Manitoba Historical Society Keeping history alive for over years. This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service. Please direct all inquiries to webmaster mhs. This essay is the first of three which are intended to examine the teaching of history in Manitoba schools over the last hundred or so years, from the s to the present. For the sake of convenience, I have divided the teaching of history in Manitoba into three periods.
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The first runs from the s to the late s, when a series of wide-ranging curricular revisions were introduced following the Report of the Murray Commission on education. The second runs from the revisions of the late s to the mids, when a new history programme was adopted in the aftermath of the Report of the Macfarlane Royal Commission on Education. The third runs from the mids to the present and encompasses three major revisions of the history curriculum, the first in the mids, the second in the mids, and the third just getting under way inwith as yet unknown.
There is a certain logic to this classification in that it rests on major changes in the content and organization of the history programme in the schools, but there is also a certain arbitrariness. Education is notoriously slow to change, and even when a new curriculum is introduced it can take years before it begins to affect what happens in classrooms. Indeed, in some ways the classroom might not change at all if teachers simply adopt new subject-matter, say American history instead of British, but keep on teaching it in the same old way.
Thus, the three periods around which this essay is organized should not be taken too seriously. They are useful organizational tools, but little else.
The history of history teaching in Manitoba over the last hundred years is marked more by continuity some would say inertia than by change. Argyle SchoolWinnipeg, The s to the mids was of course the period when the Manitoba public school system was reorganized and consolidated. In the Greenway government abolished the dual system created under the Manitoba Act; in a new Education Act incorporated the terms of the Laurier-Greenway Compromise that ended the Schools Question; and in the Norris government abolished the multilingual framework of the school system and made school attendance compulsory until age fourteen.
Overwhelmingly, however, children left school somewhere between Grades 6 and 8, school attendance remained erratic in rural areas right into the s, and only a minority of students went on to high school. The other grades, and 12, remained largely untouched except for occasional very minor adjustments, usually having to do with changes in authorized textbooks.
Robert Fletcher Source: Archives of Manitoba. Throughout this period there was no systematic or formal study of history as a subject in Grades Students were taught something about the past, but in the form of stories chosen from a wide variety of sources.
Until this story approach continued into Grade 5, but in that year Grade 5 was changed so that it was devoted to the study of British history to with some attention also being given to the study of government and civics.
In Grades 6 and 7 the programme consisted of a chronological study of British and Canadian history, taken as two separate but related subjects. Before the revisions ofthis pattern was slightly different, with Grades being devoted to British and Canadian history and Grade 9 to review. What seems to have happened in the revision is that Grade 9 was shifted to the high school, so that in effect everything past grade 4 was shifted down a grade.
In the high school, before the programme for grades 9 and 10 consisted of one more run through British and Canadian history, though obviously at a higher level of difficulty. Grade 11 was devoted to medieval and modern Europe, and Grade 12 to another treatment of selected topics in British history and some treatment of modem Europe. Between and this pattern was fundamentally changed, with Grade 9 being devoted to ancient and medieval Europe, Grade 10 to modem Europe defined as beginning aroundand Grade 11 to a study of British and Canadian history, with Grade 12 remaining unchanged.
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The stories were also intended to instill in children a set of ideals, such as honesty, bravery, courage, and so forth, and thus foster their moral development, or character as it was often called at the time. Grade 5 took the same approach untilconsisting of European and Canadian biographies of great men, and a few women, all with a moral message, ranging from Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Columbus, Cortes, and Samuel de Champlain, to William Pitt, William Wilberforce, Lord Selkirk and many others.
This use of stories was not unique to Manitoba, being the common practice of most North American and British jurisdictions of the day. It was in part a continuation of the Victorian tradition of using stories to teach morality but it was also based on a common-sense awareness that young children had very little sense of time and chronology and were not intellectually ready for the study of history.
The position was nicely stated by H. Moreover, since children did have to learn to read, and to enjoy reading, the question became one of choosing the best reading materials for them to use. They could also create an interest in the past which could later be turned to good use when children were able to tackle historical study.
