BATTLES AND BLUNDERS IN THE SCHOOLS
Are Canadians ruled from England? Are most Americans gangsters? To students on both sides of the line the answers are "yes" far too often
AGROUP of 474 Canadian and U. S. senior high-school students were asked to write essays outlining their main impressions of their biggest neighbor.
One Canadian high-school boy chewed his pencil for a while, could only write: “Crime in the States
is astounding. Weapons are easy to obtain and anybody out of a job joins a gang and becomes a gangster.”
Another said: “The U. S. is a
hotbed of hustling, flag-waving, gum-chewing men and women . . . funny characters who talk, through their noses.”
An American wrote: “Canada is no country. It is just a province of England.”
Amother: “The people of Canada do not live as freely as we do because they are ruled by a king.
They are subdued like the people in England.”
And another: “I wouldn’t mind living in Canada if it got its independence from England.”
Sixty per cent of the Canadians and .80% of the Americans gave answers ridiculously wrong when asked the population of the other country, and 179 Americans could not name Canada’s capital.
Only 36 Americans could name three important Canadian cities without getting in at least one from Mexico, South America or Europe.
Several put Havana in Canada.
One wrote down Liverpool and Glasgow, added a postscript, “I am ashamed to say these are the only Canadian cities I know.”
This international quiz was conducted in 1948 by the Canada-U. S. Committee on Education, a nongovernment body which studies the effectiveness of education in the two countries in enabling citizens of each to know and understand the other. The result of the quiz was published late last year.
The students questioned were 218 pupils of Quebec high schools and 256 pupils from New Orleans. A similar test before the war covering 2,400 students in both countries revealed the same appalling ignorance.
The tests were clinching proof that Canadian and U. S. schools teach very little about each other. But the joint committee expected just such results, for their surveys have revealed that school courses in both countries neglect or gloss over the essential features of the geography and history of the other.
Worse than mere neglect, the surveys have uncovered the alarming fact that textbooks carried in every schoolboy’s bag are rife with prejudiced, nationalistic, one-sided statements and glaring omissions of a sort that can foster only misunderstanding and animosity.
When an American student writes, “Life in Canada is rigorous and healthy for it is all ice and snow there,” it could be very amusing if it weren’t for the fact that, out of ignorance such as this, wars and depressions are born. While we blast the Kremlin for keeping the Russian people befuddled about the rest of the world we do the same thing, only less expertly, at home.
Says Z. S. Phimister, superintendent of Toronto public schools and an authority on international textbook studies: “Erroneous textbook teachings, which foster misunderstandings and prejudices, are a barrier in the road to peace.”
One U. S. writer-educator made his own personal survey of American textbooks five years - ago, concluded bitterly: “I now understand why
diplomats, politicians and tycoons, all of them
educated men, can utter such gruesome nonsense and blunder whole continents into war. These textbooks furnish the grounds of ignorance and self-assured folly. A bad textbook—and there are libraries full—is a carrier of mental infection.” The Canada-U. S. Committee, founded in 1944, is composed of 20 prominent educators, 10 from each nation. Canadian members: Dr. C. E. Phillips, professor of education, University of Toronto; F. K. Stewart, secretary, Canadian Education Association; Dr. L. W. Shaw, deputy minister of education, Prince Edward Island; Dr. Florence Dunlop, school psychologist, Ottawa; B. O. Filteau, deputy minister of education, Quebec; Dr. M. E. LaZerte, dean, faculty of education, University of Alberta; Abbe Arthur Maheux, Laval University, Quebec; D. C. Munroe, director, school for teachers, Macdonald College, Quebec; A. McCallum, deputy minister of education, Saskatchewan; Dr. R. G. Trotter, professor of history, Queen’s University.
The Drum-and-Buckshot History
THE committee warns: “The present happy
relations between Canada and U. S. must not be taken for granted. During more than a century of peace there have been few decades without occasions for disagreement, and there will be such occasions again. Only an adequate understanding of Canadian-American relations by the rising generation will prevent these occasions of difference from growing to dangerous proportions. Educational agencies are not now discharging these responsibilities in full measure.”
The “educational agencies” are certainly not! In the prewar questionnaire, when 1,200 students of each nation were asked if forts and guns should be placed along the border, 444 Americans and 240 Canadians thought it would be a good idea.
When the committee fine-combed U. S. history textbooks, it was found that only 2.4% of the
contents refers to Canada. One book used in thousands of U. S. elementary schools is 315 pages long and contains half a page on Canada. A senior high-school text, 420 pages, has two and a third pages on Canada. Of 23 U. S. histories examined, one gives a fairly complete account of Canadian confederation, two mention it casually, 20 ignore it completely.
