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Osborne, Ken. "’To the Past’: Why We Need to Teach and Study History." In To the Past: History Education, Public Memory, and Citizenship in Canada, edited by Ruth W. Sandwell, 103-131. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.


To respond to the question of why we should teach and learn history, Ken Osborne revisits George Orwell’s novel 1984 to highlight how history gives us a sense of both attachment and detachment from our current realities and can provide us with a shield from those who wish to do us harm. As a historian of history education, Osborne outlines three approaches for teaching history that have reappeared since the beginning of Canadian history education: the nation building approach, the social problems approach, and the disciplined inquiry approach. Although often advocated separately, Osborne underlines that history teachers have always chosen aspects of all three approaches to frame how they teach and suggests that an approach that encompasses the best parts of all three approaches would be the best way to go forward with teaching history in today’s society. In his approach, Osborne sees history education using disciplined inquiry to provide a narrative for the nation and address present realities. He advocates “selling” this form of history to students by emphasizing history as a series of problems to solve, a form of self-defence, and a mechanism to free us from the constraints of the present. 

Samantha Cutrara