Monday, 20 May 2013

History Education Review & The Peacekeeping Myth Broken

In light of the federal government's current panel reviewing the history curriculum across the country, I feel it is my part to weigh in on the debate. While education is a provincial power, the federal government is not looking to claw back, but it is looking to discuss what it considers requirements for today's youth. 

In Canada's largest province, Ontario, History is only mandatory in Grade 10, and optional in Grade 11 and 12. Once a student reaches grade 10, the last time they have taken history is in Grade 8. The Grade 7 curriculum is supposed to teach students about British North America, the Fall of New France and the American Revolution, while Grade 8 history is supposed to teach Confederation and the Development of Western Canada. Lets be completely honest, as a history teacher, teaching Grade 11 and 12 students about New France and the American Revolution is difficult, good luck teaching it to Grade 7 students. By Grade 10, the curriculum is supposed to begin in 1914 and end at the present, so today teachers are expected to get to at least 9/11. It is a struggle, as most students have forgotten what happened between 1867 to 1914, let alone anything from British North America. Understanding our past, and the past of the world is extremal important. As it is always said, those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it. 

The current debate revolves around the Conservative governments focus on Canada's military past, and opposition are raising red flags highlighting that this will hurt Canada's peacekeeping past and tradition. It should be noted these are the same people who have opposed the War in Afghanistan and Canada's participation in the intervention in Libya

The Truth is, Canada was never a Peacekeeper to just keep the peace, we have stepped into Peacekeeping roles in order to protect our own interests and the interests of out Allies. Our Peacekeeping missions have been strategic warfare strategy that developed during the Cold War, and has died down since, because the Cold War has ended. This is why we are no longer a "Peacekeeping" nation. Canada's participation has always been in some way to bolster the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. 

The best place to start a review of Canada's so called Peacekeeping Past is with Dr. Sean M. Maloney's “Canada and UN Peacekeeping—Cold War by Other Means, 1945-1970” This book is not an operation history of each mission, but was put together in order to clearly outline that Canada was peacekeeping in order to win the Cold War, and not peacekeeping in order to keep the peace. 

The Canadian Military Journal has also debated this subject, while the current page has been archived, because this debate is (believe it or not) that old.
The Article, entitled "The Peaceable Kingdom?" used Maloney's work as a basis, as well as one of the greatest Canadian Historians, J.L. Granatstein's work “Canada and Peacekeeping: Image and Reality.” 

Personally, I was went through the current education program, however I choose to study history in Grade 11 and 12, as well as receiving a H.BA with a Specialization in History. I was taught this Peacekeeping Myth, and continued to believe it until I took the Grade 12 World Issues Course, which just happened to coincide with one of the deadliest years Canada faced in Afghanistan. Anyone could see, we were fighting a War, and not peacekeeping, so I learned to face it, we were not peacekeeper's any more, and  I began to realise we never really were. 

The Current curriculum continues to teach this Myth, and if it wants to teach it accurately  point out that it has been taught as a myth for years.  This review should entail ensuring History is taught more in school. I was forced to take Geography in Grade 9. What use was this too me? I have never ever used anything from that course. Make Geography optional for those who want to study it later in life. Grade 7 & 8 students split their time between Geography and History, this will allow those who enjoy the course to look to take it later. Because students are not required to take history, many get the idea that history is boring, and it is not. History, if taught properly is a story telling class. 

If we are going to teach tomorrows leaders, we need to teach them properly, and teach them the reality and not national myths. I will not even get started on History teachers that are teaching Canadian History without ever having studied Canadian history - perhaps this is what leads to the misconceptions of history being boring as it is taught out of textbooks, and the myths continuing to be taught, as every textbook is outdated. I will point you to the new discovery of the Dieppe Raid in 1942, in which the textbooks still teach it as a raid with no meaning. Which has most recently been proven false. 

I appreciate any comments any educators have on this opinion and any other comments out there. 

Remembering History - History Education Review & The Peacekeeping Myth Broken