Sidney Tarrow. Foto: WRVO /
TARROW, S. War, states, and contention: A comparative historical study. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015. Resenha de: MUSHTAQ, Sabah. Canadian Social Studies, v.48, n.2, p., 2016.
Sidney Tarrow is Maxwell Upson Emeritus Professor of Government and Visiting Professor of Law at Cornell University. He is the writer of numerous books, including The Language of Contention: Revolutions in Words, 1688–2012 and Strangers at the Gates: Movements and States in Contentious Politics. His book, War, States and Contention. A Comparative Historical Study, is a splendid and ground-breaking contribution to the comprehension of how war and states converge with contentious political issues.
Through a double accentuation on the structural foundations of war and dispute, from one perspective, and actor mobilization and repertories of contentious political issues from the other perspective, Sidney Tarrow addresses issues that lie at the heart of contemporary investigation on the restructuring of the state and on the obscuring of territories between internal and external politics. Beginning from the famous contention progressed by Charles Tilly that “states make war, war also makes states,” the book adds contentious politics to the equation. This adjunction provides further understandings of the relationship between states and war; contentious politics clarifies why and how states participate in wars, and the impacts of war on states. But the book additionally reveals insight into a second, less known equation of Tilly’s, which builds up a relationship between war and natives’ rights. Tarrow talks about how war prompts the employment of emergency measures that lessen rights, regardless of whether they are reinstated later. In other words, when a state rolls out war this involves changes in: the nature of internal contentious politics, the state’s reactions to conflict, and in state organization.
Tarrow examines these issues through a comparative historical study that uncovers how current structural changes in states, fighting, and types of contentious politics alter what we might see in the time of Western state-building. Drawing on these mechanisms connected to the formation and union of Western European states, Tarrow acknowledges two pivotal upturns. On the one hand, it puts contention between war and the state, considering both opposition from within national boundaries and from outside. Through this, he also studies the various forms through which domestic and international conflict stand in relation to each other. On the other hand, Tarrow updates these issues to the present in the analysis of the U.S. state and the War on Terror. He reveals how structural changes linked to globalisation and internationalisation alter the relationships between states, warfare, and forms of contention.
The author’s argument is built around a triptych—war, state, and contention—and bridges the gap between social movement studies, comparative historical sociology studies, and international relations. The relevance of this approach relies not only on placing three usually separate strands of literature in dialogue with one another, but also on the major results that the book offers. Powerful hypotheses for further research are provided. The present discussion engages with the book’s arguments on three intertwined topics, which constitute some of its major results: the relation between war and citizens’ rights; the transformation of the territoriality of war, states and contention; and the relation between war and the state. The inclusion of contention between war and rights reveals itself to be crucial for clarifying the relationship between the two. This is needed given that the issue seems not entirely solved by the historical sociology of the state, and is almost left unaddressed by research on contemporary wars and social movements. In this respect, one of the most striking results of the book is to reveal at what point the modern state is characterised by periods of restriction of citizens’ rights in wartime. In Tilly’s argument about war, states and rights, the relation between the three elements has a positive effect on rights. Because he looks at contentious politics, Tarrow demonstrates that the shrinkage of rights in times of war is a recurrent and understudied feature of the state as a specific political system. The advent of this “emergency script” is unveiled through a detailed historical account.
Chapters about U.S. politics after 9/11 shed light on a major transformation related to the use of legal instruments to modify the limits of the legally accepted boundaries of states’ interventions on bodies and limitations of individual liberties. The “rule by law” argument provides key understandings of how liberal democracies combine their foundational creeds with increasingly illiberal policies. Instead of despotic emergency rule, what is observed is a creeper process. Formally and procedurally, the U.S. state did not roll back liberal constitutionalism; however, in its content, the latter has been partially reshaped by the transformation of legally accepted boundaries on crucial issues such as the right to a fair trial or to individual integrity. In addition, both the increasing duration of wars and the undefined boundaries between times of war and peace have created a new hybrid status that seems to facilitate the perpetuation of these measures. By showing how the U.S. state deals with composite and long wars, and analyzing the interplay between contention, war, and states’ activities, Tarrow provides a critical contribution for the study of the blurred boundaries between domestic and international politics. The study of how international movements engage with states and vice versa sheds light on a major restructuring of the spatial dimension of power, while Tarrow also points out recurrent mechanisms of diffusion from policies for war to civilian policies.
In his book, Tarrow provides a stimulating perspective on the restructuring of state territoriality and its effects. In doing so, he echoes the questions raised by scholars who start from the idea that territoriality—bounded political authority—is a fundamental principle of modern political systems, and are interested in current processes of unbundling territoriality.
Sidney Tarrow’s investigation gives valuable insight in to the notion new territorialities in politics, and could engage more straightforwardly with these writers and with his own particular past contributions on these issues. Indeed, Tarrow has two fundamental arguments to make in this regard. This first is that he draws on the state-building literature, he indicates how the territorial restructuring of both war and contention influences the state, whose organization is as a matter of first importance territorial. Along these lines, Tarrow puts war back into the examination of state territorial restructuring. While most research sheds light on economics as a main thrust, contentious politics and composite wars additionally involve new types of state intervention and institutional arrangements. The second argument of Tarrow is that the unbundling of political power and rights are mutually related. The historical backdrop of the state and rights is a matter of territorial infiltration, confinement within boundaries, and the definition of the criteria that consider the privileges of political and social rights. A third set of comments highlights war and the transformation of the state in terms of power and bureaucracy. The preparation for war and the state of war opens up new opportunities for state authority in terms of the repression of opponents, as well as for the strengthening of both tax and repressive apparatus.
Tarrow’s main consequence for the U.S. state in relation to these issues is fascinating.
Indeed, there is an expansion of the structure of government; for example, the scope of the FBI and the Pentagon, as well as the multiplication of new agencies and joint-government organisations. Both the scope and the size of the U.S. state have expanded, despite a strong anti-state tradition. In the War on Terror, the contradiction between the expansion of the national security state and the anti-state movement has been somewhat resolved through increased outsourcing to private firms for the delivery of military and intelligence services.
This form of “government though contracts” allows for the preservation of existing budgets in the security sector, while increasing side-expenditure which is more difficult to track and control. The quick and poorly coordinated multiplication of contracts has created a much more intrusive U.S. state, but also a state more vulnerable to penetration from civil society and to regulatory capturing from firms. The writer conceptualizes this transformation of state power through Michael Mann’s distinction: there is in this manner a double extension of both the hierarchical and the infrastructural force of the U.S. state in connection to the War on Terror. This point, which is significant to the argument, is to a great degree stimulating.
Sabah Mushtaq – History Department. Quaid-i- azam University Islamabad, Pakistan [email protected]
VanSLEDRIGHT, B. Assessing historical thinking & understanding: Innovative designs for new standards. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. Resenha de: RUSSELL, Matthew. Canadian Social Studies, v.48, n.1, p.24-27, 2015.
History education researchers and history teachers have shown a growing interest in the teaching and learning of historical thinking. However, little has been said about how to assess disciplinary thinking in history. Bruce VanSledright, professor of history and social studies education at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, attempts to fill this void with this timely and important book, entitled Assessing Historical Thinking & Understanding. Throughout the book, VanSledright proposes new methods of history assessment that utilize best teaching practices that are aligned with the American Common Core English Language Arts strand concerning history (Common Core, 2015). This book is relevant to the Canadian context as well.
Provincial curricula in Québec, British Columbia, Manitoba, and now Ontario emphasize historical thinking and as a result this book is a useful resource for teachers faced with teaching and assessing historical thinking.
The main is focus in this book is using diagnostic assessment in order to provide formative evidence of students’ understanding of historical thinking so that teachers may give feedback to the students, and adjust their teaching process accordingly. VanSledright has organized the book around the assessment triangle identified by Pellegrino, Chudowsky and Glasner (2001) where the three pillars of assessment are: a theoretical model of domain learning, tasks that allow for performance observation of learning goals, and the interpretation method for making inferences from student evidence. This part of the book is arguably the most important because it demonstrates a model for deep learning and understanding in history.
The strong emphasis on historical thinking in this book presupposes a familiarity with the processes and concepts of historical thinking. These concepts have become increasingly well known in the history education field through a number of publications (Lévesque, 2008; Lévesque, 2013; Seixas & Morton, 2013; VanSledright, 2010). VanSledright (2014) reviews these elements; however, the novice teacher or the history teacher without a strong background in the methodologies of the discipline may find his triangular model a roadblock to implementation. This is a valid concern because provincial curricula like Ontario in 2013 and Manitoba in 2014 have shifted towards historical thinking as underpinning learning in history (Government of Manitoba, 2014; Government of Ontario, 2013). Many history teachers lack the proper pedagogical skills in order to fully teach historical thinking in their classrooms. In Québec, where historical thinking has been part of the curriculum since 2007, many history teachers do not have formal training in history pedagogy (Éthier & Lefrançois, 2011). Also, when teachers have been progressively trained in disciplinary methods as history educators their experiences in teacher’s college often do not transfer to their own classrooms (Barton & Levstik, 2004). It would appear that there may be difficulty in implementing the assessment mind-shift when many teachers have not adopted the mindset that teaching historical thinking is, as VanSledright (2014) states, “sine qua non” (p. 6).
This book offers teachers an alternate method of assessing student knowledge of historical content, while also incorporating historical thinking concepts. Instead of the traditional multiple choice question, VanSledright (2014) proposes a weighted multiple choice model where students select the best answer from a list that has only one answer that is completely incorrect, but the other possibilities are somewhat correct (p. 59). In this model students would be awarded four points the most correct answer, two points for the next most compelling answer, and one point for the third. This model allows for questions that are at higher levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy and point to the complexity of the discipline itself. In weighted multiple choice questions the prompt is important because the purpose of the question is to assess historical understanding based on the procedures and cognitive strategies that the students have been using in class; for example: Based on the way the evidence we examined comes together, we can argue that Truman’s primary purpose for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to a. avoid a costly and perilous ground invasion of the Japanese mainland.
- devastate the kamikaze morale and the arsenal of the Japanese air force.
- bring the immediate surrender of axis powers to allied forces.
- assert American military strength in the face of communist expansionism.
This model of multiple-choice test has the benefit of assessing deeper understanding and can be used in not only a formative manner because it gives information to the teacher about the level of student understanding, but also a summative way because the information could be used to make a judgment about a student’s achievement. While VanSledright is primarily concerned with the diagnostic assessment, the summative aspect is important to teachers who must report on student progress through grades. Here, the weighted multiple choice question could provide teachers an important summative tool that they may use, especially in programs of study that incorporate historical thinking within their standards.
The book also looks at other forms of assessment that are of interest to teachers. Question prompts with documents, interpretation essays, project presentations, verbal reports, and video analysis are considered as methods to corroborate information about student achievement. These other assessment strategies are open-ended and allow students to use evidence to substantiate and contextualize their interpretations.
VanSledright is writing from his position in the United States where accountability rules the day. He is guardedly optimistic that a change in assessment climate may occur: “In order for diagnostic assessment to operate in a large-scale testing culture, that culture in many different ways would need to redefine its attitudes and values regarding the purposes of assessing” (p.115). The first step in addressing this culture is in the classroom. Teachers need to take ownership of the curriculum and create a classroom assessment environment that promotes thinking and learning with students as partners in their learning (Brookhart, 2003). How might this look in a Canadian context? We can use the example of the imposition of the War Measures Act in order to see a weighted multiple-choice question in action. Primary source material is available through the Virtual Historian website; for example, a possible question might look like:
Based on the evidence we studied, we can argue that Trudeau’s primary purpose for invoking the War Measures Act was:
- to compensate for the inadequacy of the Quebec Police and the RCMP.
- to project power and strength to a scared population.
- because of the insufficient powers of the Criminal Code.
- because of the threat of a well-armed and co-ordinated FLQ.
A diagnostic question like this opens up a number of avenues for the teacher to take the learning.
First of all, it is an easy formative assessment in a ticket out the door scenario or lesson plenary. The question could be used prior to students beginning an argumentative piece because it would help the teacher understand the learning that took place during the lesson. As well, it could also help prepare students in developing a thesis statement or it could set up a discussion over whether or not the implementation of the War Measures Act was justified or not. This book offers ideas for the teacher that wishes to implement an assessment process that promotes deep learning of the discipline of history.
Barton, C. & Levstik, L. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brookhart, S. (2003). Developing measurement theory for classroom assessment purposes and uses. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 22(4), 5-12. doi:10.1111/j.1745- 3992.2003.tb00139.x
Common Core Standards Initiative. (2015). English language arts standards, history/social studies. Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/
Éthier, M-A., & Lefrançois, D. (2011). Learning and teaching history in Quebec: Assessment, context, outlook. In P. Clark (Ed.), New possibilities for the past: Shaping history education in Canada (pp. 325-343). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Lévesque, S. (2008). Thinking historically: Educating students for the 21st century. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
Lévesque, S. (2013). Enseigner la pensée historique. Vancouver, BC: Critical Thinking Consortium.
Lévesque, S. et al. (n.d.). The October Crisis, 1970 (single lesson). The Virtual Historian. Retrieved from: http://www.virtualhistorian.ca/october_crisis_single Ministry of Education, (2013). Canadian and world studies. Toronto, ON: Government of Ontario.
Ministry of Education and Advanced Learning. (2014). Grade 11 history of Canada: A foundation of learning. Retrieved from: www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/index.html
Ministère de l’éducation, loisir et sport. (2007). Québec education program. Quebec, QC: Gouvernment de Quebec
Pelligrino, J., Chudowsky, N., & Glaser, R. (Eds.) – National Research Council. (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Seixas, P. & Morton, (2013). The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts. Toronto, ON: Nelson.
VanSledright, B. (2011). The challenge of rethinking history education: On practices, theories, and policy. New York, NY: Routledge.
VanSledright, B. (2014) Assessing historical thinking & understanding innovative designs for new standards. New York, NY: Routledge.
Matthew Russell – Faculty of Education. University of Ottawa.
SEIXAS, P. ; MORTON, T. The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2013. 219p. Resenha de: MYERS, John. Resenha de: MYERS, John. Canadian Social Studies, v.46, n.1, p.52-53, 2013.
In the past decade there has been a renaissance of sorts in North America in the area of history teaching and learning. The origins of this have been described elsewhere in Canadian Social Studies and other journals in both Canada and the United States.
One feature of this renewed interest has been the publication of a number of books striving to teach students how to think historically – to investigate how accounts of and from the past are constructed and reconstructed in contrast to the usual take on history as received wisdom from the past to be memorized and regurgitated in a test or two. The Big Six by Peter Seixas and Tom Morton is one of the latest of these efforts. It focuses on six concepts: historical significance, evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspective and the ethical dimension. These are similar to other dimensions of historical thinking going back to work in the UK from the late 1960s.
I review this book through two lenses. The lesser of these lenses is through my work with the authors, especially Tom Morton, who kindly notes our collaborations over several decades in the acknowledgements.
A more important lens is that of implementation. Implementing good ideas through provincial education mandates, workshops, institutes, conferences, and even professional learning communities, is largely a history of failure. My former Dean, Michael Fullan, has made a career chronicling why change is hard. There must be an “elephant graveyard” of ideas and innovations in education – sound in theory with potential for improving student learning, but through misinterpretation and overselling get distorted, dismissed, and disregarded – only to appear years or decades later freshly painted yet still repeating the same fruitless cycle. One can read Ken Osborne for the history of success and failure in the waves of history education reform in Canada.
What does The Big Six bring that can break this cycle of implementation failure? The layout is very teacher friendly with an extensive use of photos, charts, and diagrams: some of which I have used in my classrooms over the decades. For busy professionals, as well as for customers and marketers, appearance counts!.
Additional features that can help groups of teachers work through the ideas and traverse the “implementation dip” (Fullan et al., 1990) include the following:.
- For each concept there is an artful blend of theory and practice, combining ideas of how historians actually think about the historical concept in question (and reflect it through their work) with how classroom teachers actually work with the concept. I can attest to the value of the classroom examples since I have worked with these and similar examples in many classrooms since the early 1970s. It seems to me that any work of history deals with many of these concepts simultaneously though separating them is useful for concentrated professional learning work.
- A thought that came to mind when reading the accounts of how historians deal with the concept in question was the role of deep content knowledge as well as procedures for making connections between the content and the historical context.
I wonder how classroom teachers approach additional reading of books on history by historians and how such additional reading throughout their careers shapes their thinking and curriculum work. For example, after reading Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919 I would approach the significance of the Treaty of Versailles very differently in my modern world history course (in its final stages of revision in Ontario). For example, I would pay much more attention to emerging nationalisms in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
- Each concept has a set of “guideposts” that I consider standards for assessing understanding. Starting with students’ “limited” understandings of an historical concept, using the guideposts the authors offer a variety of teaching and assessment strategies to help students move towards “powerful” understandings without being messed up by different assessment terms and criteria that characterize education among our provincial jurisdictions. I found it easy to match. For example, the Application section in Ontario’s Achievement Charts for learning can be demonstrated through powerful understandings of many guideposts such as when students can define a period of history based on justifiable criteria and can see alternative ways of defining such periods (p. 94).
- The DVD that comes with the book includes BLMs of parts and activities in each section plus additional questions and prompts to encourage the development of historical thinking in all students as well as outline rubrics for assessing the understanding of each of the concepts. These ideas are very practical and are not “methods from Mars”: ideas too challenging for us to use in our classes.
If there is a challenge in using The Big Six it is its richness. Busy teachers, some of whom with limited background of history work as undergrads, and less in exploring issues around historiography, may wonder where to start in their further learning. The organization of The Big Six allows for concentration on specific thinking, perhaps with the guideposts as workshop/exploration points, this “shrinking the changes” required (Heath and Heath, 2010).
Fullan, M. G., Bennett, B. & Rolheiser Bennett, C. (1990). Linking classroom and school improvement. Educational Leadership. 47 (8). 13-19.
Heath, C. and Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.
John Myers – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
AU, W. Critical reflection in the classroom: Consciousness, praxis, and relative autonomy in social studies education. In A. P. DeLeon & E. W. Ross (Eds.), Critical theories, radical pedagogies, and social education: New perspectives for social studies education (pp. 163-181). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2010. Resenha de: Abbott, Laurence. Situating radical pedagogies in social studies classrooms: An extended review of Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education. Resenha de: ABBOTT, Laurence. Canadian Social Studies, v.45, n.1, p.59-70, 2012.
