Tapestry: A Canadian Social Studies Program, Levels 4 – 6 – PETERSUN et al (CSS)

PETERSUN, Rod; ASSELSTINE, Les; DUBOIS, Wendy; LUKS, Norma; MORRISON, Judy; SHIELDS, Bob. Tapestry: A Canadian Social Studies Program, Levels 4 – 6. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Company, Canada Ltd, 1996-97. 48p. Resenha de: BRADFORD, Katy. Canadian Social Studies, v.36, n.2, 2002.

Tapestry, a collection of twelve student booklets and corresponding teacher guides, is a new social studies program aimed at grades four, five and six. Written collectively by author teams, only Rod Peterson, the lead author, has contributed to each of the texts. The booklets within each level and among the three levels are designed as a whole unit working together to achieve the stated objectives of the program. The content themes (Self and Society, Geography and History) are organized to support four major social studies concepts: Interdependence, Change, Diversity and Heritage. Six broad learning expectations inform the Tapestry program over the course of time the student will become: a self-directed and reflective learner; an effective communicator; a responsible, collaborative contributor; a critical, creative problem solver; a creative producer; and a responsive and responsible citizen. Clearly, these are extensive expectations for twelve social studies textbooks.

Each of the three levels of Tapestry consists of four student booklets and a teacher resource binder which itself consists of four booklets corresponding to the students’, resource guides for mapping and assessment, and a description of the program. A Computer software program called Graph Links for Tapestry is also available. The Level 4 textbooks are Marketplace, Islands, Celebrations and Generations. The Level 5 textbooks are Town Planner, Freshwater Trails, Heroes and Explorations. The final Level 6 textbooks are Making Choices, Leaving Your Mark, Travel Canada and Windows on the Past.

Although the author teams make sincere efforts to address areas of weakness typical in textbooks, such as deliberately including content about both genders and people with various ethnic backgrounds, there are areas of concern in this social studies textbook series. The vague use of language such as In early times, when villages were small and people could not get around very easily (Marketplace, p. 4, emphasis added) results in a lack of context for the subsequent discussion. The reader could assume that early times means times earlier than when Phoenicians travelled and traded throughout the B.C.E. Mediterranean world or that early times simply means approximately one hundred years ago, prior to the mass availability of the automobile in Canada. It is also possible that the lack of context implies that the authors are unwittingly approaching their discussion from a eurocentric viewpoint and assume readers will use the same perspective.

Far worse than vague, decontextualized use of language, however, are examples of content which are questionable due either to omissions of the whole or part story, content which is so vague an adult reader is easily confused beginning and elementary readers will undoubtedly be so baffled as to be incapable of creating meaning and, worst of all, content which is inexcusably wrong. Heroes, a Level 5 text, provides examples of these concerns. The very short biographies of people chosen by the authors as heroes include examples ranging from Joan of Arc to Barbara Frum. Mother Teresa is included as an example of a hero dedicated to helping the poor and destitute of Calcutta clearly, from the Canadian point of view, an admirable service. What the authors fail to note, however, is that the work of Mother Teresa and, subsequently, her Catholic followers is controversial in predominantly Hindu India.

The authors create confusion by identifying those people who have achieved or accomplished something admirable, primarily for their own benefit, with those people whose actions, whether because of extreme circumstances, widespread societal opposition, or based in a sense of duty to the larger community, resulted in extraordinary events. For example, Anne Murray is identified as a hero because she is one of Canada’s most successful and talented pop singers, who won many music awards (Heroes, p. 43) and her hometown has dedicated a museum to her career. Barbara Frum is heroic because her skills as an interviewer made her one of Canada’s most respected newspersons during her life (Heroes, p. 43). Are these accomplishments heroic or merely admirable? The authors seem to use the measurements of fame and celebrity interchangebly with heroism. The lack of context, therefore, results in Murray and Frum being identified as heroes alongside Terry Fox, Lester B. Pearson and Harriet Tubman. This is a careless if not pernicious blurring of conceptual understandings.

Finally, and most disturbing, when writing about Terry Fox, an undeniably heroic Canadian, authors Peturson, Dubois and Morrison state that he was more than halfway across the country, but he had to stop in Sudbury (Heroes, p. 23, emphasis added). Anyone who has stood at the base of the Terry Fox Memorial will never forget that his Marathon of Hope ended outside of Thunder Bay. This kind of factual error calls in to question the integrity and accuracy of content knowledge throughout the series.

It is clear that some of these weaknesses result from a sincere attempt by the authors to address and ameliorate problems common in school textbooks. The pictures of people in the texts, primarily illustrations, are a satisfying mixture of both genders, all ages, and many ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds. The authors have also deliberately attempted to broaden commonplace assumptions about such notions as, for example, the family home and exploration. Unfortunately, by attempting to insert or add information about diverse groups into a pre-existing framework which favours stories grounded in the experiences of males and Europeans, the content in Tapestry loses both a concrete focus and the ability to meet its own expectations. That said, however, the authors should be recognized for having made the attempt to broaden horizons of knowledge and to challenge common assumptions about Canadians and their world.

Kathy Bradford – Calgary, Alberta.

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