Teaching Canadian History in the 1990s: Whose “National” History Are we Lamenting?
- Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 1992
- pp. 129-131
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17. Russell Jacoby. The I.Ast Intellectuals: American Culrure in the AgeofAcademe (New York: Basic, 1987). One wonders. however, who would represent the equivalent intellectuals in Canada to C. Wright Mills, Dwight Macdonald ,etc.? Fora general discussion of this question see Leon Fink, "Intellectuals versus Workers: Academic Requirements and the Creation of Labor History,"' American Historical Review 96(D1991), 395-421. 18. American Social History Project under the direction of Herbert G. Gutman, Who Built America? Working People and the Narion's Economy, Politics, Culture andSociery, Vol. 1 (New York 1989) and Vol. 2 (New York 1992). 19. Genovese and Fox-Genovese. Fruits of Mercliant Capital(New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), esp. 179-212 (originally published 1976). 20. WallaceClement and Glen Williams. eds.. 111e New Canadian Political Economy (Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press. 1989). 2 1. Thomas Haskell, "The Curious Persistence of Rights Talk in the 'Age of Interpretation,'" Journal of American History, 74 (1987). 984-1012, quotation al 985. 22. E.J. Hobsbawm,"From Social History to the History of Society," Daedalus, 100 (Winter 1971), 20-45. 23. Harvey Kaye, The British Marxist Historians (Oxford 1984). GREGORY S. KEALEY Memorial Universiry Teaching Canadian History in the 1990s: Whose "National"History Are we Lamenting? Pictures are sometimes more revealing than words. On the front page of 771e Globe andMail, Thursday, Feb. 6, 1992, a picture oftwo historians debating the kind ofhistory taught to young Canadians illustrates an article in which some historians lament that nocommon national history is taught to Canadian youth. ' Who is featured in that picture? Two male historians . And ironically, although the article recounts the claim again and again that regional , ethnic, native and women's history are coming to dominate our Journal ofCanadian Studies Vol. 27. No. 2 (Ere 1992 Summer) educational curriculum, the historians interviewed are all male, white, and almost exclusively po litical and intellectual historians. Iftopics like women's and native history are so "visible," why then this contradiction? The picture is more truthful than words. History as it is taught in universities, although it has begun to incorporate regional and social history, is still quite conventional. University students can obtain a history degree without ever taking - and sometimes without being offered - a course in native, labour, women's, or ethnic history. The majority of students in faculties ofeducation have never studied history; as a result, a 1989 study concluded that"mostelementary and secondary school teachers, male or female, remain oblivious to how new research in women's history has altered our conceptualization of the past."2 A quantitative and qualitative survey of history texts used in secondary schools confirmed this picture, concluding that the inclusion ofwomen's history was, at best, "marginal, incidental ... and often inaccurate " sustaining a "trivialization" of women's history.1 While the Globe article begins by pointing out that Quebec youth receive a more Quebec-centred focus in their education, the article evolves into a forum for those historians who lament a national history lost; lost, it appears, amidst topics and perspectives which have ultimately led to the fragmentation of Canada. For Professor Granatstein, the loss of national history is equated with what he perceives to be an eelipsing of more "important" political history in the universities. Toronto professors Jack Granatstein and Michael Bliss - habitual media gurus - have recently made their cry for political and "national" history known in a number of public forums. Their latestcause celebre, the restoration of"real" history, is implicitlya call to reinstate the history ofgreat men, male politicians, and high politics to our educational system. As English-Canadian feminist historians, we feel the need to respond, at the very least, to their comments about women's history, for their lament is also an attack upon feminists' requests for a new history which includes the experiences of women, minorities and work1 29 ing people. Bliss and Granatstein have referred to the current "degeneration" of historical study into examinations of what they caricatureas irrelevant topics suchas the "housemaids knee in Belleville,"about which, Granatsteinasks, "whocares?"Their barelydisguisedcontemptfor women's history, and their apparent fears that it is somehowengulfing the profession, have been revealed again and again. However, recent studies tell a different story...