As a student and teacher of social studies curriculum and pedagogy, I have encountered a range of conceptions of social studies, by experiencing and witnessing it as both practice and as praxis. Social studies pedagogy, at least in scholarly discourse, is contested, complex, evolving, dynamic, and amorphous (Clark, 2004; Nelson, 2001). As a school subject, it offers multifold potential to be a site of insightful and enriching engagement in the life world contexts that students inhabit, as well as a venue for purposeful and deliberate agency, encouraging students and teachers to engage in transformative action (den Heyer, 2009; Richardson, 2002; Sears, 2004; Segall & Gaudelli, 2007; Westheimer & Kahne, 2004). Social studies pedagogy in practice, however, is often conservative, reified, and stultifying. Its Deweyan democratic promise is largely undermined through covert class and race-based streaming that serves, more often than not, to sustain the status quo rather than encouraging students and teachers to overcome it (Apple, 1986; Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006; Kahne, Rodriguez, Smith, & Thiede, 2000).
The scholarly literature critiquing social studies pedagogies is vast, rich, with the most provocative critiques emerging out of neo-Marxian inspired perspective. Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education: New Perspectives for Social Studies Education, edited by Abraham DeLeon and E. Wayne Ross, is a refreshing collection of essays that offers a range of critical and radical voices which are generally marginalized in the critical social studies ‘mainstream.’ The editors argue that there is an urgency to transform social studies pedagogy and activate students’ and teachers’ potential to be agents who can address and overcome economic, social and political disparities in power, wealth, and access to resources, especially in the context of current global economic crises (DeLeon & Ross, 2010).
Critical theory-inspired pedagogies are eclectic and can prove difficult to reconcile with each other. Essays in this collection concurrently complement each other while challenging each other for pride-of-place in the struggle for attention and justice, sometimes leveraging power in ways that harm other marginalized communities and causes. What is evident in reading these essays is the intellectual and emotional challenge of grasping the complex challenges and tensions teachers encounter when their commitment to social justice is overwhelmed by a torrent of injustices. A further complicating reason that justifies teachers’ resistance is the demand for a depth of understanding of political, social, and economic theories beyond anything that teacher education programs provide.
What is common among these essays is their critiques of neo-liberalism and marketplace logics. As an increasingly experienced reader of this genre, I have learned to both expect a bit of the unexpected, but to also encounter the familiar. The familiar is that these essays challenge readers to think and reimagine teaching practice and praxis, yet they are, collectively, light on remediation. The consequence is an audience problem.
While there is much here for people in the academy, the counter-neoliberal discourses in these essays are short on deliverables for practicing and pre-service teachers, an irony I am sure is not lost on this books’ editors. This collection is a good read with valuable insights that can impact teaching practice. Critical social studies pedagogies demand intellectual engagement and imagination if teachers are to make their subject area about fostering a desire to learn and act for change. While teachers may not buy, fully, into what is offered in these essays, readers have the chance to play with ideas they might not have otherwise encountered.
Working through the chapters
In chapter one, Abraham DeLeon (2010) argues for the inclusion of anarchistic radicalism in social studies. He points out that previously edited volumes of radical theory infused critical social studies pedagogy and omitted anarchist praxis. In this essay, DeLeon offers a critique of neo-Marxian critical theory’s “over-reliance on a mythical state coming that may or may not come into being” as a temporal condition that tantalizes agents with the potential for change in an imminent future time (p. 3). Anarchism, instead, demands that teachers and students be autonomous agents to facilitate change both now and in the immediate future. He suggests that anarchism’s potential stretches beyond neo-Marxian inspired critical theory by promoting action and sabotage to address, undermine, and overcome economic oppression. He writes that social studies teachers must imagine a praxis where sabotage-as-pedagogy is thought of as “creative and hopeful in remaking our world into something new,” and that sabotage can be a “model for direct action” (p. 3) in social studies classrooms.
This sense of urgency runs through the whole collection of essays, yet, talk of a crises in social studies, especially in regards to engaged citizenship is not new (Sears & Hyslop-Margison, 2007). Current economic conditions both in North America and globally are aggravating economic and political disparities at a faster tempo than just a decade ago, but this receives insufficient attention in social studies classrooms. DeLeon argues that exploitive neo-liberal education has made “the lived reality of social studies is one of innate boredom where students are drilled about dates, dead white men are deified and worshiped, history is offered as a totalizing narrative and [students] are fed a decontextualized and sanitized curriculum” (2010, p. 5). As a counter-argument, DeLeon offers a subversive, infiltrating vision of social studies. His most radical idea is infiltrationism.
Infiltration must be a long-term commitment to secure the credentials and tenure necessary for subversion. While there may be committed individuals willing to invest the time, infiltration seems like a strategy unlikely to succeed. For the radical pedagogue, sustaining a cover identity long enough to infiltrate a school and secure tenure runs contrary to the urgency at play in this essay. Further, the language of sabotage is likely to be understood in reductive ways, limiting the scope of what it might mean. Recognizing these opposing tensions, DeLeon’s anarchism is tempered by pragmatism later in the chapter which renders some of his ideas more palatable to risk-taking teachers. For instance, ‘micro-resistance’ pedagogies with rhizomatic potential can encourage students to challenge assumptions, market logics and the authority of Western epistemologies.
In chapter 2, Nirmala Erevelles takes on the ostensibly open-mindedness of the academy that is too often a cleverly cloaked closed-mindedness clothed in liberal idealism, good will, and altruism. Too many faculty and students seem unable and unwilling to move from conversation about to praxis for social justice. A central issue is the convenient invisibility of domains that many students and scholars, myself included, have little exposure to. Erevelles helps unpack a range of intertwining domains of invisibility by employing a transnational feminist disability studies perspective to reveal how the privilege-to-not-know is reinforced by market logics that pit marginalized identifications against one another in a struggle for pride of place.
Some genuine intellectual work is necessary to ascertain Erevelles’ pedagogic implications for social studies education. Readers are challenged early in her essay to take on the nature of privilege that opens the door to pity, revulsion, and surprise at the conditions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Although questions central to purposeful democratic discourse and critical historical engagement likely permeated many social studies classrooms in the aftermath of Katrina, especially regarding the responses by various levels of government, what understandings might students and teachers have taken from classroom conversations, research, and action? Did Katrina-focused pedagogy lead to meaningful changes in the ways students live with each other and understand their capacities to act to transform their communities and the world? Many teachers and students likely explored difficult questions about how governments responded, or the historical, political, social and economic circumstances led to the conditions in New Orleans, or critically analyzed the media coverage. While these avenues of inquiry are necessary and important to explore, Erevelles pushes readers to ask important critical questions likely left out in many classrooms: To what extent was the objective of government intervention the restoration of the status quo and the reconcealment of categories of the marginalized? What is the function of pity? Why is it that remediation after a crisis functions to re-conceal those we typically fail to see? How might we reconcile our indifference to the invisible with our rhetoric on equality? Erevelles argues that marginality and invisibility are hierarchical, meaning that pride-of-place struggles take place beyond the gaze of the middle class. Critical disability studies offers an avenue to grasp how sublime taxonomies pathologize difference, forcing marginalized individuals and communities to cleave difference along imposed categories of gender, race, and ability/disability, competing for scarce resources and the attention of power, and denying access to means and opportunities to exercise collective political, economic and social power, themselves.
Pride-of-place in critical discourses frequently comes into play in social studies pedagogy, and justice-focused remediation as pedagogy crosscuts many domains. Which crises and injustices get our attention? How can we know, understand, and share with students the complexity of crises that are simultaneously distinct and integrated? How might the blurring of lines between and among the crises be an opportunity for democratic learning and living? Which pedagogies justly treat the multitude of injustices? In chapter 3, Rebecca Martusewicz and Gary Schnakenberg make a case for the immediacy and divisiveness of ecojustice in public discourse. They argue that social studies classrooms are especially well suited to its pursuit concurrently with social justice and democracy. They open their chapter by articulating the goals of ecojustice pedagogy, among which is the necessity for students to engage in:.
an analysis of the linguistically rooted patterns of belief and behavior in Western industrial cultures that have led to a logic of domination leading to social violence and degradation, and secondly, to identify and revitalize the existing cultural and ecological “commons” that offer ways of living simultaneously in our own culture, as well as in diverse cultures across the world. (Martusewicz & Schnakenberg, 2010, pp. 25-26).
The revitalization of the commons is tied to countering the effects of a culture of violence embedded in capitalist neo-liberal logics. This, of course, is no easy task for teachers.
Martusewicz and Schnakenberg argue that the ecological crisis is actually a cultural one tied up in transactional nature of language which reinforces status quo structures and epistemological assumptions in schools.
Interrupting and challenging epistemological and disciplinary constructs that inhabit social studies is necessary for students to appreciate the possibility that other logics might govern human/human and human/environment relationships, but it is a pedagogic minefield for insufficiently committed and prepared teachers, students, and administrators. Importantly, this is where this chapter’s authors tread into a critical site of resistance for social studies education – the challenge to extend our gaze to recognize the limitations and situatedness of our worldview. The dominant Western worldview posits capitalism and consumerism as inevitable products of progress. Its historical legacy of colonialism, racism, and oppression are too often characterized as unpleasant practices of less enlightened prior generations subsequently eliminated through legislation and social change (Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006; McMurtry, 2002). For teachers and administrators to alert students to the nature of the market logics that scaffold their worldview and encourage them to imagine alternatives, they must become political in ways that put employment and funding at risk. Following from the first essay in this collection, perhaps ecojustice might benefit from the notion of micro-resistance.
As a form of micro-resistance, for example, teachers might exploit neo-liberal logics to provoke critical engagement. How might critical pedagogies become more than as subversive acts that undermine the security of the status quo? While I offer this somewhat facetiously, the struggle to overcome the resistance of teachers and public education to radical and transformative pedagogies seems ironic, since teachers, as a category of labourers, and “are by far the most unionized people in the USA, [with] more than 3.5 million members” according to Rich Gibson (2010, p. 43). Yet, in chapter four, Gibson notes that unions no longer function in dialectic tension with those in control of the capital funding for education. His Marxian analysis employs dialectical materialism to reveal the historical tension at the heart of the public education project, where the discursive freedoms of school occur in an environment in which capitalism and exploitation operate in both sublime and significant ways that inhibit and suppress students’ capacities for agency and engagement. He writes that the “relationship of school to society where schools are, for the most part, capitalist schools is a reality ignored by liberal and even radical educators, particularly in the field of social studies” (p. 44).
While Gibson engages in a momentary ad hominem treatment of President Obama as “the demagogue,” and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as “Chicago’s education huckster,” in the early stages of his analysis of capitalist education, the name calling is politically purposeful (p. 45). He argues that democracy, so central to civics and social studies in schools, is taken up in schools in ways that dilutes and diminishes collective will, eroding community-mindedness. Capitalism appeals to individual desires, consumption, and competition. He suggests that the agenda for public education under the current administration has become more corporatist than prior administrations, and that standardized curricula and a passive-aggressive relationship with teachers reinforces economic stratification along race and gender-based lines.
His analysis infers that the vision of schools as sites of Deweyan democracy and possibility are illusory manifestations of a capitalist curricula where freedom and critical engagement are tantalizing promises meant more to satisfy the rhetorical needs of policy makers than provoke engagement. Much of his critique of the capitalist agenda for public education is not new. What is new to me is where he takes his analysis in relation to unions and the diminished character of their antagonistic relationship with capital, especially in public education. Teachers in the United States, and, for that matter, Canada, are largely white and middle class. Historically, unions emerged to maintain the whiteness of labour and the professionalization of teaching moved teachers’ unions into securing and sustaining middle-class status for practitioners. As teachers’ wages rise, job security and the freedom to consume makes advocacy of a radical agenda difficult to reconcile with the class interests of teachers.
Like the authors of the previous chapters, Gibson argues for the necessity of recognizing, understanding, and challenging the epistemic and ontological assumptions.
Similar to other authors in this volume, Gibson advocates for pedagogies that encourage and foster collective interests to displace ones that overtly and covertly train students to be consumer citizens by limiting the potential scope of agency and participatory citizenship to consumer-like decisions.
Citizenship is a thematic concept central to social studies curricula that is semantically slippery, simultaneously possession and practice, yet in many classrooms its complexity is likely reduced in the interests of clarity and accessibility (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994; Osborne, 2005; Osler & Starkey, 2005). When citizenship is filtered through a liberal egalitarian middle-class lens and shared with students as an enlightened progress narrative, the extension of citizenship to the previously disenfranchised is celebrated as resolved rather than unpacked and analyzed. In chapter 5, Anthony Brown and Luis Urrieta Jr. take up another important body of constraints limiting the scope of personal agency and engaged citizenship through a comparative analysis of the enfranchisement of African Americans and Mexican Americans. The history of citizenship as a possession in the United States is an ongoing story still permeated by race. Brown and Urrieta Jr. employ racial contract theory to argue that the extension of citizenship to African Americans and Mexican Americans only occurs under conditions that advance white interests and always comes at the price of sustaining marginality.
As they trace elements of the African American citizenship narrative through manumission societies and segregated schools, and the history of Mexican and Latino/Latina citizenship in the US, Brown and Urrieta Jr. strike notes that hit analogous registers in Canadian citizenship narratives. Limiting the extension of citizenship rights to marginalized communities has long been based on notions of White Anglo-Protestant notions of moral superiority in both the United States and Canada (Banks & Nguyen, 2008; Willinsky, 1998). While this gets plenty of attention in scholarly writing and increasing attention in curriculum documents and textbooks, citizenship as a racialized discourse operates in tension with a powerful legislation-transforms-reality fallacy which posits that once a notion becomes law, lived reality is fundamentally and permanently transformed, therefore resolving the injustice. In my own experience as a teacher and teacher educator, I have encountered many students for whom egalitarian rights legislation has closed the book on racism as a current phenomenon.
Brown and Urrieta Jr. point out that egalitarian legislation sublimely extends white privilege, yielding legislative and administrative opportunities that draw on judicial decisions to re-secure the marginal status of racialized communities. What emerges out of this chapter is a rich historical appreciation of how whiteness continues to manifest itself as normative condition in curricula, rather than as a category of identification, thus avoiding meaningful interrogation in schools as it operates as the frame through which students are taught to perceive themselves and the world.
Throughout these essays, readers are regularly reminded of how market logics erode community-mindedness. In chapter 6, Kevin Vinson, Wayne Ross, and Melissa Wilson both sustain this theme and depart from the expected. Their essay takes up critical social studies education in relation to Guy Debord’s notion of spectacle for which they provide readers with sufficient explanation before transitioning into their conversation about social studies.
Debord’s spectacle offers an interesting frame for unpacking and understanding human interaction with and in relation to streams of images encountered in the everyday consumer world. Despite being articulated nearly half-a-century ago, Debord’s works is still timely, as images increasingly reach us through multiple and converging vectors, aggressively marketed to complement, supplement, and supplant one another.
Fundamentally, for social studies teachers and students, is learning how to understand and counter(balance) the effects of the spectacle, especially in how it erodes community and human-to-human relationships. Vinson, Ross, and Wilson make clear that rather than being Luddites, they appreciate the ways that technology can be purposeful and valuable. Their critique is that interactions inside and outside of schools are over-mediated and that “we simply e-interact as if there were no other choice. This is Debord’s “pseudo-world,” his “autonomous movement of non-life”” (p. 86).
Critical to understanding and addressing the challenges posed by the ways that capital-driven technologies and marketing shape human interaction and purposeful citizenship, teachers and students need to learn together to understand how spectacle functions through the dominance of images that elevate virtual experiences over lived ones. The spectacle is alienating as it mediates the boundaries between people, making them spectators in their own lives, subjecting them to marketing as a key element of almost any interaction. When spectacle takes on the appearance of life and supplants real life, it diminishes possibilities for community cohesiveness to exercise political, economic, and social agency.
This provides a foundation for the authors to offer a vision for critical social studies pedagogy, resituating it in the living world of people and their communities. To counter the powerful neoliberal thread of the spectacle, where individualism and narrow parochialisms suppress and deny community, critical pedagogy returns to its roots, to some extent, complemented by a range of traditional and contemporary critical perspectives and frames, such as drawing substantially on the work of Joe Kincheloe.
They do offer a more current vision of critical pedagogy as theory and praxis which ties in well with the visions for social studies pedagogies offered throughout this volume and other recent articulations of purposeful critical engagement (den Heyer, 2009; Segall & Gaudelli, 2007).
This leads to the articulation of a Debordian vision of critical citizenship, a radical, playful, and purposeful reimagination of community-minded interaction and engagement, which emphasizes the humanness of community. Its constructed situations are intended to be playful and game-like, not governed by market-like competition rules.
The intention of the game is to imbue human communities with life in the pursuit of liberation, countering the effects of the spectacle that diminish engagement. Constructed situations are one of three elements necessary to engage in Debordian citizenship as praxis. The second element, the dérive, is an especially urban element of the playfulness of this vision of citizenship, involving walking or strolling in your community, not guided by a desire to necessarily reach a destination, but meant to facilitate encounters with the communities where we reside, restoring our connection with the people and places where we live. The idea of the dérive is to counter the idiocy of separation emerging out of the technological boundaries we purchase and erect around ourselves, and, instead, engage in a living critique of the spectacle. The final element is the détournement, “a mode for subverting the normal, [and] of contradicting or negating accepted behavior” (p. 105) such as squatting or occupying a public park to disrupt and reconstruct the ambiance of public spaces.
So, where does this fit in relation to radical social studies pedagogy? The authors argue that teachers must help students develop critical competencies that will help to ground them in recognizing and resisting the institutional and neoliberal mechanisms that perpetuate the spectacle and promote community fragmentation. Debord’s writing offers avenues to engage in necessary inquiry about how our lives are shaped by the ubiquity of technology, especially how it mediates our connections and relationships from micro to macro levels, interrupting, controlling, and constraining what information reaches us by distracting or redirecting our attention while normalizing the capitalization of our gaze.
Technology as spectacle is increasingly central to curriculum and pedagogy by replacing and bypassing libraries, changing the ways students research and write, adding technology-based outcomes and standards to programs of study, and filling classrooms with expensive equipment that must be integrated into pedagogy. But how might technology’s pedagogic value be extended beyond content sharing and mediating students’ relationships with information? Students in technological societies implicitly recognize progress narratives as consumers of media devices. In chapter seven, Brad Porfilio and Michael Watz take on the place of progress and critical history in unpacking the progress narratives of industrialization, particularly how such stories operate to construct non-white others, concurrently suppressing and concealing inequity and injustice while celebrating technological advancement.
