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Clark, Penney. "Clio in the Curriculum: The Jury is Out." Canadian Social Studies 32(2) (1998): 45-8, 60.


This article traces the challenges to the place of history in the school curriculum over the course of the 20th century. Citizenship goals have provided the underlying rationale for history's inclusion. However, the view that history should be the major vehicle for achieving these goals has been under assault from the advent of the progressive education movement in Canada in the 1920s through to new and broader notions of citizenship education which do not necessarily include history. The article also considers the question of inclusion in the historical narrative and how it has been addressed over the years.

Beginning in the late 1960s two new movements combined to hammer another nail in history's coffin. The first was a new emphasis on Canadian studies, signaled by the establishment of the Canada Studies Foundation in 1970. George Tomkins, a director of the foundation, proclaimed in 1972 that "Canadian studies has begun to take its place with politics, sex and sports as a staple of cocktail party conversation" (p. 212). Although this bit of hyperbole may only have been true for the circles in which Tomkins travelled, Canadian studies were certainly of wide concern at that time. The second movement was oriented toward helping students develop the skills required to deal effectively with social issues. Bruner himself signaled the appearance of this threat when he announced in 1971 that "I believe I would be quite satisfied to declare, if not a moratorium, then something of a de-emphasis on matters that have to do with the structure of history...and deal with it rather in the context of the problems that face us" (1971, p. 21). He was referring to problems such as urban decay, poverty, and the unpopular Vietnam War in the United States. But Canada had its own problems at the time and his call had resonance in this country as well. The response here was a proliferation of new issue-oriented courses and materials.

The Canadian Critical Issues Series (Eisenberg and Levin, 1972-1981), developed at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, dealt with issues ranging from the rights of young people in Canadian society to labour-management relations and foreign ownership. The Canada Studies Foundation also developed a number of new materials, such as Understanding the Canadian Environment (Penney and Dwyer, 1984) developed at the Atlantic Centre of the Foundation-a set of 14 booklets dealing with issues related to physical, cultural, and political environments. The Ontario Department of Education offered a variety of new courses such as Women's Studies, Black Studies, and Third World or Development Studies. Alberta adopted a curriculum which downplayed content and focused instead on values clarification processes which encouraged students to adopt strategies for clarifying and choosing their own value systems (Alberta Education, 1971). A later Alberta curriculum defined social studies as "the school subject in which students learn to explore and, where possible, to resolve, social issues that are of public and personal concern" (Alberta Education, 1981, p. 1). The trend was to include history only where it seemed helpful in resolving issues. The general thinking seemed to be that "the discussion and analysis of the problems and issues of today and tomorrow should take priority over the problems of yesterday" (Levin, 1969, p. 5). It is particularly interesting to note that historian Bernie Hodgetts himself, author of What Culture? What Heritage?, the nationwide study which was so critical of history teaching, published (with Gallagher) a text, Teaching Canada for the '80s (1978), which eschewed history in favour of contemporary issues. A 1982 survey of social studies curricula across the country, carried out by the Council of Ministers of Education, reported that development of inquiry skills was a common goal.

Canadian Social Studies