Canadian Society: A Changing Tapestry – BAIN et al (CSS)

BAIN, Colin; COLYER, Jill; NEWTON, Jacqueline; HAWES, Reg. Canadian Society: A Changing Tapestry. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994. 284p. Resenha de: MANDZUK, David. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.4, 2001.

Canadian Society: A Changing Tapestry is an appealing textbook that introduces secondary school students to the social sciences, in general, and human behavior and social trends, in particular. The book is comprised of nine chapters that cover the following broad areas: the human species; social behavior; human communication; the impact of culture; social institutions; alienation and conformity; aggression and violence; social issues; and, the future. The authors introduce each of the major issues explored in these chapters with key words and terms and conclude with relevant follow-up activities that involve skills like interpreting, analyzing, communicating, and synthesizing. In addition, each of these chapters concludes with a discussion of careers in the social sciences and active learning opportunities such as debating, observation, and research possibilities.

In my mind, three of the nine chapters are particularly relevant for secondary school students; they are Chapters 5, 6, and 8 on social institutions, alienation and conformity, and social issues respectively. Chapter 5, for example, addresses social institutions such as the Canadian school system, the Canadian justice system, and the Canadian military. Teenagers’ feelings about peer groups and family influences are also explored. Chapter 6 discusses the concepts of alienation and conformity. In this chapter, the authors examine how teenagers experience alienation in school and in the workplace and the social pressures that cause them to conform. In addition, the concepts of obedience and deviance are also examined.

I believe that one of the most engaging and extensive chapters is Chapter 8, which addresses social issues. Some issues that are examined are illegal drug use, family violence, and gun control. Bain, et. al. point out that social issues like these have a variety of solutions which are frequently incompatible with one another; in other words, if one solution is adopted, the others are automatically ruled out. The authors, for example, pose the dilemma of what to do with first-degree murderers. Some people believe that they should be rehabilitated while others believe that they should be executed; therefore, because people who have been executed obviously cannot be reformed, these solutions come into direct contact with one another. The authors use this scenario to argue that, in order to solve the important social issues of the day, we must follow a structured process. They go on to describe a detailed 12-step process for solving such issues.

In step 1, Bain, et. al. explain how to translate general concerns into defined problems. In step 2 students are asked to identify alternative solutions. In step 3 the students are expected to decide among the alternatives and develop criteria for evaluating them; and, in step 4 students are asked to rank the criteria according to importance. For example, criteria such as protection of society, reforming offenders, and financial cost to society are suggested when considering what to do with people who commit serious crimes. Step 5 involves another stage of the problem solving process where students begin to collect data using strategies such as content analysis, anecdotal notes, and focus groups.

Step 6 highlights organizing data using tools such as Venn and tree diagrams, classification charts, and cross-classification charts. Step 7 encourages the predicting of consequences. Step 8 focuses on forming conclusions; and, step 9 moves into assessing conclusions. The final stages of the problem solving process, steps 10 through 12, involve preparing, presenting, and evaluating conclusions.

Although I find this extensive process to be worthwhile, I wonder if it might be too lengthy given the audience for which it is intended. In other words, my hunch as an experienced teacher is that students would still gain an appreciation of the complex nature of social issues if the process were simplified. In spite of this criticism, however, I do believe that the authors are right on the mark with this approach to introduce the social sciences to secondary students. They have tried to make this text as relevant for Canadian readers as possible and they have tried to appeal to a younger audience by integrating cartoons and other visuals such as photographs, tables, and graphs. I strongly recommend this text for secondary schoolteachers who are interested in introducing their students to the social sciences in a balanced and thoughtful manner.

David Mandzuk – Henry G. Izatt Middle School. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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