They begin with a consideration of world and state fairs to explore the naturalness of progress narratives that employ industrialization as evidence of the superiority of white Euro-American culture. Such fairs render an image of industrial progress and commercial output as natural material manifestations of human desire that ignores and erases the presence of underclasses and non-white others in the process of rendering a fantasy encounter with a promising present and glorious future. Porfilio and Watz argue that teachers and students need to take advantage of critical history opportunities to develop skills, values, and dispositions that contribute to the critical literacies necessary to redefine and reimagine themselves and their communities. In social studies and history education this means sharing the tools and understandings that allow them to unpack ‘progress’ to appreciate the absence and ignorance of other narratives not present in the narrative they know (den Heyer & Abbott, 2011).
dentify key zones of resistance in the American context that are extendable to other domains. Standardized exams and neo-liberal competitiveness policies tied up in programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top deny social studies pedagogic time and resources, as well as critical literacy, in favor of functional literacy and numeracy. Further conservative pedagogic practices in social studies tend to render history as a stream of information celebrating the progress narrative and its ethno-racial and gender-limited gaze, which results in social studies and history classes being perceived as dull, resolved, uncontested and meaningless.
Their critical history of fairs and sporting events as spectacle is insightful, as they draw on Debord, neo-Marxian analysis, and critical race and gender theories. They argue that the bombardment of the working class with spectacle after spectacle is intended to stupefy and limit the scope of participatory citizenship to marketplace decisions. The authors offer insight into large-scale sporting events, gender-coded as male, such as the Olympics, that follow the market logics of competition and superiority tied to tremendous capital power. This capital is employed to overcome and suppress the interests of marginalized communities and transform cityscapes and landscapes by displacing the poor and others who have limited political and economic power.
Sporting events, though, are only one form of spectacle taken up in their chapter.
Political spectacle, too, warrants attention as a rich site for the application of critical literacies by students and teachers. Here, readers encounter an unpacking of fearmongering as a national, political and economic discourse, the normalization of the erosion of privacy and other sublime and overt policy actions, all complex and confusing, and all conveniently distilled down for the stupefied consumer by media outlets driven by advertising and powerful interests. Unquestionably, Debord’s spectacle offers an alternative lens and playful manner through which students and teachers can critically encounter, understand, and engage with corporate power. Fundamentally, the playfulness of constructed situations, the dérive, and the détournement offer avenues to humanize communities and address injustices, and are potentially appealing in social studies classrooms because they seem to lack the overtly anarchistic edge of other radical pedagogies. But, in the light of the Occupy movement’s moment in the sun, its détournement of disruption and parody, interrupting neo-liberal logics, fell victim to the spectacle itself. Its transformative power initially exploited technology to humanize the movement, but was too static to sustain momentum. The ubiquity of media avenues for the Occupy movement to reach their audience operated in tension with the deliverablesbased expectations of a consumer audience. Occupy’s disruption served as a distraction rather than an interruption of the ambiance of the public space. In some respects, the message acted to reinforce the spectacle and diminish individual and community agency.
The challenge that critical social studies pedagogy comes up against with students is not only continuing to hold their attention, but in viewing and participating in disruptions of the spectacle, youth need to perceive that change is taking place and that somehow their participation contributes to change. While constructed situations like the Occupy movement may wake them up to possibilities, an absence of perceived transformation and agency risks alienating youth from commitments to critical engagement. When media coverage whithers and the détournement is no longer trending, students’, teachers’, and the community-at-large lose interest.
In chapter 8, The Long Emergency, David Hursh writes that the dominant approach to social studies pedagogy in the United States is to offer a myopic and exceptionalist vision of American society as the best of all worlds and the rightful terminus of the Western telos. He argues that social studies must be an interdisciplinary venue where students take on the essential question of our time: “How are we to create a world that is environmentally and economically sustainable?” (p. 139). The structure of the question opens curricular opportunities for students and teachers to engage in environmental and social justice oriented citizenship that impacts both themselves and their communities, by engaging a question worthy of resolution through purposeful transformative pedagogies (den Heyer, 2009; Henderson & Gornik, 2007; Westheimer & Kahne, 2004). As a central question around which teachers can build their pedagogies, students are positioned as agents capable of sharing in the resolution of the challenges rather than being, largely, receivers of others’ wisdom.
We must include children in resolving the long emergency because their future is at stake. Collectively, the challenges are deep-rooted in the physical, temporal and ideological realms of the Western episteme, and solutions, even if they come soon, are too late to prevent damage (Hursh, 2010; Smith, 2006). Hursh notes the lack of political will to make schools into sites of research, imagination, and action for change, in an education system where neo-liberalism is ubiquitous, unacknowledged and uninterrogated. The notion that economic choice is the key means of exercising one’s democratic franchise has permeated the language of schooling, government policy, and public discourse to the extent that students, teachers, and the public have accepted the atomism of neo-liberal subjectivity as normal.
In chapter 9, William Aramline builds on this by arguing that schools must offer opportunities for horizontal democracy where students can imagine themselves as engaged agents. This means that students must develop intellectual capacities to understand the contextual complexities necessary for purposeful participation in the polity. Armaline, like Hursh, argues that students need an appreciation of the complexity of the challenges they face as members of communities, but he shifts the centrality of social studies inquiry to human rights rather than the environmental and economic foci of the previous chapter. Like Hursh, Armaline’s approach to social studies is a form of pedagogic détournement in the sense that students and teachers extend the parameters for decision-making beyond the mundane choices normally offered to students, negotiating with the curriculum rather than consuming it.
In fostering students’ intellectual and democratic capacities, Armaline envisions schools as preparing students to understand and appreciate the complexity of their political, social, geographic, historic, and economic contexts. This vision is one that is intended to undermine the hidden curricular notion that schools are there to train a workforce and sustain status quo inequalities (Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006).
Aramline draws on Joel Spring’s advocacy for education as a human right as well as a human rights discourse, emphasizing an emancipatory education to counter sublime and ignored narratives and assumptions that maintain the status quo.
In chapter 10, Wayne Au examines critical reflective practices in social studies education. His essay speaks to the potential of social studies praxis in accessing the ameliorative capacities of education to address social, political and economic inequalities and injustices. He begins with an accessible introduction to a dialectic theory of consciousness and its relationship to praxis and the generation of knowledge. Drawing on the work of a number of theorists, he argues that appreciating the dialectic tension of consciousness in relation to the material world is necessary to understand human capacities to both change the material world and to adapt to it. Au, drawing on Freire, points out that praxis emerges from the tension of being and consciousness that is inseparable from the world. Further, drawing on Vygotsky, being cannot be sustained as a solitary act; it is relational, acting as a foundation for language, thinking, and community, and praxis is the conscious human capacity to adapt, reflect and transform material reality so as to reveal “how external relations impinge upon our praxis – our thinking and acting – and considering whether such relations contribute to or liberate us from forms of oppression” (p. 169). Critical reflection must be introspective and retrospective, seeking to ensure that praxis does not result in the reproduction of oppressive conditions. The point he is making is an important one – students and teachers must appreciate that they have the capacity to think and act in ways that challenge the assumed order of things.
The collection of essays concludes with a brief chapter by Stephen Fleury where he offers his own critique of the essays in this book and speaks to the need for critical and radical pedagogies for social studies, as well as for the larger educational project. Social studies, it seems, is bereft of theory and lacks a coherent social vision and ethic. This is consistent with the critiques of social studies to which we are all familiar – it is a subject area where engagements with the social world seldom engage, account for, or interrogate the epistemological frame through which knowledge and understanding of the world are encountered and developed. The stories shared with students are linear, national egomassaging, and reflective only to the extent that they are shared with students as enlightened and redemptive narratives already resolved by scholars and intellectuals for students to consume.
Fleury reinforces a point that permeates the text and the title of this collection, that approaches that critically challenge status quo practices are inevitably considered subversive. Social studies has long had an identity crisis that reinforces it listlessness (Clark, 2004; Nelson, 2001). The authors of essays in this collection still see possibility and promise in social studies as a subject area that can be a site of transformative engagement and that can interrupt conventional and conservative knowledge acquisition.
Appreciating how neoliberal thinking permeates this review
A book review inescapably functions to assess the potential value of a piece of writing for the field. While this collection is interesting, theory rich, and a challenging read, as a reviewer, I struggle with trying to figure out who the audience might be for this book. Some content is approachable for undergraduates in teacher education programs, but many essays require readers to have a good handle on theory and a solid grasp of the nature and evolution of social studies curriculum and pedagogy. While I read these essays as a researcher and teacher educator, I also tried reading them as a classroom teacher looking for the kind of pedagogic deliverables these essays are trying to counter. For better or worse, there are few deliverables that yield discreet and deployable pedagogies.
I did find congruencies with my thinking, theorizing, and teacher education practice, but my experience with the latter tells me, anecdotally, that pre-service and practicing teachers will be the most strident resistors of the kinds of critical engagements taken up in this book.
The knowledge-as-commodity model is a feature of Western (and Western-style) education that is very difficult to disrupt, a point made by directly and indirectly in throughout this book. Further, the logics that reinforce status quo economic, social and political divisions and maintain conditions of injustice are ontologically well entrenched in the Western episteme. Essay authors know that what they are offering is a hard sell, and that transforming practice is daunting, feels risky, and, potentially, compromises the middle-class safety.
As a Canadian, I found these essays had an especially American flavour, particularly in relation to national education policy and standards, but also in relation to the nature of the narratives in which critical and radical pedagogies were grounded. A certain amount of intellectual work is involved in identifying and articulating analogous narratives in politically, socially, economically, and geospatially in Canada. This, too, might make it a more difficult sale in Canada.
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Banks, J. A., & Nguyen, D. (2008). Diversity and citizenship education: Historical, theoretical, and philisophical issues. In L. S. Levstik & C. A. Tyson (Eds.), Handbook of research in social studies education (pp. 137-151). New York: Routledge.
Brown, A., & Urrieta Jr., L. (2010). Gumbo and menudo and the scraps of citizenship: Interest convergence and citizen-making for African Americans and Mexican Americans in U.S. Education. In A. P. DeLeon & E. W. Ross (Eds.), Critical theories, radical pedagogies, and social education: New perspectives for social studies education (pp. 65-83). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Clark, P. (2004). The historical context of social studies in English Canada. In A. Sears & I. Wright (Eds.), Challenges and prospects fo Canadian social studies (pp. 17- 37). Vancouver, BC: Pacific Educational Press.
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Hursh, D. (2010). The long emergency: Education for democracy and sustainability during our global crisis. In A. P. DeLeon & E. W. Ross (Eds.), Critical theories, radical pedagogies, and social education: New perspectives for social studies education (pp. 139-150). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
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Laurence Abbott – University of Alberta.
GRANT, S. G.; GRADWELL, J. M. Teaching history with big ideas. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2010. 220p. Resenha de: COCKE, Cathy N. Teaching history with big ideas. Canadian Social Studies, v.45, n.1, p.73-81, 2012.
History is a word about which people will have strong opinions. For those who are intrigued by past events or individuals, history will emanate questions and interest. For others, the word alone will instill fear accompanied by confessions of dislike, a negative classroom experience, or lack of understanding. Various history classes are required in school curricula throughout students’ academic careers, whether they like it or not. Regardless of how the majority of the population feels about history, there are two issues often found in classrooms.
First, many students will ask why they have to learn about the past since they assume it has nothing to do with them, and secondly, teachers face the challenge of making history relevant and meaningful to students in a standards based classroom. S. G. Grant and Jill Gradwell’s new edited book Teaching history with big ideas seeks to explore and address these two issues through the eyes of eight practicing history teachers, who the editors consider ambitious teachers.
As a history teacher and doctoral student from Virginia who is familiar with the Standards of Learning and the need for students to perform well on state-mandated tests, I was initially drawn to Grant and Gradwell’s book Teaching history with big ideas, simply because of the title. Teachers in high stakes, standards based classrooms are always looking for methods to bridge theory and practice, which the editors propose can be done through ambitious teaching using big ideas. I was curious to discover the editors’ criteria for one to be considered an ambitious teacher, as well as their definition of a “big idea”. In terms of the ambitious teacher, Grant and Gradwell assert that “good history teachers take no single shape, teach in no single fashion, and assess their efforts with no single measure” (p. 2). They propose it will take courage for teachers to transform to classrooms guided by big ideas. Ambitious teaching is “less about the instructional practices a teacher uses than it is about what a teacher knows and how she or he interacts with ideas, with students, and with the conditions of schooling” (p. viii). For students to better understand history and have a desire to learn about the past, the editors propose that it needs to be relevant to them. Students of history need to understand how past events influence their lives and can impact the future.
While Wiggins and McTighe (2005) suggest that big ideas are the “… ‘core’ of the subject; they need to be uncovered; we have to dig deep until we get to the core” (p. 67), Grant and Gradwell view big ideas as a “question or generalization that is intellectually honest and is cast in a manner that should appeal to the students” (p. vii). They further assert that teachers should pose the big idea question to students at the beginning of a unit, with the goal being to discuss it fruitfully upon completion of the unit. This pedagogical shift changes the role of the teacher from lecturer to facilitator. Students’ roles will change from observers to active participants in their learning through engagement in activities and research, the use of historical documents, role playing, debate, and writing.
Teaching history with big ideas focuses on eight of the editors’ former university students who now teach in the state of New York. These teachers are as pedagogically diverse as the schools in which they teach. The contributors consist of five high school and three middle school teachers, who range from beginning to experienced teachers. They teach in varied environments, with three in suburban schools, three in city schools and two in city charter schools. What they share however, is a required state mandated standardized exam in history. Teaching history with big ideas consists of case studies written by these teacher contributors, who share their experiences of ambitious teaching with big ideas in the classroom. Each essay is followed by an analysis and evaluation by the editors. Both Grant and Gradwell appear to understand the pressures faced by teachers. Their goal is to assist classroom teachers to meet and exceed these pressures by offering strategies using big ideas to improve pedagogical practices.
Grant and Gradwell have been on both sides of the academic fence as classroom teachers and in the realm of university academics. They acknowledge that teachers are not always receptive to new pedagogical suggestions because there is a “mistrust and miscommunication between classroom teachers and university academics” (p. v). Teachers often feel that university educators are out of touch with life in the classroom, and that many of the strategies they promote appear successful in print but not in practice with adolescent students. While the editors recognize this tension, they maintain that the teachers who use big ideas not only assist students in developing higher level thinking skills, and in becoming better writers and historians, their students will also perform just as well on the high stakes tests.
The first contributor, Michael Meyer, is a tenth grade global history and geography teacher who can attest to the pressure teachers face. As a new teacher in a wealthy, suburban school, he was told by the principal, “Just so there is no confusion about whether or not you should be teaching to the tests, let me be clear: teach to the test—it is how you will be evaluated” (p. 23). As an ambitious teacher, however, Meyer followed Grant and Gladwell’s advice to “carve out pedagogical paths that aim toward more powerful teaching and learning” (p. 9).
Meyer was beginning a unit on Africa and he “began to see how the fact that we know so little about Africa reveals much about history and our modern views on the world” (p. 27). He implemented a big idea question by challenging the students to understand “why we don’t know anything about Africa” (p. 27). In an attempt to avoid having his high achieving students respond to the big idea with what they thought he wanted to hear, Myer relinquished some of his classroom didactics to have students address bigger issues and gain knowledge necessary for the state-mandated test. He achieved this with KWL charts—what the students know, what they want to learn, and what they learned—primary sources, student-generated PowerPoint presentations, projects, and culminating essay tests for assessment.
For Meyer, ambitious teaching is “doable as long as you look at it as a continual process” (p. 23). After many changes to his unit, Meyer saw evidence that student learning is taking place. For instance, when students were asked why they were learning about Africa, one wrote, “Learning about Africa is important because it might change how we view people of color today” ( p. 34). Of course, not all students glean the same degree of knowledge to answer the big question, as evidenced by two students who answered the same question by writing, “It doesn’t” (p. 35). Although not all students have demonstrated success, Meyer was encouraged by the students’ progress and plans to add more big idea units. Central to his argument is the claim that, if teachers allow for it, students will take responsibility for their own learning and know more than the minimum required for a state mandated test.
As a first year teacher, Megan Sampson had high ideals and planned to prepare her students “to succeed in a world of standardized tests and high expectations” (p. 39). She taught Global History II in a charter school with racially and culturally diverse students. For the second semester of her career, Sampson was assigned to prepare a small group of students who had previously failed the state’s Regents test. Since Sampson was reviewing two years of information in less than one semester, she decided to prepare her students by teaching with big ideas.
Sampson divided her semester into nine units with each unit having a big idea question. She admits that her students were initially skeptical, but found they did respond to questions “related to their lives” (p. 47). While Sampson does not focus on her pedagogical methods in this book, she does share a chart that includes each unit’s big idea question, as well as some of her own daily questions (p. 45-46). She witnessed increased student participation as they addressed each big question through class discussions and writing. It became apparent to Sampson that all class members were gaining confidence. Unfortunately, the students were not successful on the state mandated tests. She was not, however, held to be responsible. She surmised that her colleagues had no expectations for these students to succeed regardless of teacher or classroom organization.
Although Sampson’s students did not pass the standardized test by her teaching with big ideas, she states history is now real to them. As she reflects, the students started to think independently, related the class to their personal lives, and it was evident they were “invested and interested in the material” (p. 53). Sampson states she benefited from teaching with big ideas, and reports that her and the students’ self-efficacy increased. Big ideas will continue to be a part of her pedagogical practices as it was through this experience she found history became “meaningful for my students” and “that ancient history did not have to be dull and lifeless” (p.54).
Joseph Karb and Andrew Beiter suggest that students can learn to value human life through big ideas. When their curriculum specialist advised them to “cover a little less content in more detail rather than try to skim everything” (p. 58), they essentially had institutional permission to implement big ideas with their eighth grade rural middle school classes on the Holocaust and other genocides. Rather than pose a question for the unit, they challenged the students with a big idea which was to “construct a ‘recipe’ for genocide” (p. 59). As they taught about the Holocaust, they wanted the students to be able to identify the warning signs of genocide, but simultaneously needed to be cautious because the Holocaust is a sensitive topic to teach. Student empathy is important, but teachers need to be careful with Holocaust simulations so there is not a risk of psychological damage to the students or a minimization of the experiences of the victims. They began their unit with the Treaty of Versailles to help students understand the mindset of the German people.