Needless to say, they were light years removed from the graded readers and the Dick and Jane trivialities that later came to characterize the teaching of reading. There is nothing in any of this that even faintly resembles what we later came to call the expanding horizons approach to social studies where children begin by studying their local community and then grade by grade expand into the world beyond their door.
This did not enter the Manitoba schools until the curriculum revisions ofto be discussed in a subsequent article. Until then, children were introduced from the very beginning to the world of adult action and emotion. As a Selkirk teacher put it in Books written by children, or by older persons writing down to the level of children, are to be avoided. Neither is it necessary that all the words used should be familiar to the child; better they are not, for one of the objects of reading is to increase the vocabulary of the child, or, in other words, his means of expressing himself.
This approach to the past using story and biography to illustrate desirable moral qualities was very much in accord with the best Herbartian principles of the day. McIntyre, Principal of the Normal School sinceboth of them powerhouses in Manitoba education in these years, made it a point to keep abreast of educational theory and practice, and it would not be at all surprising if they introduced or at least encouraged Herbartian ideas in Manitoba.
Disciples and adaptors of Herbart were influential in both British and American teacher-training in this period and their work would certainly have been known to men as well-read and up-to-date as the McIntyres the two men were not related, Daniel coming originally from New Brunswick and William from the Perth area of Ontario. Moreover, Normal School examinations in the early s included questions on Herbartian educational theory and practice. The Herbartians were emphatic on the value of history as a source of character development and pioneered the imaginative use of story methods in history teaching.
Both approaches were eloquently combined in the book, Special Method in Historypublished in and written by a prolific American teacher-educator, Charles McMurry. History taken in its broadest sense includes all the studies in the humanistic group, and it is placed first in the scheme of instruction because it is considered of primary importance in moulding the character and in stimulating interest.
The twinning of English and Canadian history in Grades 6 through 8 and including Grade 5 after and in the high school was commonplace in English-speaking Canada in these years and needs little explanation. Manitoba educationists saw Britain as their mother country, but, beyond this emotional bond, they also saw her as an especially attractive embodiment of desirable qualities. Even American historians insisted in these years that British history was a vital part of any history programme that took constitutional democracy seriously. An influential committee of the American Historical Association recommended in that the whole Grade 11 year in American schools should be devoted to British history as part of a four-year history programme deed to prepare young Americans for citizenship.
For obvious reasons, such thinking was even more entrenched in Anglophone Canada, and not least among educationists, who saw the shaping of citizens as the most urgent task facing the schools. Moreover, Canada was part of the British Empire, and as Carl Berger and others have shown, few Anglophone Canadians in these years saw any contradiction between pride in Canada and pride in the Empire of which it was a part and which kept American influences at bay. There seem to have been two factors behind the revisions that were introduced in One was the reshuffling of subject matter that resulted from what seems to have been a decision to include Grade 9 in the high school, so that elementary school, or public school as it was sometimes called, following Ontario usage, now ended at Grade 8.
The other was the result of a decision to simplify the programme so as to make it more explicit and manageable for teachers. In the short run, at least, teachers were supportive. Very quickly, it seems, the revised curriculum was found to suffer from the same faults as its predecessor. More far-reaching than the revisions were those made to Grades 9 to 11 that were introduced between and They created a three year history sequence beginning with Ancient Greece and Rome in Grade 9, running though medieval and modem Europe in Grade 10, and ending in Grade 11 with a chronological treatment of British and Canadian history.
It is tempting to think, though there is no evidence to say so, that this plan was an adaptation to Manitoba conditions of a recommendation made in two influential American Historical Association reports, the first of which was published in and the second in In these years the American Historical Association took a strong interest in the state of history in the schools, and urged with some success that American high schools adopt a four-year sequence of history.
The Report recommended a year each of ancient, medieval and modem European, British, and American history, running from Grade 9 to Grade The report changed this slightly by folding British history into European, and reducing the time given to medieval history, so that students spent a year on ancient history defined as running up to Charlemagnetwo years on modern Europe, and a final year on American history and government.