Canadian history textbooks contain considerably more on the U. S. (30 books examined average 13% American material) but most of it is the drum-and-buckshot history of battles and military heroes. Canadian histories are reeking with Yankee gunpowder, contain only a pallid and watered-down version of the growth of good will during the past 135 years.
Professor E. L. Daniher, of the Ontario College of Education, who assisted the committee in its textbook survey, says Canadian history texts display “a lamentable, illconcealed inferiority complex. There is an all-too-obvious anxiety to excuse ourselves from blame. Our opponents were in the wrong, or unfair, or possessed advantages; we were in the right and honest, but handicapped.”
A blanket criticism of textbooks of both countries is their emphasis on war and conflict, their lack of attention to economic, cultural and social interrelationships. We teach our children a lot of twaddle about bemedaled generals and battlefield slaughters, we tell them little about the Bantings and Edisons who changed the lives of men. One Canadian history contains 36 illustrations, 20 of them of war.
The colorful and romantic period of Canada’s 18th century is virtually the only Canadian history American students learn. It is a good beginning, the stage is set, but the real show doesn’t come off. Americans leave school with a picture of a Canada of fur traders, missionaries and scalping Indians. Many of them died without knowing that Canada is different today.
One U. S. high-school text mentions the names of 15 Canadians of this early period, including such obscure characters as St, Isaac Jogues and René Goupil, but it doesn’t mention a single Canadian historical character after Wolfe’s capture of Quebec. In fact, in 23 histcfry books examined there was only one casual mention of a Canadian who lived after 1759—William Lyon Mackenzie.
But the most glaring omission regarding Canada in U. S. textbooks is that the books rarely make clear the fact of Canadian self-government. Americans learn nothing of the development of Canadian nationhood. One of the reasons is that other nations of the western hemisphere achieved independence by spectacular revolutions—something the historians can sink their teeth into—but Canada achieved it gradually and unobtrusively over a century. So American pupils still read, “Today, on the mainland of North America, England alone retains any possessions—Canada and British Honduras.”
Failure of the U. S. to understand the independent status of countries within the British Commonwealth caused America to oppose the six votes of the British Commonwealth in the League of Nations and led to the breakup of the league. And failure of the average American to recognize the autonomy of Canada and other Commonwealth countries is still a stumbling block in the path of international co-operation Continued on page 34
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and understanding. This failure has one of its most serious repercussions when the U. S. student reads up the American War of Independence. Many U. S. historians now admil that the story of the Revolution, as dished up to their school children, is a mythridden, self-glorifying tale in which insignificant incidents have been twisted and distorted to “prove” the villainy of the British. And since most Americans leave school with the belief that Canada is merely a part of John Bull’s shirttail, Canada also inherits a hefty share of the antipathy that every American school child is taught to feel toward Britain.
In 1945 a Biiton going to the U. S. on business was asked by friends to look up their son evacuated to New York from the London blitz three years before. The visitor took the lad to a movie, to a drugstore afterward for a chocolate malted.
“What are you learning in history?” he asked.
“Right now we are studying the American Revolution,” the boy replied. His eyes dropped as he added, “Really, sir, I’m ashamed to admit, but weren’t those Biitish red coats ruthless boun-
American school children are taught, for example, that when Boston townsfolk disapproved of the presence of British troops the soldiers shot coldbloodedly into a crowd and killed a large number. American histories call it the “Boston massacre,” one instance of British barbarity responsible for the rebellion.
Here’s what really happened. A mob threw stones at a British sentry. The sentry called for help. A soldier was struck, fell, and his gun accidentally went off. Other soldiers thought the shot had come from the mob and a few fired, killing four. British authorities immediately surrendered the offending soldiers to be tried for murder. The Boston jury hated the British, but even it had to admit thaï the soldiers were not to blame and all were acquitted.
Few versions of the Revolution even suggest that there was opposition among the colonists and that loyalists left the Thirteen Colonies to settle in Canada, although this emigration injected such strong anti-American feeling into Canada that the U. S. was to be affected by it for a long time.
The versions that Canadian and U. S. children read about the War of 1812-14 are about as similar as dad’s and junior’s ideas on Santa Claus.
Canadian students learn that the U. S. attempted to perpetrate on Canada what Hitler did to Poland in 1939, and that valiant Canadian and British armies sent the Yankee invaders scurrying for home. “A First Book of Canadian History,” used in Ontario schools, says: “The chief cause of the war was the desire of certain sections of the American people to conquer Canada.”
American students learn that it was purely a British-U. S. affair and many of their books do not even mention Canada in connection with the war. They are taught that the U. S. was dragged into it by British interference with American shipping and the shanghaiing of American seamen. Seventy per cent of the 256 New Orleans students quizzed in 1948 answered “no” when asked if Canada and U. S. were enemies in 1812.