Karb and Beiter contend that by beginning in Versailles, the students were “beginning to understand the psyche of the German people” (p. 63). Through teaching with a big idea, the students had a recipe for genocide by beginning with a society in turmoil, as evidenced by the Treaty of Versailles, and added the causes and the people involved. Karb and Beiter encourages empathy by using biographies of Holocaust victims and inviting a Holocaust survivor as a guest speaker. Through this, they could “help students understand the early warning signs of mass murder so they would be better equipped to prevent such occurrences in the future” (p. 59).
Ideally, they hoped that their students would apply this knowledge by being proactive against injustices in their own lives. In implementing big ideas, Karb and Beiter suggest that their students were better able to understand the causes of the Holocaust, the roles of resisters and bystanders, and recognize that genocides continue today, thus making these lessons relevant to their students’ lives by creating “a connection between the Holocaust and what goes on in the hallways of a typical school” (p. 69).
Tricia Davis uses big ideas to make learning relevant to her students and asserts that, though there is less emphasis placed on test preparation, she believes students will be successful on state-mandated tests. However, Davis states she continued to assess her students with criterion-referenced tests formatted to match the state-mandated Regents test. She was concerned about test scores and, like many teachers, fell into the trap of teaching to the test. Davis taught for fifteen years at a parochial school and public high school until she moved to a progressive urban charter school (recipient of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). The grant funded cross-curricular literacy teaching through the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Model. Davis admits she had previously been “intimidated by the thought of teaching students how to write…we did not have time to teach writing and it was the English teachers’ jobs anyway” p. 85). The school used “Role, Audience, Format, Topic, and Strong verb” (RAFT) to encourage students to write from a point of view other than their own. The first step for Davis was to develop big ideas and subsequent guiding questions to investigate the encounter the Native Americans had with the Europeans. Her unit goal was for the students to understand the acquisition of power, how it is maintained, and its impact, but her long-term goal was to use a big idea so students will “remember in ten years, not just for the exam” (p. 88). She proposes that when developing guiding questions in a big idea lesson, the “guiding questions may be unanswerable or have a variety of answers, but they lead to the big ideas” (p. 88). By teaching with big ideas, Davis expected higher student motivation if learning was relevant to their lives.
Davis’ students did exhibit empathy, sometimes at the risk of focusing so much on the emotion of an individual that they did not fully answer the question. Their writing demonstrated that they were able to understand the relevance of what they had learned. Although students did not write exactly as Davis had hoped, she nonetheless found the RAFTS model beneficial.
“Most students evinced an enjoyment of writing about history through the voices of historical people, they demonstrated their knowledge of the content, and they performed well on the highstakes New York State exam” (p. 104). She does note that the special education students did not benefit as much as the other students did. However, “reaching beyond these exams has made me a better teacher and my students are better writers and thinkers” (p. 104).
Sarah Foel teaches at a suburban middle school where students typically perform well on standardized testing, and administrators support the academic freedom of the teachers. During her first year of teaching, she was disappointed that both she and her honors students became confused and frustrated in their attempt to analyze Civil War documents regarding slavery. She realized she had placed more emphasis on the activity than on the essential goal of identifying perspectives of slavery. She redesigned her lesson to focus her students on the big question: “Was slavery a necessary evil or just plain evil?” (p. 112). Foel states that although she did not realize it at the time, she had found the benefits of teaching with big ideas by focusing on a broader question.
Foel incorporated big ideas into all of her lessons and ambitiously developed themes based on people and events, rather than teaching chronologically. Class discussions focused on student questions around documents they analyzed, and the big ideas benefited all of her students regardless of academic capabilities. Although her test scores remained unchanged, history became more relevant for her students. Foel states that teachers need to “embody students with the power to think and to love learning, to see that they have the ability to shape the future” (p.123).
While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Julie Doyle was exposed to big questions by a political philosophy professor. Through big ideas, she found a connection to her other courses and discovered that her studies were relevant to her own life. This changed her outlook as a student, ignited her desire to learn, and ultimately improved her grades. Doyle was encouraged by Gradwell in a graduate teaching course to use big ideas in lessons, and quickly became a fan.
In her tenth grade teaching position at a rural high school, she “expected to see this methodology light up the faces up [sic] apathetic youth, provoke the gifted child to work harder, and cause parents to wonder where I had been hiding” (p. 127). Although this did not happen, she continues to use big ideas because she notices that “students take on the big questions of history, they become engaged, make connections, and acquire confidence as they become more than humble consumers of historical material…they develop the ability to approach the media with a critical eye” (p. 129). Doyle used big ideas to investigate whether or not Native Americans benefited from imperialism. To make this relevant to the students, Doyle made connections between current events and historical issues. She asserts that by doing this, “students are more likely to retain historical ideas and to be able to see historical concepts as events unfold in our world (p. 130).
Students used photographs, generated speeches, and developed differing viewpoints, all of which allowed them to see history through various perspectives and develop their own. Doyle incorporated technology into her lesson through a blog assignment, where “students offered rich, unique, and insightful assessments on the impact of imperialism” (p. 135). She knows from personal experience that big ideas both validated and challenged her journey as a student.
Teaching with big ideas seemed to flow naturally for Doyle; however, it was not the same for the final teacher contributor of this book who admits it was a struggle. An eleventh grade teacher in a suburban school, Mary Beth Bruce had tried big ideas without success until the concept finally clicked for her. She states, “I cannot imagine teaching without using big ideas…I always begin with the end in mind” (p. 143). The majority of the teachers in her school who incorporate big ideas into their units teach elective courses without a high stakes test. She adds that although administrators “support more ambitious teaching through the use of big ideas and performance tasks, on the last day of school, the only things celebrated are Regents exam results” (p. 145).
Bruce teaches AP United States History and wants her students to learn more than facts. She realizes that “history is subject to multiple interpretation [sic] and that there is not always a right answer” (p. 146); therefore, she wants her students to come to their own conclusions about historical events. She had completed a unit around the big idea of “’Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution?’and‘Reconstruction: A Race to Reunite or a Never-ending Fight?’” (p.147). Bruce designed a historiography workshop whereby the students created their own big idea and completed research to develop their own Reconstruction discourse. Her goal was for the students to improve their understanding of historical events and to do so, she had to trust the “students’ intellect and their ability to think and be creative” (p. 163). Students read documents and examined the viewpoints of others in order to develop a historical narrative that would support their big idea. She attributes the students’ hard work and success to her willingness to allow them to take ownership in their own learning.
Teaching history with big ideas suggests that students need to take ownership of their learning if they are to see history as relevant to their lives. This requires teachers surrendering some of their control of the content and the classroom and trusting students to develop skills and gain experience to think more critically. Students will still be able to recall facts, but they will also be able to understand history as a powerful and relevant way to think about the past in relation to their own lives. Grant and Gradwell propose that ambitious teaching is not about instructional strategies a teacher uses, but her interactions with students and teaching. I agree that the interaction between a teacher and her students, colleagues and community are very important; however, I assert that the strategies a teacher uses determines whether she is ambitious or not and instructional strategies define the type of teacher one becomes. Throughout my teaching career, I have seen many of the techniques the various teachers used in this book incorporated into many classrooms. My initial reaction is that some of the contributors in this book are not truly ambitious since what they do is not sufficiently different from what I have seen many teachers do in their own classrooms. It is also possible that those teachers I did not consider ambitious are more ambitious than I had initially presumed.
Students enter classrooms with varying skills and levels of comfort and although they are on the other side of the desk, the same is true for teachers. KWL charts or student generated PowerPoint presentations may not appear to be representative of an ambitious teacher to many, but it may be so for a novice teacher, or one who lacks self-efficacy. If teachers have the courage to try something new, then by Grant and Gradwell’s standards they are ambitious. I propose, however, that ambitious teaching needs to be more and be seen as a continual process of growth and becoming. To be ambitious, teachers need to be willing to consistently step out of their comfort zone, be open-minded enough to try new things, not allow failures to deter them, and persevere to challenge themselves, their students, and status quo. I agree with Grant’s (2003) assertion in an earlier work, that “teachers who choose to teach conservatively face an easier path than those who choose to push hard themselves and their students. With even a modest effort, the former can expect little challenge or resistance or reward. Ambitious teachers can expect all three” (p. 185).
While the contributors demonstrate the benefits of teaching with big ideas, there is disappointingly little focus on assessment. All of the teachers incorporated at least one valid measurement of understanding from Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) “six facets of understanding” (p. 161), but more details on their assessments and the use of rubrics would have been more beneficial to the reader. It appears that the teachers did assess in a “complex, opened and authentic way” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 170), but I am not sure to what extent this occured. Although all contributors lauded the benefits of teaching with big ideas, there was a disparity in the Foel’s and Davis’s achievement levels of special education students. As an educator, I am curious why the editors did not surmise the reasons for this. It would have been beneficial to other teachers if they would have delved deeper into likely reasons for the inconsistent levels of special education achievement, and possible solutions. It would also have been useful to include those teachers who tried and failed with big ideas, which could have helped other teachers avoid the same pitfalls.
The question now is whether teachers should incorporate big ideas into their classroom. I have heard teachers comment that the pressure of the implemented standards restricts their flexibility in the classroom. Many express that they are teaching to the test due to the limited time they have to cover the required material. However, Wiggins and McTigue (2006) argue that teachers do not need to teach to the test for students to learn the required content. They propose that “a focus on big ideas, robust assessment, and a focused and coherent learning plan makes it likely that state standards are addressed and met” (p. 306). As the contributors to this book indicate, ambitious teachers refuse to allow standardized testing to become their tyrant. This book proposes that “if one teaches with big ideas and in other ambitious ways, student achievement will improve” (p. 24). Some teachers may be hesitant to make these changes, whereas teachers of elective courses may be more willing to try big ideas. Standards-based teachers fear the change could jeopardize their current test scores. Bruce found the irony that “although district administrators seem to support more ambitious teaching through the use of big ideas and performance tasks, on the last day of school, the only things celebrated are Regents exam results” (p. 145).
I will be the first to admit that I, like many other teachers, have difficulty relinquishing control in the classroom. Many times, as educators, we do not believe students are capable of learning on their own and that we must spoon-feed them all of the information. Maybe it is time for us to stop enabling them and allow them to take responsibility for their own learning. As I read this book, I kept wondering how my pedagogical strategies would have been different if this book had been published earlier in my teaching career. Would I have tried teaching with big ideas? Yes, although I would have been very nervous doing so with the state-mandated testing looming over me. Will I implement big ideas in the future? I will, although not as aggressively as Sampson, but in a slower approach more akin to Meyer’s. Eventually, after gaining confidence to teach with big ideas, I may push the limits and include throughline questions, which move beyond Grant’s ambitious teaching to cross a boundary into “dangerous teaching […] “necessary for the health of schools as cites of critical thought” (den Heyer, 2005, p. 2).
Overall, this book is a worthwhile read for all secondary level history teachers and administrators. I have recommended this book to friends willing to try new pedagogical strategies, as well as to friends whose enthusiasm for teaching has somewhat diminished.
Although big ideas may not be the operational tool for the success of all students, I believe this book can serve as a source of reflection and motivation to encourage teachers as they negotiate the difficult terrain of teaching history in high stakes standards based classrooms. Foel’s comment especially powerful in this regard: “Some teachers are scared to move away from teaching to the test. But shouldn’t you be scared not to?” (p. 119). We must remain oriented to where we are now and ultimately where we want to go as ambitious history teachers in this era of standards and high stakes tests.
den Heyer, K. (2005). To what questions are schools answers? And what of our courses? Animating throughline questions to promote students’ questabilities. Canadian Social Studies, 39(2). Retrieved from http://www2.education.ualberta.ca/css/Css_39_2/ ARdenHeyer_throughline_questions.htm
Grant, S. G. (2003). History lessons: Teaching, learning, and testing in U.S. high school classrooms. Laurence Erlbaum: Mahwah, N.J.
Parker, W. (2010). Social studies today: Research and practice. New York: Routledge.
VanSledright, B. (2002). Confronting history’s interpretive paradox while teaching fifth graders to investigate the past. American Educational Research Journal, 39(4), 1089-1115.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2006). Understanding by design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Cathy N. Cocke – Virginia Tech.
ANDERSON, Mary J. (Ed.). The Life Writings of Mary Baker McQuesten, Victorian Matriarch. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2004. 337p. Resenha de: CLARK, Penney. Canadian Social Studies, v.41, n.1, p., 2008.
This fascinating book traces the both ordinary and extraordinary life story of Victorian matriarch, Mary Baker McQuesten (1849-1934). It is part of the life writing series published by Wilfred Laurier University Press, which is intended to promote autobiographical accounts, diaries, letters and testimonials written and/or told by women and men whose political, literary, or philosophical purposes are central to their lives (ii).
Editor, Mary J. Anderson has divided the book into four parts. Pa5rt One is a biography of Mary Baker McQuesten. Part Two describes her work with the Presbyterian Missionary Societies and includes selections from her Missionary Society Addresses. Part Three situates this family story within a broader narrative of Victorian middle-class urban life in Canada. The final section, which is the most lengthy by far, is a collection of primary source materials: selections from the collection of 1000 letters extant in Mary Baker McQuestens hand, her eulogy, and excerpts from her will. There are also extensive and scholarly footnotes. The written text is accompanied by a charming collection of family photographs, including several of Whitehern, the family home in Hamilton, Ontario.
The editor deliberately sets out to make her task transparent, describing her discovery of the source materials and decisions she made as she used them to construct her account. The letters in this collection are unusual in that they seem to have been consciously written with posterity in mind. After they circulated among family members, they were collected and carefully stored. The letters and other papers, as well as the family home, were bequeathed to the city of Hamilton in 1968 by Marys last surviving child, Calvin, so that everyone may enjoythe beautiful rooms of Whitehern and eat their lunches in its pleasant garden (67). The home is now a museum and archives. The editor notes that it is a virtual time capsule because little beyond the essentials was changed after the family became impoverished in 1888. Even the garden has been maintained in its 1930s state, when Marys son Tom undertook a major landscaping project.
Whitehern was the family home for 116 years. The stately home was purchased by Dr. Calvin McQuesten, a wealthy industrialist, in 1852. The following year, Mary Baker married Calvin McQuestens son, Isaac. Isaac was a successful lawyer and received a large inheritance, which included Whitehern, at his fathers death in 1885. However, at the time of Isaacs own death three years later, of an apparent suicide, he was bankrupt. At his death, thirty-eight year old Mary and their six living children, who were between the ages of fourteen and three, went abruptly from wealth and ease to genteel poverty. Fortunately, the house had been placed in trust for Mary and she and the children were able to remain living in it. The family state of genteel poverty continued for twenty years.
As the editor points out, the most vital recurring themes in her writings are those of family finances, health, education, the Presbyterian missionary societies, and Victorian society and culture (52). She adds they also reveal the gradual development of the character of Mary Baker McQuesten from a privileged young matron into a powerful matriarch and a forceful social activist (52). Mary was very active in the public sphere, assuming executive positions in Womens Missionary Societies and traveling throughout Ontario and the western provinces to establish auxiliaries or to inspect missions. She was also a member of the National Council of Women and was instrumental in the establishment of a local chapter of the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA).
Marys six children did not marry. The two eldest daughters, Mary and Hilda, lived out their days caring for home and family. Older son, Calvin, spent most of his working life as a semi-volunteer chaplain at the Hamilton Mountain Sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. He suffered from what seems to have been an inherited family tendency toward mental depression. Daughter, Ruby, worked as a teacher long enough for her brother, Tom, to complete school with her financial assistance. She then succumbed to tuberculosis and spent much of her time in sanatoriums until her death at age thirty-two. Edna had several mental breakdowns, eventually receiving shock treatments and a partial lobotomy. Second son, Tom, blessed with energy and good health, became a successful lawyer and well respected politician, honoured for his active participation in the city beautiful movement. Among his lasting accomplishments are his substantial involvement in the relocation of McMaster University to Hamilton, the building of the Niagara Parkway and Parks system, and the rebuilding of several forts in the Niagara peninsula.
As a reader, I confess that I was unable to arouse as much sympathy toward Mary Baker McQuesten as the editor seemed to have. There is no doubt that she was a loving mother and an intelligent woman with indomitable courage. She contributed both within her own family circle and to the larger society. However, as I read, I puzzled about her children, who, with the possible exception of her younger son, Tom, led curiously thwarted lives. There is no doubt that only the cruel hand of fate can be blamed for a part of this outcome. However, it is intriguing to contemplate the role that Mary played in their lives. For example, given the archival information with which Anderson acquaints us, there can be no question that she intervened in the romances of daughters, Hilda and Ruby, and son, Tom. I also could not help think about her two eldest daughters and how they spent their lives running the household. In fact, it was their support in the domestic sphere that allowed their mother to engage so enthusiastically in the public domain. She apparently made a deliberate decision, upon her husbands untimely death, that this was the way it was going to be, and so it was. She ran her adult childrens lives down to the most minute details; even advising her adult son, Calvin to rub the [toilet] seat as hard as possible with paper (170) when forced to use public washrooms. On one occasion, she wrote to her son, Tom, we pray God that he will mercifully spare you as long as my life lasts adding as an afterthought, That sounds selfish does it not? (202). Perhaps it does, just a little.
Mary J. Anderson might have been bolder in her interpretations of the wealth of sources available to her. For example, she comments that the mystery of why none of the children were married must be left to the readers judgment (51-52). Since she is the one who has spent time with the primary sources, it seems reasonable to expect that she could be more insightful on this question than her readers.
The book is complemented by a website, the Whitehern Museum Archives (www.whitehern.ca). At this time, the website contains a searchable database of nearly 2000 letters (and will eventually have 3000), 200 photographs, essays, newspaper articles, and sermons; detailed timelines; analysis and commentary based on Mary J. Andersons doctoral thesis; and information about Whitehern itself.
The book, the website, and the home are treasure troves of primary source material for teachers and students interested in womens or family history, upper middle-class urban life in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Presbyterian Missionary Societies, or even medical history, in Canada. Because the editor makes her work so transparent, the book offers a helpful glimpse of how one can go about working with primary source materials to weave a coherent and well supported narrative.
Penney Clark – University of British Columbia. Vancouver, British Columbia.
MacLEOD, Roderick; POUTANEN, Mary Anne Poutanen. A Meeting of the People: School Boards and Protestant Communities in Quebec, 1801-1998. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2004. 507p. Resenha de: GLASSFORD, Larry. Canadian Social Studies, v.41, n.1, p., 2008.
