations, is dead. The public school systems have methodically tried to misinterpret our past in order to conform to political correctness and multiculturalism.

In his book Who Killed Canadian History? Dr J.L. Granatstein makes several valid points. For instance, Canada is one of the few nations of the world which does not understand or respect its past. Twelve educational systems, dominated by political correctness and multiculturalism, have combined to teach ignorance. What once was history is now social history, labour history or ethnic history.

Instead of historical truth, students get a smattering of cliches from whichever lobby has the most clout at the time. The federal multiculturalism program undermines Canadianism because, as Dr. Granatstein contends: "Remain a Somali, a Taiwanese, a Ukrainian or a Bolivian, the message goes, and you will be just as good a Canadian as everyone else... Moreover the federal and provincial governments will give any group money to preserve its original culture, heritage and language."

In Ontario alone an estimated $16 million a year is spent teaching immigrant children their ethnic language. This do-it-your-self approach to heritage is creating a ghetto culture where Canada's history is overlooked and the sacrifice of some 110,000 Canadians has become obscured by politically-correct pablum. For instance, in Ontario schools teachers are warned that nothing will be discussed which will in any way embarrass any group. Under such conditions, how can the evils of the Holocaust and the cruelty inflicted on Canadian prisoners of war in Japan possibly be recognized? Today in North America one sees echoes of what happened in Germany during the thirties as white supremacist groups occasionally reveal their evil intent. The point is how the evil will be recognized a decade down the line if nobody in the schools is allowed to discuss its dark past.

According to the strictures imposed on Ontario teachers, one may well ask how students get to learn about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. While it eradicates our past, the emphasis on multiculturalism has also made Canada a repository for cultural baggage from around the world where ancient hatreds and prejudices are allowed to smoulder as our population becomes layered with self-serving pressure groups.

We agree with most of the points which Dr Granatstein raises in his book, but conclude that the situation is not as negative as it might appear. While some provincial school departments are woefully negligent in what should be considered a prime duty, there are many dedicated people who are devoted to the concept of reinforcing the knowledge of our past as a means of guiding us through the next millennium. This is particularly true in dealing with Canada's military history.

This issue of Esprit de Corps takes a look at some of the positive things being done. It is by no means an exhaustive survey but is offered as a first step in perhaps a longer journey. Much good work is currently being done, but the question is how can the efforts of diverse groups be given the strong national voice required to stem the current historical drift into la-la land?

A good deal of historical material is available to schools. Veterans Affairs now has an excellent Commemorative division which has produced extensive historical material on both World Wars, and publications on the Korean War are currently under production. Can active public participation encourage a fuller use of such materials by schools? The Royal Canadian Legion has held national essay and poster contests for decades and our estimate is that these have reached some 2 million students. Starting in 1955, the Canada Remembers program of Veterans Affairs initiated tours of the battlefields for Canadian students. Later adopted by the Normandy Foundation, these tours have changed the lives of most of the students who have benefitted from these visits.

In spite of a generally negative attitude by education departments, many schools and communities still actively promote Remembrance. In fact it was an essay from Kyle Hanlon, a 13 year-old student at the Turnbull Centre of Learning in Ottawa, which encouraged Esprit de Corps to look further afield to determine the extent of youth seeking truth in our past.

Our brief investigation indicated that there is a large but voiceless element which wants to catch the torch. But in order to do this there must be continued access to Canadian history the way it happened. There is an urgent need to give a strong and united voice to those who are dedicated to Remembrance and turn back the tide of indifference. After you have read the contents of this issue, we welcome your comments on how this might be done.

Norman Shannon, Associate Editor
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Author:Shannon, Norman
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Previous Article:(Jack) Granatstein fingers separatists (graduates of College Militaire Royal).
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