Dr. Louis Benezet, a superintendent
of schools for New Hampshire, recently told a Canadian-U. S. educational conference: “A few years ago I got hold of a Canadian history. I was amazed to find how little I knew about the Canadian version of what happened in 1812. I thought U. S. forces won every battle. They didn’t; they won very few. I thought oui generals were the heroes of the war.
“I had been taught what a heinous crime it was for the British to bum our government buildings in Washington. That fact was not given in the Canadian textbook, but it told how the Yankees burned government buildings in York, now Toronto. I could not believe it was the same war until I checked the date.”
The Canada-U. S. Commiltee on Education states: “Most U. S. authors mention the burning of Washington by the British; only a few call attention to the prior burning of York by the Americans.”
Of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane (1814) an American reference says: “The enemy, broken and foiled at all points, retreated. The American commander, finding the enemy indisposed to renew the attack, drew off his troops. The British force of 4,500 greatly outnumbered the Americans, but against these odds American troops fought with unparalleled valor and obstinacy.”
Here is a typical Canadian version: “Although 3,000 British and Canadians faced 4,000 Americans . . . the exhausted Americans retreated and left the British force in possession of the
Actually, nobody retreated and nobody won. Both sides just got tired and quit fighting.
Canada and U. S. history is so interlocked that an understanding of many of the happenings in one country isn’t complete without a knowledge of what was going on in the other country at the same time.
A Precious Unknown Landmark
The American Civil War, for example, by cementing the U. S. into a strong and threatening military power, was perhaps the strongest force in bringing about the confederation of Canada. Yet most Canadian school children know only that the Civil War had something to do with the loves and husbands of a girl called Scarlett O’Hara.
Many of the most significant developments affecting present Canadian and U. S. affairs occurred between 1870 and the present when the two nations knuckled down to settling old differences. From the standpoint of better international Understanding this is the part of our history that really counts. Yet in almost 9,000 pages of Canadian history textbooks examined (here are exactly 108 7/10 pages on this long, eventful and vital period of Canada-U. S. relations.
But it could be worse. In 12,000 pages of U. S. history textbooks examined there are 12 7/10 pages dealing with Canada-U. S. relations during this period.
Historians rank the International Joint Commission, the Canadian-U. S. tribunal which has been peacefully adjusting disputes between the two countries since 1909, a precious landmark in the annals of world peace which all nations should study and know. Several Canadian textbooks refer to it, but not one of the U. S. books examined mentions it.
According to the most recent questionnaire only four out of 218 Canadian students and none of the Americans had ever heard of it.
Nor is there a hint anywhere in these
U. S. schoolbooks of Canada’s participation in World War I.
Most of what the American student learns about Canada he gleans from movies and the spprt pages of his newspapers. U. S. magazines, newspapers and books are widely read by Canadian students, but the American student lacks this source of information on Canada for few Canadian periodicals enter the U. S.
When the New Orleans students were asked if they ever read a Canadian magazine or newspaper only one answered “yes.”
“I read the Ottawa Daily News occasionally,” he said. But there is no such paper.
Eighty-eight per cent of these Americans couldn’t name Canada’s prime minister. Only 7% could name five prominent living Canadians. But many were able to reel off names of Canadian hockey players.
The movie influence was obvious. A large percentage of the students, especially the boys, couldn’t write 100 words about Canada before they were sidetracked onto mounted police ¿‘who always get their man.”
Our vaunted Canadian-U. S. unguarded frontier is menaced by a powder keg of international stupidity. Happily, educators are moving to defuse the powder keg before something sets it off.
UNESCO is tackling the problem on a world-wide scale. Next summer 70 world educators will meet at Mac-
donald College, near Montreal, under UNESCO sponsorship, for a six-week discussion on how geography teaching can be remodeled as a means of developing international understanding. At the same time there will be a similar meeting in Belgium on history teaching.
And the efforts of the Canada-U. S. Committee on Education are bearing fruit. Already Quebec has broadened its teaching of U. S. history and geography, and the committee is urging other provinces and states to follow suit.
Canada receives much fuller treatment in “American History,” the most recent text published in the U. S. Its authors, Howard E. Wilson and Wallace E. Lamb, have added a threepage summary drawing together the major relations between the two nations which have been discussed in earlier pages and emphasizing their significance.
The empire-worshippers and Yankeehaters in Canada, the Anglo-phobes and we-won-the-war apostles in the U. S., might cry that patriotism is being undermined.
But Canadian and U. S. students, when asked to write about their neighboring country, will not have to write as one American high-school pupil did: “I have always thought until this year that Canadians were a fierce and warlike people, somewhat like savages. I have found that they are civilized and have a good government.” ★