In 1998 a major reform measure, Bill 180, took effect in the province of Quebec, reorganizing its school system from a religious to a linguistic basis. Instead of dual systems based on Catholic and Protestant, the new arrangement would feature a division based on French and English. So fundamental was the switch that it required, in addition to passage of the bill in Quebecs National Assembly, the approval of a constitutional amendment by the Canadian Parliament. Both legislatures endorsed the measure on a bipartisan basis by healthy margins, but one significant interest group did not form part of the supportive consensus. The Quebec Association of Protestant School Boards, reluctant to surrender an historic constitutional guarantee of minority school rights, launched a court challenge against the new law. Though ultimately unsuccessful, it made the point that not everyone with a stake in the issue accepted the modernist assumption that organizing (and dividing) Quebecs schools along religious lines had become outdated.
What was the essence of the Quebec Protestant school system? This is the fundamental question addressed by the authors in their scholarly treatment of developments over the past two centuries. They are at pains to emphasize that it was more than a thinly disguised vehicle to perpetuate narrowly religious biases arising out of Anglican and Calvinist worldviews. They do point out that Quebecs Protestant school system owed much to the local school governance traditions of New England, and the Scottish emphasis on universal literacy, given the predominance of early settlers from these two geographic areas in the anglophone community. However, although most of the provinces francophones were Roman Catholic, and the largest number of anglophones were Protestant, the emergence in the 19th century of a sizeable English-speaking community of Irish Catholics prevented any complete identification of language with religion. Furthermore, the existence of French Protestants of Huguenot and Swiss ancestry, though less numerous, completed the picture of complexity in the provinces school system. Thus, in the authors view, the fundamental essence of Protestant education in Quebec was a belief in public, non-sectarian and liberal education, as opposed to the conservative, parish-oriented and religiously-based instruction favoured in the opposing Catholic school system.
A parallel theme of great importance to MacLeod and Poutanen is the close identification by scattered rural communities of Protestants with their local schools. Whereas in sections of Montreal and its suburbs, anglophone Protestants often formed the majority in their districts, for Protestants in the rest of the province, minority existence was a fact of life, even in the Eastern Townships by the turn of the 20th century. The elementary school, with its elected board, represented an important community focal point. Often these schools owed their existence to local initiative, since the first schools to be established, in most parts of the province, were French and Catholic. Keeping them up and running through hard times, rural depopulation and Protestant out-migration was an ongoing struggle. It was with mixed feelings that many Protestant communities acquiesced in the loss of their local schoolhouse to larger consolidated schools by the mid 20th century. The gains in educational quality, as measured by modern facilities and single grade classrooms, could not disguise the very real loss of community associated with school centralization. Protestant parents opted for greater opportunity for their children arising from larger modernized schools, but in so doing they removed one of the institutional props supporting their minority communities. It was not an unmixed blessing.
One of the many virtues of this book is that the authors are aware of the main currents of thought in Canadian educational history, and self-consciously position their own interpretation within the mix of approaches. They are aware of the main tenets of the social control model, but are not persuaded that it offers the best set of tools for their work. While others have written histories of school systems from a metropolitan perspective, their own bias is in favour of the local school districts. In part, this is owing to their main sources of new information about Quebec schooling: namely, the carefully preserved records of Protestant school boards from across the province. The legislated termination of Protestant schools in 1998 presented an opportunity to tell a story with an obvious end point, based on two centuries of accumulated sources. 1801 was chosen as the starting point, because it marked the creation of the first public school board in Quebec, the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. With a wealth of local school records at their disposal, MacLeod and Poutanen find that the characterization of parents and boards as tending to oppose needed reforms and progressive initiatives is well wide of the mark. What previous historians under emphasized, with their reliance on reports by Montreal-based school inspectors and other elite figures, were the very real hardships faced by local boards in providing adequate facilities and competitive teacher salaries, in the face of rural poverty and sparse populations. Far from downgrading the importance of education, parents and boards were proud of their schools and the achievements of their students, and continually sacrificed time and scarce funds to keep the schoolhouses open.
Only in the final chapters do the authors lose some of their even-handedness, as they confront the apparent hostility of francophone Quebec nationalism toward a school system which had drawn Jews, Greek Orthodox and other non-Protestant immigrant groups into its orbit. It is evident that MacLeod and Poutanen regard the apparent victory for liberalism of a school system based on languages rather than religions as a pyrrhic one. The growth of a massive educational bureaucracy in Quebec City, coupled with the loss of constitutional protection for a separate, yet publicly-funded, school system, has placed anglophone minority schools at the mercy of the francophone majority. While this book celebrates two centuries of achievement, it faces the future with obvious trepidation.
Along the way, the reader is treated to nearly 100 period photographs, 13 statistical tables, and 24 maps. Moving anecdotes of specific communities and individuals are skilfully blended with a penetrating overview that includes even the school experiences of the Cree and Inuit peoples in northern Quebec. The tone is authoritative, and deservedly so. If you can find a better treatment of Protestant schools in Quebec, buy it.
Larry A. Glassford – University of Windsor. Windsor, Ontario.
PLUMMER, Ken. Intimate Citizenship: Private Decisions and Public Dialogues. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2003. 187p. Resenha de: HORTON, Todd. Canadian Social Studies, v.41, n.1, p., 2008.
Ken Plummer, a distinguished scholar of social interaction and human sexuality, has written a fine synoptical book (p. xi) that examines the realm of intimacy and the conflicts the intimate problems to which these changes constantly give rise (p. back cover). Citing turn of the millennium issues such as solo parenting, invitro ferlization, surrogate mothers, gay and lesbian families, cloning and the prospect of designer babies, Viagra and the morning-after pill, HIV/AIDS, the global porn industry, on-line dating services and virtual sex, Plummer argues that dramatic changes in our intimate lives have increasingly bound private decisions to public dialogues in law, medicine and the media. He further asserts this requires a notion of intimate citizenship (p. 50), a sensitizing, open and suggestive concept to be used in the provisional quest of exploring the nature of social change and intimacies (p. 15).
This book is a valuable addition to the growing list of books engaged in unpacking somewhat stodgy concepts like citizenship and identity and repackaging them in new, exciting and dynamic ways. While admittedly brief, Intimate Citizenship does offer a good quality synopsis of current perspectives and expertly crafts a paradigm for analysis that is sure to stimulate conversation about where to go next. Almost certainly written for students in post-secondary education and scholars in the fields of sociology, political theory and cultural studies, the book is readerly enough to be used in secondary school, albeit in excerpt form, to initiate discussion and extend perspectives.
The book is divided into nine chapters, written as an interconnected whole that builds an argument. This is followed by reference notes and an extensive bibliography. It should be stated that at the beginning of each chapter several quotes, often as many as five or six, from authors to activists, are used to foreshadow the discussion(s) to follow. While some may find the quotes distracting and perhaps a bit bombastic, they provide an indication of the perspectives that permeate the discourses within and across the vibrant field of citizenship.
Chapter One, Intimate Troubles, is an appropriate title as Plummer lays out a series of issues and choices facing people at the dawn of the 21st century. He frames the discussion around the question how do we live and how should we live our lives in an emerging late modern world? (p. 7) and offers a conceptualization of the Intimate Citizenship Project (p. 13) that uses zones of intimacies such as self, gender, identity and spirituality to explore: the decisions people have to make over the control (or not) over ones body, feelings, relationships; access (or not) to representations, relationships, public spaces, etc.; and social grounded choices (or not) about identities, gender experiences, erotic experiences (p. 14).
Chapter Two, titled Postmodern Intimacies: New Lives in a Late Modern World, expertly examines intimate troubles in more detail while chapter three, Culture Wars and Contested Intimacies delves into the ways that change brings with it dissent. It is in chapter four that Plummer outlines the core organizing concept of the book.
Entitled The New Theories of Citizenship, Chapter Four is designed to help us navigate our way through the tangled web of conflicts that now surround our personal lives (p. 49) and to a large degree it is successful, though it must be added that brevity does occasionally work against clear sailing toward his new conceptualization. Plummer begins by offering an overview of two concepts: citizenship and identity, which he believes are really about difference and unity. Moving on to new citizenships (p. 51), he focuses on the works of T. H. Marshall, the British sociologist who outlined three clusters of citizenship rights civil, political and social to which all members of a community are entitled. While Plummer does outline many of the criticisms that have been lodged against Marshalls post-WWII work, he rushes through these to get to the main point of the section that the post-structuralist approach is the most fruitful starting point in which to develop newer ideas of citizenship, including intimate citizenship. Indeed, the reader may be left with the feeling that dwelling a little longer with the myriad of authors working in the post-Marshallian field might have made arriving at the destination a little more compelling.
Chapter Four continues by outlining the issue of boundaries and exclusions (p. 53), suggesting that in any framework of citizenship runs the risk of being critiqued as to who is inside and who is outside, who is included and who is excluded, both within and across social worlds (p. 55). A proposed solution is to further develop Ruth Listers idea of a differentiated universalism (p. 55) whereby boundaries are present but shift and sway in addition to becoming more porous. After a brief but worthwhile examination of natural rights, the state, society and inequality, as well as obligations relative to rights, and identity, Plummer pauses to pay homage to the work of authors who have extended citizenship to include feminist and sexual citizenships before adeptly using all of the discussions that have come before to outline a workable, if tentative, account of the issues critical to a new intimate citizenship (pp. 65-66). Among the issues addressed is a key theme that Plummer returns to again and again that citizenship must always be sensitive to the whole panoply of inequalities – of the problem of just citizenship in an unjust society (p. 66).
Four themes provide the details of intimate citizenship in the next four chapters. Chapter Five examines Public Intimacies, Private Citizens and the ways the public sphere is being radically redrawn in the 21st century, while Chapter Six, Dialogic Citizenship, embraces the crucial role of pluralism and conflict along with the need for dialogue across opposing positions. Chapter Seven, Stories and the Grounded Moralities of Everyday Life, is particularly rich, peppered as it is with excerpts of arguments from writers such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum, Carol Gilligan, Richard Rorty and Maria Pia Lara who support, in one form or another, Plummers belief in the importance of listening to the voices of citizens as we struggle to resolve ethical dilemmas in our daily lives. Chapter Eight, entitled Globalizing Intimate Citizenship, explores the ways many of these issues now figure on the global stage and within global fora.
The book concludes with Chapter Nines The Intimate Citizenship Project, an attempt to develop a paradigm for analysis. Having spent much of the book cataloguing issues around intimacies, Plummer does an admirable job of pulling the threads of many arguments together to present an eight-point series of concerns for an intimate citizenship (pp. 140-142) as it moves forward. These concerns are focused around questions that 21st century theorists in the area of citizenship must grapple if the field is to grow in a legally, politically and socially just manner.
The author also demonstrates the proper amount of humility when he states that his work tends to raise more questions than it answers (p. 142) and acknowledges that it can be criticized from a number of different directions including the creeping return of the meta-narrative, the need for further detail, a western bias in the conception of rights and a certain nave optimism or utopianism. Still, his closing section situates the intimate citizenship project within the ongoing effort to eliminate inequalities in the world suggesting a reasonableness and sense of proportion for the task at hand and the challenges ahead. As Plummer states: intimacies are lodged in worldwide inequalities of class, gender, age, race and the like. These inequalities structure on a daily basis the debasement and degradation, the patterns of exclusion and marginalization, the sense of powerlessness that, in one way or another, many people experience as the inevitable backdrop of ordinary intimacies. Cutting across my entire book is a persistent need to return to these issues (p. 145).
This positioning is elevated by the final section in the book, Moving On: Learning to Listen, where he entreats the reader to consider familiar words citizenship, identity, community, public sphere, morality and ethics not as tight words, defined, fixed, with established boundaries but as open, polyvocal, flexible, porous and interwoven (p. 145). This means accepting that there are no simple solutions to how to live life and embracing the permanently unsettled state (p. 145) which is our future. For those who can only envision anarchistic chaos, relativist vacuums or tribal wars emanating from his paradigmatic positioning, Plummer concludes on a note of hope, suggesting that we must listen to one anothers stories of how to make our way through the moral tangles of today (p. 145) because it is there that virtue is re/constructed, morality is debated, ethical dilemmas are re/solved and the common values that hold humanity together (p. 146) are re/discovered.
Todd Horton – Nipissing University. North Bay, Ontario.
GARDNER, Robert; PARSONS, Jim; ZWICKY, Lynn. Stories of the Century: World History from 1900 to 2000. Edmonton AB: Duval House Publishing, 2003. 256p. Resenha de: HORTON, Todd. Canadian Social Studies, v.41, n.1, p., 2008.
According to the Duval House website, this textbook was written as a comprehensive history to fit the Alberta Social Studies 33 Global Interaction: The 20th Century and Today curriculum. Stories of the Century: World History from 1900 to 2000 does indeed cover the customary highlights expected of most 20th century social studies and history courses taught in Canadian schools, but it is not as comprehensive as it could be.
Authors Gardner, Parsons and Zwicky chose an interesting array of photographs to include on the cover of the book. A few are of people who have had an extraordinary impact on the 20th century N elson Mandela, Lester B. Pearson at the United Nations, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and Mahatma Ghandi in India. However most of the photographs are of ordinary people facing the challenges of their lives a group of aboriginal children playing orchestral instruments, soldiers in a World War I trench, a Vietnamese mother carrying a child on her back against the backdrop of a military tank, a crowd marching in support of Vicente Fox in Mexico and a weary Chilean woman with the picture of her missing son hanging from her neck. The juxtaposition of ordinary and extraordinary people illustrates how macro and micro events intertwine, each impacting the other. This is most clearly evident in the large cover photograph of a young man, probably from the former Soviet Union, holding a placard of Vladimir Lenin with an X through the image while a massive billboard of Lenin stands behind him. Lenins rise to prominence was one of the macro events that transpired during the early 20th century but this mans protest of his legacy is occurring on the street, at the micro event level, perhaps helping to precipitate the fall of the Soviet Union in the waning years of the century. Students historical understanding would benefit greatly from an examination of this combination of photographs.
Early in the textbook the authors attempt to establish the perspectives from which they have written this history. The first perspective is chronological. Though historians may quibble about when the century actually began and ended (see the discussion of Lukacks, Hobsbawms and Fukuyamas views on page 3), it is difficult to imagine a history textbook written for the school system completely ignoring chronology. The western understanding of linear time is simply too powerful in reader and publisher expectation.
The book is chaptered as follows: 1) 1900 to 1914 The World at the Turn of the Century, 2) 1914 to 1918 World War I, 3) 1919 to1929 Modern Attitudes, 4) 1929 to 1939 The Great Depression and the Road to War, 5) 1939 to1945 World War II, 6)1945 to 1950 The Postwar Agreements and the Beginning of the Cold War, 7) 1950 to 1960 The Cold War Heats Up, 8) 1960 to 1975 To the Brink of Nuclear War and Back, 9) 1975 to 1985 The New Arms Race, 10) 1985 to 1991 The End of the Cold War and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 11) 1991 to 2000 After the Cold War, 12) After 2000 Old Stories and New Stories in the 21st Century.
There is nothing wrong with a chronological format to a textbook, and some educators might argue that it is imperative for students growing understanding of history. However, a textbook needs to be more that a march through time. Piling names and dates one on top of the other does not, in and of itself, help students develop complex historical understanding, or engage students in a way that captures their imagination. Thankfully, the authors have included other angles to assist and interest students.
The other angles are evident in the second and third perspectives used in writing the textbook. The second perspective noted is a focus on the interaction among the powerful nations of the world (4) because this interaction provides the main themes that shaped the lives of people all over the world. This is a clear articulation of the fact that this textbook will not be comprehensive to the extent that all histories will be included. It limits what will be addressed, a necessary aspect of any written product, while highlighting a concept of enormous complexity, importance and interest power. I was prepared to accept this limited focus at face value and settle in for an exploration of the military battles, social movements and ideological standoffs suggested in the chapter titles. However, the authors seemed to want to have it all ways by introducing a third and final perspective.
The third perspective includes stories from other regions of the world which may or may not have been profoundly impacted by the interactions of the powerful nations, but because were a nation of people from other regions a multicultural country that needs a multihistorical understanding of the past (4) this was deemed prudent. There is nothing inherently wrong with writing a textbook from this perspective but it does set the authors up for criticism when a regional history deemed to be significant by a particular segment of the Canadian population is overlooked. As well, including stories from other regions of the world should go beyond their service to our cultural diversity or understanding of the present. Sometimes teachers simply want to illustrate a variety of ways of being in the world, different approaches to understanding family, school, work, leisure, friendship, conflict, and even power. In this sense, including a story of Australian aborigines or Tibetan monks may be for no other reason but to expose students to the multiplicity of possibilities that are part of our global experience. Still, the authors must be commended for attempting to explain their perspectives and establishing foci that are both interesting and important for students.
Gardner, Parsons and Zwicky wisely included a page outlining How to Use This Book (IV). It explains that each chapter is divided into two sections: a main section and a newspaper section. The main sections incorporate: a) focus questions at the beginning of each chapter, b) a chronological presentation of key events, c) terms in bold that appear in the glossary, d) feature columns that expand on important ideas, e) timelines and charts that summarize key information, f) photographs, cartoons, diagrams, and maps, g) notes about culture, science and technology, h) review questions at the end of each chapter, and i) a glossary at the back of the book to define key terms.
I had no difficulty with any parts of the main sections as they were well formatted, thoughtfully integrated into the chapter and no one part was over or under used. Indeed, I was particularly impressed with the review questions at the end of each chapter. While some questions such as what event triggered World War I, and where did it occur? (34), are of the knowledge variety, many ushered students into the upper levels of Blooms Taxonomy, encouraging application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. An example of this is the following question: Imagine that everyone in the world had enough food and money, no matter who they were and what they did. Would this be a good thing? Jot down a list of problems this would solve and a list of problems this would create. In one or two sentences, state your opinion at the bottom of your lists. Compare your opinion with the opinions of your classmates. Talk about why you agree or disagree. How does where you start from shape your opinion about this? (237).
This is a question expecting a level of thought too often absent from school textbooks. My main area of difficulty was related to the second or newspaper section. Here, headline stories from around the world, region by region (IV) are presented in newspaper format. At first glance this appears to be an interesting way to summarize information for students while introducing them to stories outside the focus of the main section. However, as is the criticism that the authors opened themselves up to, there are several glaring omissions. After a thorough examination of each chapters newspaper section, there is no mention whatsoever of Australia, New Zealand or the South Pacific region. If the index is any indication, this part of the world did not rate inclusion in the textbook at all save for a few maps! Australia and New Zealands contributions to the war effort of both World Wars, their challenges with aboriginal peoples and their influence in the southern hemisphere relative to Indonesia, Vietnam and East Timor might have warranted space, if only for appearances of being comprehensive.
