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Hodgetts, A. B. What Culture? What Heritage? A Study of Civic Education in Canada. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1968.


This six chapter book is grounded in the data gathered and analyzed for the 1965 National History Project whose aim was to investigate the teaching of Canadian history, social studies, and civics in elementary and secondary schools across Canada. As the introductory chapter explains, this study was undertaken to address five issues: 1) criticisms questioning the value of Canadian studies as it is taught in schools; 2) the view that civic education is important in any nation; 3) the perceived lack of understanding and sense of a “national purpose” among Canadians; 4) the conviction that the study of Canada and its problems is important for establishing a sense of national unity; and 5) the likelihood that a privately funded study could provide a more accurate report on the teaching of Canadian studies in all provinces in Canada.

In the first chapter Hodgetts outlines a set of “national interests” that Canadian history education should aim to teach. The starting point for these “interests” is that Canadian studies should be taught within an understanding of Canada’s diverse population and Canada’s increasing involvement in the world community. As such, civic education should consider both areas of agreement and differences. To legitimize the conclusions set out in chapter one, in chapter two Hodgetts draws from data collected on teaching practices in Canadian history, social studies and civics to illustrate how schools are failing to serve the needs of the wider society. An important conclusion reached in chapter two is that there is a significant difference in the way in which Canadian history is taught to English-speaking students and French-speaking students. Thus, the lack of understanding between the two communities is in large part a result of their educational experiences.

To complement chapter two, in chapter three Hodgetts examines how the physical environment of the classroom may influence teaching and learning of Canadian history. Here, the author criticizes teachers’ dependence on the chalkboard to facilitate lecture style teaching methods which eliminates possibilities for discussion and, in contrast, fosters a question and answer technique. Chapter four on the other hand focuses on student learning. In this chapter Hodgetts categorizes learning into eight themes that provide a grim picture of the lack of useful and valuable skills and information that students are learning.

Finally, in chapters five and six Hodgetts considers the “unfavourable climate” of constant criticism and observation within which teachers have to work and offers recommendations for teachers to improve their teaching of Canadian history, social studies and civics.


Ana Laura Pauchulo