EVANS, Mark; SLODOVNICK, Michael; ZORIC, Terezia; EVANS, Rosemary. Citizenship: Issues and Action. Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2000. 230p. Resenha de: MEYER, John. Canadian Social Studies, v.38, n.2, p., 2004.
This is one of four recent textbooks on the Ontario Trillium list of approved resources for grade ten civics courses. Hence, it conforms to the prescribed civics framework and the strands of the Ontario curriculum, i.e., informed citizenship, purposeful citizenship, and active citizenship. There is a teachers’ resource aid and a companion web site, www.pearsoned.ca/civics, available but not for this review. There are ten commendable features of this book, namely, focus questions, definitions of key terms, info sources, profiles of people and organizations in action, case studies, supplementary visuals, activity blocks, skill builders, chapter reviews, and icons for media and technology analysis.
The six chapters begin with the individual as citizen and extend outward to global citizenship. While providing opportunities to investigate what it means to be a responsible citizen in a democratic setting it also assists in understanding three essential elements: a sense of membership, a set of rights and freedoms, and a corresponding set of obligations (p. vii). In chapter one, Me, A Citizen?, the reader is introduced to some fundamental skills, for example, identifying a main idea and supporting evidence as described in the citizen’s toolkit (p. 11) or developing a personal decision-making strategy (p. 15). The feature, Activities: The Inquiring Citizen, includes extended activities that may be used in the classroom or for homework. The activities promote being informed, purposeful, and active. Perhaps a few more leads or examples could have been included for a more in-depth analysis but these might be contained in the teacher resource material. In the section on the meaning of democracy, the concept of equality and social justice is introduced without any analysis of what those concepts mean (p. 17). Occasionally, I find quotes that do not provide specific references which means that either the teacher has to supply such or the authors of these statements may go unrecognized. Also, mention of the Education Act (p. 29) should have been modified by the word provincial.
I believe that part of the problem for the inactivity of many citizens is that there has been undue emphasis on human rights and insufficient attention to responsibilities within those societies that have achieved an acceptable level of the implementation of human rights. Hence, I would have preferred that any discussion about a citizen’s responsibilities in a democratic society be considered before the discussion about human rights and that it be emphasized that human rights are limited. We need more codes of responsibilities rather than codes of rights and the natures of both should be reinforced. Note that only three pages are given to the section on responsibilities (pp. 26-28). The concluding section (pp. 32-34) on young Canadians’ potential for making a difference lacks the opportunity to provide the current thrust on service or volunteerism in the community. There are abundant examples and guidelines in most jurisdictions for such young citizenship in action. Certainly, citizens tend to be generous in times of crisis but there is a need for early development of altruism prior to crisis.
Chapters two, three, and four are heavy with information about federal, provincial, and local governments. Some aspects of these topics were probably introduced in previous grades or subject such as history, Canadian studies, and social studies. If that is the case, then these information sections should be confined to a review or avoided in favour of more attention to the purposeful and action sections which are excellent. Other minor flaws include: no mention in the profile of the date appointment (p. 117); no reference to the web site, www.electionscan.com (p. 122); no specific reference to the political party web sites (p. 129); insufficient elaboration of skills for detecting bias (p. 134); and no reference as an activity to the many and excellent web sites on various governments (p. 145). Also, the teacher and readers should try to update any data (info source 2-11, p. 62) from current and reliable resources such as Stats Canada.
Of course, since this book was published the array of internet resources has grown exponentially and students will discover them if challenged or mandated to do so. It is an increasing challenge to teachers to fill the gaps and reinforce skill building so that students will access and use the resources in the most meaningful ways. I am very much impressed with the format of this book and the many features which enhance the attraction to learning for the readers. The topic of citizenship or civics deserves more than the time permitted by the Ontario curriculum. Let us hope that other jurisdictions and Ontario itself will allocate at least a full semester or year’s course carefully integrated with competing and compatible subjects.
Perhaps, a more important measure of the effects of this text resource would be an assessment of those who have been using it in their Ontario classrooms on the half semester basis for the past two years. To my knowledge, there are no results or even comparative results from an assessment study. If there is a significant use of these resources as textbooks in the classroom, then a comparative analysis and assessment of this resource and the other three approved texts and their supplementary teacher’s resource publications should be done. This might inform us about the effects of consistent use of a resource or text upon student learning in conjunction with teacher skills.
John R. Meyer (Retired) – Faculty of Education. University of Windsor. Windsor, ON.