I was also struck by the lack of any mention of Idi Amin, the brutal leader of Uganda during the 1970s; Muammar al-Qaddafi and the U.S. attack on Libya in 1986 and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism; and the establishment of an Islamic state in Sudan in the late 1990s. These entries would not only expand the segments on Africa, an often neglected part of the globe, but they fit with the conceptual focus of power that the textbook is using as well.
These criticisms aside, the textbook is a worthwhile contribution to social studies education and the authors should be commended for prominently noting the assistance of Jane Samson, as an advisor on historical accuracy, and Murray Hoke, as bias reviewer.
Todd Horton – Nipissing University. North Bay, Ontario.
RASCHKE, Carl A. The Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University. London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003. 129. Resenha de: GRIFFITH, Bryant. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
There is a definite disadvantage to writing an academic book concerning the future and a double disadvantage if it concerns the internet. It is almost always wrong. Such is the case with Carl Raschke’s The Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University. When I first read the text I kept looking at the publication date wondering if Raschke had written it before the 2001 crash of hopes and dreams for a wired world; but he did not, or at least it was not published until 2003.
Despite these rather serious drawbacks the book deserves to be reviewed to draw attention to what can happen when we choose to dream about possible futures without remembering where we are and how we got here. That past, as R.G. Collingwood reminded us, is a reenactment of both the insides and the outsides of ideas, or to put it into ordinary language, the fusion of how my mind makes sense of minds in the past. This understanding is a way of knowing one’s self so it is not a minimum ontological claim. We make sense of the past by constructing analogies based on the way that we make rational decisions about our own actions, so one could argue that the past and present are fused in a continuous process of self understanding. Knowing who we are right now and what we think is tied to that process.
I believe that Raschke needs to be reminded of this. Far too often his ideas are much like Collier’s magazine, which presented fantastically utopian ideas about space travel and the colonization of distant galaxies. By that I mean these ideas, like most futurism, seem destined to the bin of what might or might not happen rather than a reasoned argument based upon the presuppositions of our present.
Let me examine some of Raschke’s thoughts and comment upon them. He states the architecture of digital communications necessitates a new understanding of the structures and ‘space’ of knowledge itself. This new knowledge space is consonant with the philosophical slant on the theory of representation, language, and symbolic exchange that has come to be called ‘postmodernist'(p. viii). I think Raschke is right about some of this. To understand digital communications it helps to see the world in the way that some postmodernists describe, that is a non-linear, fragmented narrative. Modernists, as a group, have tended to view history as the unfolding of a grand narrative with definite causes and effects. This has led to the critique of exclusionary voices as Other and to the attack on concepts such as ‘progress’. But this is hardly news. I cannot think of a school district, even in the state of Texas where I presently live, that has not abandoned the Eurocentric school of thought and which does not acknowledge, even implicitly, the concept of difference. Also, even though I think Raschke is right here, I am not sure there is the necessary connection to which he alludes. It might be the case, for instance, that a breakdown in modernism, or a paradigm shift, has occurred allowing us to perceive a different set of presuppositions to make sense of the world.
Raschke claims that such knowledge may be called ‘hyper’ knowledge, because like hyperspace in post-Newtonian cosmology [it] extends the directions and dimensions of knowledge per se in ways unanticipated even a generation ago (p. viii). The matrix for these new extensions of knowledge is what we call the ‘hyper’ university, which in no way resembles the ‘physical’ university (p. viii). The necessity to accept these two points escapes me completely. I would suggest that Raschke’s use of Wittgenstein’s category mistake, of thinking that a university is comprised of grounds and buildings rather than a term to describe the relationship between entities, really applies to Raschke himself (p. ix). Let me explain. For most of us the university is, like the word ‘curriculum’, the totality of experiences which occur both on and off campus. Ask anyone who has been to Oxford about the Friday pub sessions where serious academic conversations occur over much beer. I believe that most graduates from there would tell you that these have been some of the best learning moments of their university experience. In short, I am not sure that there are many universities which define themselves by their grounds and buildings.
Raschke claims that the new university is no longer a school. It is a place of distributed leaning, wherein communication takes place over content, inquiry is prior to instruction, results rule over rules (p. 11). He argues that both the postmodern economy and the postmodern university are built on mobile capital, mobile work forces, and mobile or ‘just-in-time’ inventory and distribution systems (p. 11). I believe I am correct in understanding this to be an argument for a post-fordist educational system where critical thinking is replaced by just-in-time adaptability. If I am correct then I completely disagree with Raschke. My understanding of a wired university is one with infinite possibilities to extend what Robert Putnam has characterized as the growth of social capital. In Bowling Alone Putnam (2000) expresses his concern with the digital revolution’s ability to foster truly open conversation. He feels that Information Technology might make us more private, passive and possibly exclusionary instead of open, conversational and community based. Putnam describes the breakdown of social capital through an analysis of civic engagement in a range of activities in the twentieth century. The fact that we bowl alone, learn alone and spend far less time in human interaction has led to a growing sense of distrust in contemporary society. Surely what our universities need to do is to remember that they have historically been the repositories of social capital, or the ways in which we have interacted to build an intellectual community. Most of us probably went to university to make friends, learn content and get a job in that order. In the process we became the embodiment of the presuppositions that define who we are as a society.
In the past 900 years, the approximate age of the university in western society, the institution has served as the birthing place of several revolutions and paradigm shifts. I see this process continuing in a form quite distinct but not separate from the present. The future, although new and unseen by us, is an ongoing process based upon understanding ourselves and the ideas upon which we have constructed our sense of what we call ‘real’. When one looks back over the shattered IT dreams of the last four or five years one might think that Raschke would have done better here to skip his ‘big picture’ claims and concentrate on the smaller but more significant bits that fit in between them, such as how the neo-modern university can retain its independence from business and government, or how IT enhances problem-based constructive learning. One hopes that Raschke will take his interesting and challenging ideas and apply them to more concrete and historical contexts. Perhaps those are topics for another book.
Collingwood, R.G. (1946). The Idea of History. London: Oxford University Press.
Putnam, R.D. (2000). Bowling Alone. New York: Simon Schuster.
Bryant Griffith – College of Education. Texas A University, Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi, Texas, USA.
NOËL, Françoise. Family Life and Sociability in Upper and Lower Canada, 1780-1870. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. 372p. Resenha de: HOFFMAN, George. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
In Family Life and Sociability in Upper and Lower Canada, 1780-1870, Franoise Nol portrays middle class family life in the mid-nineteenth century. The book is divided into three parts. Part one is entitled The Couple and deals with courtship and marriage. The second part concerns parents and children and discusses childbirth, childhood and parent-child relationships. The last section discusses kinship ties and community life.
The book contains several generalizations related to Canadian family history in the 1800s. The author contends that most couples married for love. Companionate marriage was the norm, and the role of parents in mate selection was no longer as significant as it had been. As well, Nol shows that relations within families were affectionate. Parents showed an extraordinary concern for their children, which continued even after they married and left home. She also illustrates that much of family life took place beyond the door of the home. Families were a part of a large social network which included kin, friends and neighbours. Sociability was an essential part of family life.
Nol’s account has many strengths. The research, as indicated by the endnotes and bibliography, is impressive. The author shows a broad knowledge of her subject. She links her findings to scholarship in the United States and Britain. She is always aware of the larger picture. Parallels are drawn between families in the Canadas and what American historians of the period refer to as the rise of the Republican Family. When discussing child rearing, she refers to the Enlightenment and the influence which thinkers such as Locke and Rousseau were having on the view that children could be nurtured. Such analysis illustrates the significance of family history as a field of study. Family history is not merely human interest stories from the past. Nor is it titillating tidbits related to love, courtship and marriage. Rather, as Franoise Nol shows, it is an important part of social history which helps us to better understand the overall nature of past societies.
I would suggest that readers begin this book by studying the introduction. Here the author discusses the sources upon which her work is based. The book’s subtitle is A View from Diaries and Family Correspondence. In the introduction Nol identifies the diarists and letter writers. We are told when and where they lived and something about the circumstances of their lives. These people appear and re-appear in the pages which follow. It is important to consider who these correspondents are when assessing the conclusions Nol reaches regarding nineteenth century Canadian families.
The diaries and letters which are used do raise some concerns. The sample is not representative of all segments of society. Nol acknowledges this limitation but suggests that the sources accurately reflect the middle class, which in itself, of course, is a valuable historical contribution. However, some questions can be asked about some of the diarists and correspondents, particularly those who are used to illustrate that family values among francophones and anglophones and people of different religious backgrounds were similar.
There is a general contention in the book that the attitudes and principles which guided family life were similar regardless of religion, language and ethnicity. Several diaries and numerous letters of English Canadians are referred to but so are those of French Canadians like Amde Papineau and Ludger and Reine Duvernay. Considerable emphasis is also placed on the journal of Abraham Joseph, a merchant and member of a well-known Jewish family in Lower Canada. The conclusion that follows is that class, not other factors, was most influential in shaping family life in the Canadas during the nineteenth century. Nol does not ignore religious and cultural differences but in the end suggests that religion was not the deciding influence. Family life of Protestants, Catholics and Jews was similar.
But can Amde Papineau and his extended family be used to prove such a point? Papineau was the son of patriote leader Louis Joseph Papineau. After the Rebellion of 1837 he lived in exile with his family in the United States. There he met and eventually married Mary Westcott, the daughter of a merchant from Saratoga, New York. Amde kept a diary rich in detail about his life before and after his marriage. After moving to Montreal following her marriage, Mary exchanged letters with her father in New York for the rest of her life. Nol uses both the diary and letters extensively throughout the book.
Amde was Catholic, and Mary was Protestant. In 1846 they were married in Saratoga by a Presbyterian minister in a fifteen minute ceremony in the Westcott home. After their move to Montreal, Mary usually attended her own church but sometimes accompanied her husband to a Catholic mass at Notre-Dame. And occasionally Amde went with his wife to a Protestant service. A daughter was baptized in the Presbyterian church and a son in the Catholic church. Clearly this was an unusually liberal attitude toward religion and inter-faith marriage. Or perhaps it was evidence of religious indifference. This unconventional family has an important place in Nol’s portrait of family life. One can well ask if Amde Papineau and Mary Westcott can be used to illustrate French Canadian Catholic families, particularly in light of the conservative forces which were growing in the Quebec church after 1850.
Despite this reservation Family Life and Sociability is a major contribution to nineteenth century Canadian social history. It will not be easily read by high school students or by students in introductory university courses. However, teachers and professors certainly can use it to introduce their students to family history as a branch of historical studies. The fascinating information which the book contains about love, birth, life and death is and always will be of interest to everyone.
George Hoffman – History Department. University of Regina. Regina, Saskatchewan.
SADU, Itah; TAYLOR, Stephen Taylor. A Touch of the Zebras. Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003. 32p. Resenha de: HORTON, Todd. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
Another in a long line of issue books written for children, A Touch of the Zebras is the story of Chelsea, a grade two student who does not want to go to school anymore. Her mother, Ms. Rose, tries to find out what is the matter but Chelsea is not telling, preferring to hide in her bed under the guise of sickness. Ms. Rose talks to the school principal to no avail and wisely rules out medical problems by consulting doctors and naturopaths. Input from caring relatives does not solve Chelsea’s problem but a kindly visit from Dr. Tara Lorimer does. It seems that Chelsea has taken a dislike to school because she is biracial and feels she must choose between her black and white friends. In short, Chelsea has a touch of the zebras, the feeling of being caught between two worlds.
Itah Sadu adequately captures the intellectual and emotional struggle that can develop when young children are confronted with words and behaviours that indicate race matters and people understand it in very different ways. Though we are never quite sure what transpired to make Chelsea feel like she must choose between her black and white friends, we know that whatever it was, lines of distinction have been drawn. She has heard a message that says she cannot have it both ways. The days of kindergarten play where everyone played with everyone else have gone forever and Chelsea must realize that we are grouped into racial categories. She must now choose the group with which she truly belongs. Living in a state of limbo is not an option. Sadly, the child is forced to make sense of that which is senseless.
The book also adequately captures the intellectual and emotional struggle of parents trying to understand their children and the lives they lead on a day to day basis. Ms. Rose consults her support system, asks questions and tries to fit pieces of answers together in an effort to figure out what her daughter is unable to clearly articulate. She knows that something has changed in the life of her once happy child but feels helpless to make it better. Almost every parent can relate to this feeling.
Amidst these struggles are subtle touches which lift this book above the ordinary. Stephen Taylor’s beautiful illustrations provide the story with a sense of cultural authenticity. The clothing and hair styles shown throughout are suggestive of Ms. Rose’s Guyanese heritage demonstrating the importance of culture(s) for our senses of identity and influence they have on the choices we make. The story demonstrates cultural accuracy in the names of Chelsea’s aunts and uncle along with a sense of tradition in the home remedies they suggest to help Chelsea get better. Each suggestion reflects the relative’s upbringing, highlighting the point that when confronted with something we do not understand we feel off balance and many of us turn to past practices to re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Finally, Dr. Tara Lorimer’s character quietly but effectively signals to the reader that women are not only doctors but that being a doctor is as much about listening and sharing as it is about surgery and the prescribing of medication. These touches enhance the overall credibility of the book as a tool for dealing with the issue at hand.
My one criticism of the story is the simplistic resolution provided for Chelsea’s problem. Though I am sensitive to the brevity of picture books and the age level at which they are aimed, I cannot help but feel that a quick personal story from a kindly doctor and a few slogans like rainbows come in all colours are not going to bring about feelings of exuberance at being biracial. The concept of race is incredibly complex and how people understand and respond to it is even more so, not to mention often idiosyncratic. The resolution is incredibly frustrating especially for anyone who has experienced feelings of in-between-ness like Chelsea’s.
That point withstanding, the book never strays into anger, hatred or self-pity, feelings that are very plausible for people who experience the challenges of being biracial in a racialized world. Indeed, the book strives to honour and celebrate diversity while revealing the common bonds of humanity. From this standpoint the book succeeds admirably.
The many benefits of children’s literature have been well documented. They arouse reader interest and more personal responses than textbooks. Children’s literature engages students aesthetically and according to some researchers allows readers to experience and empathize with other people, cultures, places and times. While not technically literature, picture books like A Touch of the Zebras can be used with young children as an entry point into discussions of what it is like to live in a multi-raced and multi-ethnic family. As well, we can not discount the power of picture books for older children. They can be effectively used as a hook or opener into more complex discussions about race, how it privileges some and is used to diminish others, how it affects individual and community esteem, impacts on our senses of social justice and overall social cohesion, how it is celebrated by some as an aspect of individual and social identity and of course how it is often ignored.
Todd Horton – Faculty of Education. Nipissing University. North Bay, Ontario.
AJZENSTAT, Janet; ROMNEY, Paul; GENTLES, Ian; GAIRDNER, William D. Editors. Canada’s Founding Debates. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999. 380p. Resenha de: LeVOS, Ernest. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
Here is a book that will interest Canadianists, and those high school and university students interested in constitutional and political developments. Students wanting to do some reading and research on Confederation, and who may not have the luxury of time to read the original legislative records on Confederation, will find Canada’s Founding Debates a valuable source. There is an enormous amount of material packaged into this one volume. Do not skip reading the introduction, since it explains very succinctly that this book is about Confederation. But more specifically, it is a book of excerpts from official reports of the debates in the different colonies (p. 7), that is, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada, Red River and British Columbia, on whether they should join a more viable union. One will read the views of less familiar names such as Robert Carrall, Francis Barnard, and James Ross, along with those more familiar figures like George Brown, George Etienne Cartier, John A. Macdonald and Louis Riel.
The authors have neatly divided the book into five parts covering what was said by the politicians of the seven British North American colonies on liberty (constitutional liberty, responsible government, parliamentary government, the Upper House, equality of representation); individual as well as collective economic opportunity; American, British and Canadian identity; the new nationality(federal union, majority and minority rights), and how to make a constitution (consulting the people and the issue of direct democracy). The book is a convenient source for the views of Macdonald and Brown as well as other lesser known figures. The reader will detect not only individual perspectives and tones, but also the anxieties, enthusiasm and urgency these politicians shared in establishing a new union.
The conservative and liberal views held by the supporters and opponents of Confederation are included in this volume. They were very much like us today, concerned about the future of their country and the well being of future generations. Indeed, they were very concerned about the purpose and form of a new government that would work properly. One will observe that these politicians, at the crossroads of change, brought about by such events as the Civil War in the United States, did not hesitate to study other constitutional models and political systems seeking the best pragmatic insights from these models and systems. As a group of legislators, they were a reservoir of experience and knowledge, men who illustrated their arguments with references to European history through the centuries, the great poets and the Bible, and men who subscribed to the belief that good arguments lead to good resolutions (p. 2).
But the legislators from each colony had their respective concerns. Those from Prince Edward Island did not think they would gain anything from being in the new union. The delegates from Newfoundland worried about their fisheries and the starving population, and feared that they would lose control over their properties, liberties and lives (p. 61). In the Red River Colony, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, there was the concern that their respective colonies would be overwhelmed by Upper Canada and swamped by newcomers. Above all, they feared the lost of their individual identities.
A large book such as this one can be viewed as a book filled with a lot of details and speeches, but is can prove to be a valuable source. It can be a useful reference source to high school students interested in what the fathers of Confederation had to say on issues such as liberty and identity, and it can be a valuable source to college and university students who wish to compare and contrast the views of either Macdonald and Brown, or another set of politicians, on topics such as responsible government, representation by population, whether the vote should be given to householders, or on other related issues that were debated in their respective legislatures.
While some readers may not bother reading footnotes, it would be a disservice to themselves to ignore them since there are many valuable explanations. The footnotes provide the reader with an understanding of the historical context in which political developments such as responsible government, developed. One example is John A. Macdonald’s view on the debate, in the parliament of the province of Canada, on responsible government: I speak of representation by population, the house will of course understand that universal suffrage is not in any way sanctioned, or admitted by these resolutions, as the basis on which the constitution of the popular branch should rest and in the footnote, William D. Gairdiner, one of the authors, offers this explanation: Macdonald is giving his assurance that the house need not fear the spectre of mob rule, which is what many informed people at the time would have expected from universal suffrage in a democratic system (p. 70-71). These are more than footnotes, they are explanatory notes. Read and reflect on these notes for a fuller understanding of the developments on the road to Confederation.
