Volume 96, Issue 56
Thursday, January 9, 2003

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Our home and native land, eh?

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Who knew? Canadian history consists of much more than beavers, beer and hockey.

A debate was held in the University Community Centre atrium yesterday afternoon on the topic of Canadian history and education, as part of Canadian Awareness Week.

The panel included James Reaney, reporter for The London Free Press, Ruth Compton Brouwer, chair of the history department at King's College, Stephane Levesque, professor in the faculty of education, Jonathan Vance, professor in the history department and Nancy Van Sas, program exhibit co-ordinator at the London Museum of Archeology.

The debate opened with discussion on the Canadian Heritage moments displayed in television commercials. Vance said they represent an effective way of displaying historical information.

Van Sas agreed, noting they help to provide information to the public. "People are learning a little bit of information even if they don't want to," she said.

Compton Brouwer said the moments can be used as a hook to launch further discussion, noting the need for individuals to follow through with an examination of historical literature.

Levesque examined the role of mass media in portraying historical events. He said they are the chief sources of information, yet facts are often conflicted and endings are changed. "Films have no obligation to advance historical truth," Levesque said.

"Do you think a better development of the teaching of history across Canada can cure nationalistic problems?" asked Cameron McAlpine, moderator and president of the Western History Society.

"No – this aspect is always problematic in teaching Canadian history," Levesque said, adding there are problems in how the Canadian federation is structured.

Vance said that history needs to be thought of as any other subject – such as chemistry or physical education – and taught accordingly.

Josh Morgan, University Students' Council VP-education, asked the panel if the Canadian Heritage moments are meant to refresh our knowledge of history, or to teach something new.

According to Reaney, the moments helped him to realize how rich and complicated Canadian history is.

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