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In Manitoba Grade 12 was controlled by the University so that educationists had only Grades at their disposal, but there is a close resemblance between what they created in and what American historians had been recommending for the twenty years. Given the close attention paid by Manitoba educationists to developments in the United States and Britain, it seems quite possible that they were influenced by these American reports.
In the Manitoba Education Association had struck a committee to rethink the whole high school curriculum and it quickly came up with a suggestion for British and Canadian history in Grade 9, ancient and medieval history in Grade 10, and modem Europe in Grade This remained a paper proposal, however, and in the Advisory Board and the University, working together, came up with the three year plan that was in fact put into effect. There seems to have been general agreement that there should be a three year pattern of history from Grade 9 to Grade 11 that would make up a coherent and sequential programme.
It was also agreed that the elements of this programme should be some combination of European, British and Canadian history, all deed to cultivate in students a constructive patriotism and to help them under-stand the world in which they lived. The tricky question was how to sequence the courses. In the M. Its decision to put Canadian and British history in the final year of the programme i. One, not having taken Canadian history since Grade 8, students would find it fresh and interesting in Grade Two, by Grade 11 they would be mature enough to understand the political and constitutional elements that were so important in the history of Canada.
And, three, two years of European history would provide a good foundation for the study of Canada. It is possible, though the sources are silent on this point, that the case for including more European history was strengthened by the impact of the First World War. If the War was indeed the war to end wars, and if the sacrifice of so many lives was to be in any way worthwhile, then students needed a wider outlook on the world, and one way to do this was to introduce them to the history of Europe, which in those days was often seen as synonymous with the history of the world as a whole.
There might also have been another factor at work in this decision to revamp Grades 9 to 11, though it is impossible to be sure. The Great War saw the introduction in universities, especially in the United States, of courses in the history of Western Civilization. In the first instance these began as courses in Allied war aims, aimed especially at young army officers, and deed to implant the belief that the Allies were fighting for the values of Western Civilization against the evils of Prussianism, Kruppism, Kaiserism, and assorted German perversities.
Moreover, making Canadian and British history the final course had the effect of presenting Canada as the product of two thousand years of Western history and therefore as the embodiment of all those values which, after the War, were so readily seen as quintessentially Western. After the War citizenship was defined not only in terms of Canadian and British heritage, but of membership in a wider Western civilization.
The content of the history curriculum
It is perhaps not coincidental that in the Manitoba Agricultural College reintroduced the study of history into its curriculum. The overall pattern of the history curriculum from Grades 5 to 12, at least before the revisions, but even after them to a considerable extent, was cyclical, with the high school repeating, at a higher level of difficulty, what had already been taught in the elementary grades.
Indeed, in the s back-to-the-basics school reformers condemned it as a progressive fad, but, in Manitoba at least, it apparently had longer roots. The first was the reality that most students did not proceed beyond Grade 8, with many not getting beyond Grade 6, even after the compulsory attendance law of Thus, insofar as schooling served as the basis of citizenship education and as the core of the assimilation of immigrants to Canadian traditions, as officially defined, it was imperative to ensure that all students got a healthy dose of British and Canadian history as soon as they were able to learn and understand it.
The second reason arose from the conviction of Manitoba educationists that an important function of the public high school was not to prepare students for university, but to give prospective elementary school teachers a basic knowledge of the subjects they would themselves have to teach.
In these years most elementary school teachers entered Normal School with only Grade 11 or Grade 12, took a year or less of teacher training, according to what level of teaching certificate they wanted, and then went out to their schools. If they were to teach British and Canadian history to elementary school children, high school was the only place where they could learn it. The third reason why the high school history programme took the form that it did originated with the University of Manitoba. From its point of view, high school prepared students for university studies while also setting a university controlled standard for all the grades below it.
It thus also ensured that the tradition of a liberal education would remain alive and well in the Manitoba school system. More specifically, Grade 11 served as the junior matriculation year and thus provided entrance to the University, while Grade 12 counted as senior matriculation and was identical with first year university a practice which continued until the mids.