The book offers much potential for assignments and research topics on the internal aspects of Confederation, as well as on the external influences. It is interesting to learn, as William Ross from Nova Scotia noted, that the Quebec scheme is largely copied from the Constitution of New Zealand (p. 268). Bear in mind, however, that the book is a compilation and, as such, critics of the book may accuse the authors of not portraying the complete views of certain politicians. In this case, one should read the entire speech of that politician in the legislative records. This book, however, is a very good reference source.
Ernest LeVos – Grant MacEwan College. Edmonton, Alberta.
LEWIS, Norah L. Editor. Freedom to Play: We Made Our Own Fun. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2002. 224p. Resenha de: MANDZUK, David. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
Norah Lewis’ book Freedom to Play echoes a sentiment that is heard increasingly often these days among teachers and t
To her credit, Lewis openly discusses some of the challenges in trying to reconstruct the past with a book like hers. She notes that memories can be faulty as they can be colored with time, subsequent experiences, and frequent retelling [and] contributors tend to be selective in which memories they retain (p. 4). However, the end result is still a reasonable reflection of how things were different at a time when life seemed to be simpler but perhaps was simply different than it is nowadays. As a result of reviewing the countless letters, interviews, and writings, Lewis suggests that there are nine characteristics that distinguish thehe general public. That message is that children used to be better able to make their own fun than today’s children and that the nature of what it means to be a child has drastically changed during our lifetimes. Essentially, Lewis’ book is a compendium of recollections from older Canadians, selections from writings by Canadian authors, and letters written by children during the period from 1900 tFo the mid-1950s at a time when play was very much a part of childhood. The book is sFreedom to Playtructured into six basic sections under the following headings: Go Outside and Play, Playing is Playing When Shared, Playing is Playing Games, Creating Their Own Equipment, Animals: Friends, Foe or Food and There Was Always Something to Do. Overall, Lewis provides the reader with 100 letters, excerpts from interviews, and anecdotes that illustrate how the nature of childhood has changed over time. Interspersed throughout are over 20 photographs that make that distinction even clearer. idyllic world of childhood in the days before television and electronic games became realities: parents regularly sent children out to play to get them out from under foot and to ensure young people got plenty of fresh air and exercise; children in rural and urban areas were free to play, to roam, and to explore and they felt free to do so; many of the games were physically active and were self-organized; toys and equipment were frequently limited but children created or modified whatever was needed to play the game; playing was often more important than winning and therefore, most available children were included; domestic animals played important roles as companions, and wild creatures were sources, of interest, food, and income; holidays were welcome breaks from daily chores and seasonal tasks; although the letter writers highlighted in this book belonged to organizations for children and youth, adults tended not to recall organizations such as The Pathfinders Club, The Maple Leaf Club, and The Young Canada Club to be a vital part of their childhood; and, children of pre-television times do not recall being bored as there was always something to do. On this final point, Lewis points out that children for whom life was difficult – or who were confined in detention camps, residential schools, or crowded inner city areas – tried to adapt what time and materials they had to suit their situation.
In fairness to Lewis, she does try to avoid the tendency to overly romanticize how life used to be and how children used to be treated. She admits that today’s children are probably more knowledgeable and better informed on many topics than were their grandparents (p. 23). She also admits that many of the games and activities discussed in the book such as hopscotch, snow angels, and skipping stones are still as popular today as they were in the past. However, in spite of these provisos, one still gets the impression that she feels that children were better off in the past.
Of the 100 anecdotes and letters, a number are particularly reflective of a time gone by. For example, Helga Erlindson’s A Trip on a Steamer written in 1911 recalls a Victoria Day excursion on Lake Winnipeg that takes an unexpected turn when the captain of the ship drops a party of girls off on an island and does not arrive until almost 12 hours later. A letter from 1944 called Boy Scout Week reminds us of the role that Victory Gardens played during the Second World War. Finally, an anecdote called Charlie Riley’s Pasture for Gopher Shoots reminds us of the perils of gopher hunting and the money that children could make in collecting such things as gopher tails, crows’ eggs and crows’ feet.
Overall, I found reading of this book to be reasonably satisfying. The introduction sets the stage well by providing the necessary context before the reader is allowed to dive into the many letters, interviews and anecdotes and the photographs add authenticity and interest. As interesting as I found the reading, however, I do feel that the book has a number of weaknesses. The most obvious for me is the organizational structure of the book. The six headings simply do not, in my mind, provide enough of a framework for conceptually organizing the book and because the individual sections lack proper introductions, one is left with the impression that more thought could have been put into its overall organization. For this reason and others, I cannot see this book being used by teachers of Social Studies other than as a general interest collection. Therefore, if readers feel like reminiscing and are looking for an easier read, this might be the book for them. If they are looking for more of a critical analysis of how childhood is different now than it was in the past, I suggest that they look elsewhere.
David Mandzuk – Faculty of Education. University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba.
ADAMS, Michael. Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values. Toronto: Penguin Press, 2003. 224p. Resenha de: NEIDHARDT, W. S.. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
For many years now Canadians – at least those who are interested in their country’s history – have been exposed to countless books and articles about the Canadian-American relationship. Most of the authors inevitably concluded that Canada was slowly but surely drifting into a closer relationship with the United States. In fact, some writers even predicted that Canada’s ultimate destiny was nothing less than complete absorption into the American republic. In Fire and Ice, Michael Adams challenges what he calls the existing myth of inevitability and advances the rarely heard, and even more rarely substantiated, thesis that Canadians and Americans are actually becoming increasingly different from one another (p. 4).
Adams is quite aware that most Canadians may not, at first, believe him. He readily admits that Canada is increasingly dependent on the U.S. economy and that Canadians consume increasing amounts of American popular culture, products, services and imagination (p. 140). He also points out that in a recent public opinion poll – taken in 2002 – 58% of Canadians thought that Canada had been becoming more or less similar to the United States during the preceding ten years (p. 3). He also fully acknowledges that the two North American nations do have, indeed, much in common, including such things as common founding principles and similar political institutions.
However, Adams also wants his readers to know that there are, in fact, some very fundamental differences that have developed between the two countries over the years. For example, he refers to the ‘revolutionary tradition’ in the U.S.A as opposed to the ‘counter-revolutionary tradition’ in Canada, the contrasting attitudes Americans and Canadians have towards the roles of government, and the quite different beliefs they have about the role of religion in their daily lives. As one reads each chapter in Fire and Ice, one begins to believe that Adams is onto something and that his thesis is not a mere flight of academic fancy but rather a thoroughly researched and carefully constructed argument.
The book is filled with a vast array of statistics that he and his colleagues at Environics compiled while conducting over 14000 individual interviews and numerous focus groups and surveys. Based on these findings, Adams argues that fundamental values, motivations, and mindsets were changing (p. 7) in recent years in both Canada and the United States and that these changes in peoples’ social values have, in fact, created two distinct societies in North America. The author, who is more a social scientist than a historian (Seymour Lipset seems to be his much admired role model) believes that much of what people say when they are asked specific questions during public opinion polls tends to reveal only how they feel about specific issues. Furthermore, he argues that these polls generally do not involve the social value assessment criteria that are required in order to elicit peoples’ more fundamental beliefs and values.
Adams makes skilfull use of the social scientist’s repertoire as he examines a variety of areas of social change that have taken place in Canada and the United States including religion, multiculturalism, immigration, the status of women, patriarchal authority, consumerism, social welfare, gun-control and many others. In the final analysis, Adams concludes that his research data clearly establishes that Canadians and Americans embrace a different hierarchy of values (p. 147) and that the two nations are socio-culturally distinct and will remain so for many years to come – perhaps indefinitely (p. 76).
Some of Adams’ conclusions may well be seen as quite provocative and will probably not endear him to some readers – especially those who espouse the neo-conservative vision for the Canada of the future – when he suggests that the United States is becoming a country where we find values of nihilism, aggression, fear of the other, and consumptive one-upmanship (p. 72). While he supports the commonly held view that the United States is a more competitive society than Canada and that Americans are more innovative, he also describes America as being more violent and more racist (p. 115). He suggests that Americans worship money and success more than Canadians do but he also admits they are more willing to take risks in the hope that they might win than to ensure against disaster in fear that they might lose (p. 115). Meanwhile, Canada, according to Adams, is showing increasing flexibility, openness, autonomy and fulfillment (p. 74) and is perhaps becoming the home of a unique postmodern, postmaterial multiculturalism, generating hardy strains of new hybrids that will enrich this country and many others in the world (p. 143).
Fire and Ice is a clearly written and carefully researched book. In his introduction the author spells out what he wants to say and in the subsequent six short chapters he does what he said he would do. For the amateur social scientists in us he has included seven appendices (60 pages in length) which provide ample information about the social values methodology that was used to collect and interpret the vast amount of data. In addition, the book has a useful Trend Glossary, a carefully prepared index, several humorous but thought-provoking cartoons from the New Yorker, numerous graphs, and a short bibliography. As far as usability in the classroom is concerned, Fire and Ice is a must read for teachers and students who study the Canadian-American relationship because it provides a compellingly different view from the traditional interpretation as to where Canadian and American societies are heading.
In my opinion, Fire and Ice richly deserves to be the winner of the Donner Prize as the best book on Canadian public policy in 2003/04. Perhaps this paragraph – found at the end of chapter four of the book will best sum up Michael Adams’ message: In my nightmares, I may see the American fire melting the Canadian ice and then dream of the waters created by the melting ice drowning the fire, but this will not happen – at least not in our lifetimes. The two cultures will continue side by side, converging their economies, technologies, and now their security and defence policies, but they will continue to diverge in the ways that most people in each country, I believe, will continue to celebrate (p. 126).
S. Neidhardt – Northview Heights S.S. History Department (retired). Toronto, Ontario.
RAMIREZ, Bruno. Crossing the 49th Parallel: Migration from Canada to the United States, 1900-1930. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2001. 219p. Resenha de: NEIDHARDT, W. W. Canadian Social Studies, v.38, n.2, p., 2004.
Professor Ramirez has provided us with an excellent study of the migration movement from Canada to the United States in the period from 1900-1930. His monograph is clearly a ground-breaking piece of work that fills a major gap in the migration historiography of both countries. It is probably one of the best books on the subject since the excellent but somewhat limited and definitely dated book by Marcus Hansen and John B. Brebner, The Mingling of the Canadian and American Peoples, which was published back in 1940. There does, of course, already exist a considerable body of the published material dealing with the French Canadian migration to the United States during the 19th century. However, the rest of the migration story has received relatively little attention even though about 2.8 million people moved from Canada to the United States from 1840-1940. Approximately two thirds of these emigrants were non-French Canadians. Crossing the 49th Parallel does much to remedy this situation.
However, this is a book that will probably only appeal to someone who specializes in immigration history. I would surmise that most high school students would use this study of Canadian-American cross-border immigration only if they were doing some very specialized research project. The rightful place for Crossing the 49th Parallel seems to be at the post-secondary level of education.
So what will an interested reader find in this book? First of all, Crossing the 49th Parallel is clearly a well-researched book with an almost overwhelming amount of densely packed information. The writing is precise and to the point, although several paragraphs that are more than one page in length could perhaps have been restructured. Within its covers are 19 pages of detailed documentation, 18 Tables of Statistics, several charts, 20 photos, a brief appendix and a very useful index. The book is also carefully structured. There is a good preface in which the author introduces the subject matter; five more or less equally long chapters make up the main body of the monograph. An excellent conclusion rounds out the book.
Chapter 1 is entitled Societies in Motion in Nineteenth Century North America and it provides the necessary background information without which the remaining chapters would seem strangely isolated. In this chapter the author explains how and why Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes contributed to the enormous population flow into the United States particularly New England, the Great Lakes region and the American Mid-west. He also examines the roles played by agriculture, commerce and industry in this southward movement of peoples.
In Chapter 2, the author examines what he calls The Rise of the Border. He argues that by the end of the 19th century, the Canadian-American border – which once used to be relatively open to cross-border migration – was no longer a mere line drawn by international agreements to mark the end of one national territory and the beginning of another; it had also become a system of controls to prevent the entry of unwanted persons into U.S. territory (p.39). It was the time when numerous inspection points began to sprout all along the Canadian-American border.
Emigration from French Canada to the United States is the title of chapter 3 and the focus here is, of course, the French Canadian migration to the United States, particularly to the New England region. Here the author – who has already written extensively on this generally well-known topic – analyzes the roles played by geographic proximity and economic opportunity in enticing so many French Canadians to leave their homeland and settle down in the petits Canadas that began to appear in many American cities. This French Canadian exodus was, according to Ramirez, largely a farm to city move (p.86) and he presents ample evidence that the presence of kin or fellow villagers(p.75) in many of these American cities served, in fact, as a primary attraction for many French Canadians. He concludes that throughout the first three decades of the new century the majority of French Canadians chose a U.S. location in which they had a member of their immediate family, a relative, or a friend waiting for them (p.76). The author also provides his readers with considerable detail about some of the men, women and children who left during this migration; who they were, from what walks of life they came, and their plans.
The focus of Chapter 4 is Emigration from English Canada: 1900-1930. Once again the same questions are asked: who were the emigrants that went to the United States? Where did they come from? Why did they leave and where did they go? For example, we are told that these emigrants came from various backgrounds and from all walks of life and that Ontario had been the home of most of them – although considerable numbers also came from the Maritimes and the West. They all hoped to find a better way of life south of the border and they made their new homes in nearly all the states of the American republic (p.105). The vast majority of them chose to settle in Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, but some also settled in Washington and California. The number of English-speaking emigrants was considerably larger than their French-speaking counterparts and Ramirez writes that on most days for every French Canadian who emigrated to the United States, two Anglo-Canadians did likewise(p.97). It is interesting to note that English Canadians, once they had settled in the United States, did not develop the same kind of ethnic institutions and did not create the same demographic clusters as their French-speaking counterparts. In fact, Ramirez states, regional dispersion and occupational diversity were the hallmarks of the Anglo-Canadian movement (p.100). Most of the English Canadian emigrants would make their homes in the cities of America and Ramirez gives considerable attention to Detroit because it acted as a continental crossroads of population and labor power (p.111). This chapter also examines some of the difficulties that Canadian emigrants encountered as they tried to cross the border and more often than not were confronted by some very hard-nosed
customs inspectors who had enormous discretionary powers as to who could enter. The migration of English Canadians actually began to slow down by 1927 and not surprisingly, of course, came to a virtual halt with the onset of the Great Depression.
The Remigration Movement from Canada is the fifth and final chapter of the book and it examines in considerable detail how Canada became an important gate through which men and women of all nationalities sought to enter the United States legally and illegally (pp.139-140). In fact, one of the more remarkable statistics found in this chapter is the fact that one in five persons who joined the migration flow from Canada to the United States was someone who had first immigrated to Canada and had resided there for a certain length of time (p.139). According to Professor Ramirez, these remigrants, too, came from all Canadian provinces with Ontario and the western provinces leading the way. Not surprisingly, most of these men and women chose to settle not far from the Canadian-American border with New York, Michigan and Washington becoming the three most prominent destinations. Once again, Ramirez provides his readers with all kinds of statistical detail about these remigrants. One particularly informative section deals with Canada’s Italian community and its participation in the migration movement to the United States in the early years of the 20th century.
There is no question that Crossing the 49th Parallel makes a valuable contribution to the migration historiography of North America. Hopefully it will find its rightful place on the bookshelves and research tables of colleges and universities.
S. Neidhardt – Toronto, Ontario.
JAMES, Carl E.; SHADD, Adrienne. Editors. Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language. 2nd Edition. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2001. 323p. Resenha de: HORTON, Todd. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
As editors of a narrative anthology, James and Shadd have compiled a compelling series of stories exploring the complex perspectives of Canada’s racial, ethnic and linguistic minorities. Quotations are used to indicate that the term minorities can be considered by some to be marginalizing to the extent that it positions entire groups of people outside the mainstream majority, perpetuating their Otherness. However, as James states in the introduction, the term also indicate[s] the power relationships in our society: ‘majority’ represents not simply numbers, but the cultural group with political and economic power, as compared to the ‘minority,’ which does not have access to that power (p. 7). Using the work of Stuart Hall, James notes that in talking about ‘identity’ they view this core concept as a ‘production,’ which is never complete, always in process and always constituted within, not outside representation (p. 2). In this vein, James and Shadd have successfully created a book that makes explicit the complex ways personal exchanges and interactions influence and inform understandings of race, ethnic and language identities. It does this by focusing on the vicissitudes of people’s daily encounters and, with each powerfully written story, the reader comes to appreciate the contingent, contextual and relational nature of identities.
The stories are clustered into five themed parts: Who’s Canadian Anyway?; Growing Up Different; Roots to Identity, Routes to Knowing; Race, Privilege, and Challenges; and, Confronting Stereotypes and Racism. Each part provides a space for the contributing authors to voice their individual experiences and interpretations of living in a world that defines people by their race, ethnicity and language.
In a selection from Part I entitled Where Are You Really From?: Notes of an ‘Immigrant’ from North Buxton, Ontario co-editor turned author Adrienne Shadd deftly weaves a story of invisibility and marginalization based on the title question. Shadd illustrates how the four hundred year history of Blacks in Canada has been made invisible in both this country and throughout the world leading to the widespread belief that there is no such thing as a Black Canadian save for recently arrived immigrants. She also draws on her experiences growing up in North Buxton, Ontario a rural Black community near Chatham once famous as a settlement of ex-slaves who escaped from the United States on the Underground Railroad to explore her views on the overlap of caste and class in the public consciousness and the affirmation that can come from education in segregated schools. However, the crux of the story is found in the complexity of daily encounters when varying forms of the question where are you really from are asked. Shadd explains how displays of frustration and annoyance to her answer of Canada and the pursuit of an answer that more satisfies the inquisitor’s conception of a Canadian marginalizes her in her own country. As Shadd explains, you are unintentionally denying me what is rightfully mine my birthright, my heritage and my long-standing place in the Canadian mosaic (p. 15). Still, Shadd is not content to tie up the point in a neat little package. Instead, she ends with an encounter that blows open the discussion again as a Guatemalan Canadian tells her that except for the Native people, the rest of us are just immigrants anyway (p. 16).
While the stories in Part I focus on issues of Canadian-ness, the stories in Part II explore the experiences of growing up, that precarious time when being seen as different or viewing oneself as different can be most traumatic. Stan Isoki, a teacher living in Ontario, relates his encounters with race in a story entitled Present Company Excluded, Of CourseRevisited. Here, Isoki takes the unusual step of updating his first edition manuscript by interjecting more recent commentary and reflection. The effect for the reader is the feeling of a dialogue between who and what the author was and who and what they have become. Isoki, a Canadian of Japanese heritage, shares his feelings of being made to feel both visible and invisible, saving his most potent criticism for several teachers who taught him as a boy and those with whom he worked as a colleague. The criticism is not vitriolic or vituperative, though he has every right to heap mountains of scorn on these individuals given their charge of educating young minds. Instead, Isoki’s critique is a cry for awareness and sensitivity on the part of teachers (and governments) as well as a call to action to re-create a vision of Canada that is truly multicultural.
