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Sodonis, Mary Anne. “Discourse and Politics of Canadian History Curriculum Documents used in Ontario Secondary Schools, 1945-2004.” PhD. Diss., Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, 2005.


This study was designed to familiarize educators with Ontario secondary school history curriculum documents from 1945 to 2005 and to acquaint them with the discursive changes that have occurred over time. Three core research questions drove the study: which of the competing discourses were most visible in Ontario secondary school Canadian history curriculum documents at particular points in time; what was considered worth knowing, understanding and doing in the field of history as conveyed through these curriculum documents; and what influences weighed upon the writing and secondary school history curriculum.

Research centered on Tier 1 documents (provincial and national Royal Commission reports), Tier 2 documents (generic curriculum policy papers), and Tier 3 documents (subject-specific curriculum policy papers). The study reconciles more traditional historical approaches that rely heavily on positivist traditions (analysis, inquiry, and historiography) with more recent socio-linguistic and socio-political interpretations of the past that stress the role of language and positional power in influencing thought and action. This study relies heavily on genealogy, a method that focuses on historical roots and de-emphasizes the evolutionary trend in policy creation in favour of ruptures and continuities.

This dissertation found that Canadian history curriculum documents and textbooks from 1945 to 2005 in Ontario were highly political, though not directly partisan. These documents were found to construct a vision of the past that students were expected to acquire, to advance specific notions of citizenship, and to reflect, produce and legitimize state values and ideals. The curriculum documents also established regimes of practices that either reinforced or transformed the nature, role and purpose of secondary school Canadian history and positioned students and teachers into power relationships congruent with the eras in which they were written. The study suggests that in order for substantive changes to occur in the classroom, educators must first understand the ways in which official curriculum is used to serve specific purposes.

The dissertation includes a discussion of recent trends in secondary school Canadian history curriculum, a brief overview of the Canadian History curriculum in Ontario (1945-2004), a discussion of the relationship between history curriculum and the model citizen, and a discussion of the content of Canadian history curriculum as militaristic, constitutional, political and dominated by males.

This dissertation suggests further study into how history curriculum is negotiated, interpreted, assimilated, and disputed in the classrooms of Ontario. This could be facilitated by interviewing educators who affected the creation and implementation of curriculum, and by researching other organizations, such as Historica and the Dominion Institute, involved in the creation of history curriculum. A number of questions directly affecting curriculum also need to be addressed. What connection, if any, should be forged between history, heritage, and citizenship education? What specific links should be made between civics and history in Ontario? Who, exactly, should study secondary school history? What relationships should exist between secondary schools, colleges and universities concerning Canadian history?

Mary Chaktsiris