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von Heyking, Amy. “Talking about Americans: The Image of the United States in English-Canadian Schools, 1900-1965.” History of Education Quarterly 46(3) (2006): 382-408.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, English-Canadian schools attempted to create citizens of good character who were loyal to a Canadian nation defined by its role in the British Empire. Because of the country's experience in World War I, Canadians refined their identity in the 1920s, keeping it distinct from its relationship with Britain. Schools introduced citizenship courses for the first time, which encouraged students to develop skills appropriate for life in a Canadian democracy. On the other hand, English-Canadians have long defined themselves in contrast to the very large English-speaking community to their south: the United States. Indeed, Canadian historian J. L. Granatstein insists "Canadian anti-Americanism...has for two centuries been a central buttress of the national identity." An examination of English-Canadian school curricula and textbooks, however, reveals an understanding of the United States more complex than antipathy. As the schools' understanding of Canadian citizenship and English-Canadian identity changed from 1900 to 1965, so did their images of the United States. This paper is a historical examination of the treatment of the United States in English-Canadian school texts from 1900 to 1965. It relies on a content analysis of curriculum documents and seventy-five textbooks used in history, geography, civics, and social studies courses in English-Canadian elementary and secondary schools during these years. This analysis also reveals change and continuity in the images of the United States taught to several generations of English-Canadian school children. Sometimes, the image was simply negative: it provided a convenient contrast for the myth of the steady, loyal, and law-abiding Canadian. Sometimes, it was very positive: seeing in America a model of freedom and democracy for the world, a model worth emulating.