One of the most insightful stories appears in Part III. Written by Howard Ramos and entitled It Was Always There: Looking for Identity in All the (Not) So Obvious Places, a road side encounter in northeastern New Brunswick is the catalyst for an exploration of the author’s feelings about his father’s identification with Canada and lack of connection to his native Ecuador. This also leads to a period of self-reflection about the ways the author has positioned his father as not quite Canadian and himself as having little or no relationship to his Ecuadorian heritage. Drawing on the work of Ernest Renan and Benedict Anderson, Ramos comes to understand that identity, like nation-building, is a process of forgetting, misinterpreting and re-creating symbols and markers (p. 108). His father, in an effort to become Canadian, forgot his past while subtly sharing that past, that part of who he is, with his son. Ramos, in turn had to acknowledge his misinterpretation of what it means to be Canadian and the boundaries he has created that prevent his father from being who he wishes to be. He also had to recognize his connection to his Ecuadorian heritage as something that was always there, waiting to be embraced in the fullest sense of Canada’s yet to be achieved society based on multiculturalism and acceptance of diversity.
One of the most compelling contributions to the book occurs in Part V. Entitled I Didn’t Know You Were Jewishand Other Things Not To Say When You Find Out, Ivan Kalmar’s piece initially caused me a great deal of discomfort which, I believe, was his intent. Written in a quasi-advice column style, Kalmar refers to the reader as you fostering the feeling of being spoken and occasionally lectured to directly. My feelings of consternation stemmed from indignation at his assumption that I, an educated person, would ever be culturally insensitive. This is mixed with feelings of guilt as I secretly admit to myself that I may indeed have said things or acted in just the ways he describes. Once passed what at times felt like an assault on my enlightened self, I read and re-read his reasoning for offering such advice. In each case, Kalmar thoughtfully demonstrates the challenge of being culturally sensitive, noting that what is often intended as a compliment or search for common conversational ground can also be interpreted as intolerant and insulting. This duality can be frustrating, but just as you feel like you will never be able to get it right or that no matter what you do someone will take offense, Kalmar acknowledges that most people have purity of intent and exhorts that he simply wishes to encourage consideration of his points and reconsideration of our words and actions. The coda to the piece emphasizes a generosity of spirit toward people as they struggle to live in a world characterized by multiple perspectives on identity, saying that even if we occasionally slip up, not to worry as we mean well. As he says, I’m not only a Jew. I am a human being, like you (p. 240).
James and Shadd’s book was written as an effort to make explicit how identities related to race, ethnicity and language influence and inform individuals’ life experiences and relationships (p. 2) and in this regard it succeeds brilliantly. Highly readable, the book is applicable to any university course wishing to delve into the complex world of identities. While not written for secondary school, portions of this book could be used by teachers to introduce a concept, encourage discussion or address a relevant issue. Indeed, there are few more effective entry points into discussions of race, ethnicity and language than the daily encounter.
Todd Horton – Faculty of Education. Nipissing University. North Bay, Ontario.
REDDY, William M. The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 380p. Resenha de: LEE-SINDEN, Jane. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
The Navigation of Feeling is a valuable contribution to emotion literature. There are few books that provide a significant examination of relevant and recent research on emotion. The first two chapters are devoted to a critical review of the research including a conceptual analysis from the lenses of cognitive psychology and anthropology. A comparison of emotion theories is presented to gauge both the extent of convergence that is going on in these two fields, as well as the extent of conceptual blockage that has developed as new research findings have come up (p. xiii). Further, there is an extensive list of sources at the end of the book that will prove useful to students studying emotion research.
The book is divided into Parts I and II with a total of eight chapters. In chapter one, the author addresses ongoing debates regarding emotions, such as whether or not emotional experiences are solely biologically based and thus universal. For instance, Reddy explains that efforts to uncover the hidden order among emotion words in various languages have yielded very different results because it is difficult to know how to distinguish one emotion term from another in a given language; there is no yardstick for emotion terms (p. 5). Moreover, Western specialists who study emotion cannot agree on what the term emotion means. Reddy pulls from the work of Isen and Diamond to explain their views on how emotions operate like overlearned cognitive habits that may be learned, altered, or unlearned by conscious decision. It is suggested that emotions are involuntary in the short run in the same sense that such cognitive habits are, but may similarly be learned and unlearned over a longer time frame.
In chapter two the debate continues with a view from anthropology. Among anthropologists, there is a prevalent tendency to regard emotions as culturally constructed. This idea has led to recent persuasive ethnographic accounts of worldwide emotional variation, providing grounds for a political critique of the Western thought that identifies emotions as biological and feminine. Further, Reddy pulls from psychological research that supports the constructionist approach to emotions as deeply influenced by social interaction (p. 34), which supports that idea that emotions may be learned and no different from other cognitive contents.
In chapter three the author attempts to bridge the gap between anthropology and psychology by examining emotional expression as a type of speech act. Reddy considers emotional expressions as utterances aimed at briefly characterizing the current state of activated thought material that exceeds the current capacity of attention. Such expression, by analogy with speech acts, can be said to have descriptive appearance (p. 100), rational intent (p. 100), and self exploring and self-altering effects (p. 101). He also describes forms of expressions, such as: first person past tense emotions, first person long term emotion claims, emotional expressive gestures, facial expressions, word choices, and intonations, other claims about states of the speaker, and second and third person emotion claims, all of which he characterizes as emotives (p. 103).
In chapter four Reddy explains how the theory presented in chapter three offers a new way of understanding what he calls emotional regimes and their relation to emotional experience and liberty (p. 113). Chapters five through eight are devoted to historical examination, concluding with an attempt at pulling together historical significance for our understanding of present emotion research.
I found significant value in the chapters discussing present views of thought on emotions. Reddy’s comparison of emotional expression to a speech act and the idea of emotives are insightful additions to the understanding of emotion. I found the later chapters less useful. As a doctoral student new to the field of emotion, chapters five through eight are mundane and heavy historically. In addition, although I finished the book with a better understanding regarding the present and past theories of emotion, the conclusion left me in a similar place where I started, namely that western specialists who study emotion cannot even agree on what the term emotion means (p. 3). Nevertheless, the book provides a thorough and well-packaged examination of emotion.
The Navigation of Feeling would be useful to those who have previous understanding or background for the purpose of studying emotion or who wish to ponder on new ideas. In relation to students, this book is a good compliment to Jenkins and Oakley’s (1996) Understanding Emotion and Boler’s (1999) Feeling Power. Jenkins and Oakley’s conceptual analysis of emotion touches on many of the ideas that Reddy addresses, however Understanding Emotion, which looks at emotion from a sociological perspective, is presented with consideration to students who have no previous experience with emotion literature.
Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and education. New York: Routledge.
Oatley, K. Jenkin, J.M. (1996). Understanding emotion. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Science.
Jane Lee-Sinden – Faculty of Education. University of Western Ontario. London, Ontario.
CLARK, Bruce W.; WALLACE, John K. Making Connections: Canada’s Geography. Prentice Hall: Toronto, Ontario, 1999. 506p. Resenha de: ROBERTSON, Virginia. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
The sheer size and diversity found within this country make writing a national geography a formidable task. However, Clark and Wallace have done an admirable job of producing such a volume. Making Connections: Canada’s Geography is successful in its aim of leading students to discover our country’s geography. It provides a comprehensive study of Canada’s complex and interrelated geographic elements. The main theme is making connections and this is what students who use this book will do. The reader is encouraged to take responsibility for her/his learning and to make connections between elements of the physical environment, between the human environment and the physical environment, and between elements of the human environment. The book is rich in content and skills and offers students a wide range of knowledge and techniques to effectively understand the geography of Canada and the role it plays in the global community.
Designed primarily for grade nine students and to fulfill the requirements of the Ontario curriculum for Canadian Geography, the authors compiled a very practical and user-friendly textbook. Although there is an emphasis on the geography of Ontario, this textbook is an appropriate and effective tool to learn the country’s geography and to develop geographical skills, regardless of what province or country one inhabits. From beginning to end, this book invites and challenges students to think. Not only is the book visually appealing but it treats the inquiring students as young adults who possess intelligence and sophistication in their learning. At the beginning of the book there is an introduction which provides a clear statement of the knowledge and skills that will be acquired, followed by a section which explains how to effectively use the textbook to achieve this goal. The central core is structured into seven major units, each representing a significant theme. There are a total of thirty-six chapters, unevenly distributed among the units; the number varies according to the extent and complexity of the concepts being presented. The final section of the volume contains a valuable glossary that provides excellent definitions for all the bold face terms presented in the text.
The main body of the book is organized around seven units; one unit is devoted exclusively to geographical skill development while the other six provide content and learning activities pertaining to geographical topics that are both familiar and engaging to the adolescent mind. Although there are a varying number of chapters per unit, each chapter is structured somewhat the same. Each begins by presenting the concepts and learning expectations and lists the key terms that are integrated into that particular chapter. To clarify and establish the connections between the different geographical realms, some chapters provide case studies which serve to illuminate these interrelationships.
Throughout the text there is a wide range of learning opportunities presented by the variety of exercises and activities aimed at the whole spectrum of learning styles and intellectual abilities. These assignments help the students better understand and review the facts, concepts and connections while developing critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. There is ample opportunity to develop such geography-specific skills as cartography, statistical analysis and graphing techniques. Suggestions of ways and means of developing technological skills are another important aspect of each chapter. GIS activities and Internet addresses are provided and the use of computers to research relevant topics and to produce graphic and written responses to challenging and complex questions is encouraged.
This book moves logically and smoothly from one unit to another while demonstrating the interconnectedness between them. The students are drawn into the learning process from the first unit which introduces them to significant and unique facts regarding our country. Students are encouraged to discover Canada’s position physically, economically, politically and demographically in the world. Using graphics, statistics and surveys Canada is compared to various other countries, thus providing an opportunity to examine Canada from many different angles and perspectives. The second unit is aimed specifically at exploring and developing essential skills that are required for geographical analysis. This unit is an excellent reference tool for the students as they progress through the book. The third unit focuses on Canada’s physical geography. Geological regions, landform regions, climate regions, vegetation zones and soil zones are portrayed independently with all the interconnecting factors responsible for their formation and they are portrayed collectively by demonstrating the interaction between them. These interrelationships are effectively and clearly explained through the appropriate and clever use of a vast array of graphics. Unit four is primarily concerned with concepts and principles pertaining to Canada’s demographic situation. The changing demographic scene highlights Canada’s multicultural heritage. Dynamism in Canada’s population is further demonstrated via the study of population growth and movement, changing settlement patterns and land uses, and urbanization. The fifth unit emphasizes the diversity and complexity of economic activities in Canada. The students easily discover that Canada’s economy is closely tied to its physical and demographic situations. Categories of industries, industrial location, resource management, transportation and communication are explored in all of their complexity and diversity. The main focus is on the exploration of the connections between the physical environment, demographic patterns and economic development. Unit six examines Canada’s role on the world stage. It shows Canada’s cultural, political, economical and environmental links with the global community and presents the major international organizations with which Canada is involved. Much of the unit focuses on Canada’s relationship with our most important trade partner, the United States. The final unit called Future Connections is largely concerned with the possible challenges that Canada will face in the future and takes a problem solving approach to these concerns. Environmental issues such as global warming, water resources and alternate energy sources are explored. The concept of ecological footprint is demonstrated and the environmental impact that Canadians have on the world is examined.
Making Connections: Canada’s Geography provides the curious adolescent with a high level of geographical study and analysis within the framework of a familiar environment. Although the reluctant and challenged learner may have difficulty with the vocabulary and concepts presented, the average and advanced learner will be stimulated into becoming a more responsible and independent learner. The colorful graphics enhance the learning and appeal to the whole spectrum of intelligences found in the typical grade nine classroom. The book has tremendous potential as a valuable resource or reference book in any senior high school library. Although it is a valuable teaching tool, it does have several weaknesses that prevent it from universal acceptance as a national geography textbook. First, one of its strengths as a resource book becomes a weakness as a textbook. There is such a vast amount of information and a large number of skills and suggested activities presented, that some teachers, and many students, might feel overwhelmed by the size and extent of the textbook. Secondly, the emphasis on Ontario’s geography, and limited reference to other provinces, could pose a problem for geography students outside Ontario. They may not have a familiar point of reference on which to hang new learning. Thirdly, the high reading level and advanced vocabulary would also be a challenge for students who experience language acquisition difficulties or who speak English as a second language. However, an alert and experienced teacher could easily compensate for these inadequacies and adapt the book to any level of learner in today’s multifaceted classroom.
In general, this book offers high school students an intelligent and insightful look at Canada’s geography. Opportunities to apply and develop geographical skills and life skills are found in abundance throughout the text. Although broad in scope, the authors clearly communicate the importance of the interconnectedness between human activity and the natural environment in Canada’s ecozones and highlight Canada’s relationship and unique position in the global community. They encourage students to think, explore and develop their own understandings; this supports the modern socio-constructivist approach to learning. In short, the book prepares students with the skills, knowledge and understandings that are necessary to meet the new realities of the 21st century.
Virginia Robertson – Lower Canada College. Montreal, Quebec.
KRAMER, Reinhold; MITCHELL, Tom. Walk Towards the Gallows: The Tragedy of Hilda Blake, Hanged 1899. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2002. 318p. Resenha de: SENGER, Elizabeth. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.
Walk Towards the Gallows is a tragic story of murder, but much more significantly, it is a commentary on social practices and society of the late 19th century. While the legal facts of this case of murder are presented, even more pertinent personal and social facts are presented about this young woman, Hilda Blake, and how she found herself in a situation where she ended up committing murder.
A question that this book repeatedly raises is Can history every truly be known? While the authors attempt to set a clear context of historical time and place, this work is rife with questions and suppositions. Rather than confusing us as readers, however, these tactics lead us in to the lamentable story of Hilda Blake, and encourage us to, in turn, question what we know of our own reality. Walk Towards the Gallows is a captivating, thought provoking work which offers an illuminating insight into Canadian society, and broader perspectives on what makes people behave the way they do.
According to Kramer and Mitchell, it was common in the late 1800s for England to send destitute orphans to Canada so that the British government would not be responsible for their maintenance, and so that members of Canadian society could benefit from cheap, if not free, labor. The officials at the time appealed to the recipients with claims of Christian charity [and] inexpensive labor (p. 17). These claims deluded people into believing that they were helping the poor orphans, and made them willing to accept the orphans so they could realize some financial gain. This policy, given the euphemism of assisted emigration (p. 12) was at best exploitation, and at worst it was outright slavery.
Hilda’s story was fairly typical of children in her predicament. She came to Canada at the age of ten and worked in a variety of homes as a domestic servant. Since she was seen as an inferior, not very intelligent young girl, she naturally encountered conflict in her young life. Removed unwillingly from England, the only home she had ever known, she was shuffled from one unfortunate situation to the next. She ran away twice in her first eighteen months at the first farm in Manitoba where she was placed. She fled to a kindly neighbor, but soon became disillusioned there, changed her mind, and asked to go back to the original family. By the age of 16 Hilda entertained thoughts of suicide (p. 62).
Several themes run through Walk Towards the Gallows. On one level, this is a brief history of the newly emergent country of Canada in the late 1800s. Kramer and Mitchell provide detailed descriptions of the land, agricultural business, the state of immigration, and even the Riel Rebellion of 1885. On another level they provide insight into the Victorian values prevalent at the time. They go so far as to state that the British ideal of family society strongly influenced attitudes in all levels of society in Canada at this time. According to evangelical thinking at the time the family was the cornerstone of the social order (p. 53). They go on to quote the Christian Guardian as stating that All society, civil, political and moral originates in and receives its character from this (p. 53). Their point appears to be that Christian, British morals were a large part of what convinced Canadian society to convict Hilda Blake of murder and send her to the gallows. In these traditions, she was a wanton tramp who could have no redeeming moral qualities.
At the same time as they are demonstrating the influence of the Christian ethic on our society, Kramer and Mitchell point out many anomalies in such morals. They comment, for example, on the business ethics at the time as being a ruthless pursuit of wealth, and the necessity of subjugating nature to Man’s will in pursuit of that wealth. One result of such thinking was that women were placed in positions of subordination, and did not play a fair or equal role in society. An example of this was that Hilda ended up condemned by a law she had no voice in forming (p. 72) and, because of her lowly origins, she had even less chance of truly understanding her circumstances.
Another theme which permeates this work is a running commentary on class privilege and class structure. The authors demonstrate repeatedly that Hilda was a young woman taken advantage of from the age of ten, used as virtual slave labor, misled by her employer, and ultimately abandoned by the very system which purported to have acted in her best interests. The authors make note of the fact that Ms Blake’s trial took only 5 minutes, and she was convicted mainly on the evidence of her confession. On pages 214 and 215 they detail the unfairness of laws regarding women, particularly when it came to sexual mores. Parliament was attempting to make changes to a law intended to protect men of means from blackmail by being seduced by women of loose character. While Parliament was willing to change the law slightly to indicate that women of a certain age would be victims, and not perpetrators of such crimes, it still was not prepared to challenge the gender orthodoxy that demanded chaste character of young women and winked at the philandering of middle class men as long as they restricted themselves to ‘ruined’ women (p. 214). These double standards of moral and legal behavior have been with us down through the centuries, and late 19th century Canada was no different.
The authors also make reference to the influence of the literature of the time period on Hilda’s life and her actions. They make her out to be a woman misled by romantic notions of love and marriage, and imply she was misguided into believing she could have a life of wedded bliss (by killing the wife of her employer) which in reality was never open to her. They seem to be painting parallel portraits of Christian versus romantic ideals, perhaps to contrast them and again encourage the reader to deeply consider their own values and beliefs.
Walk Towards the Gallows is an insightful perspective into many aspects of 1880s Canadian society. The authors encourage us to examine gender roles then and now, assess the appeal to the media and the public of sexual scandals, and understand more fully the complicated process by which society has developed in our country. In many ways, the class and gender distinctions, which were present in the late 19th century, haunt us still.
Elizabeth Senger – Henry Wise Wood High School. Calgary, AB.