In 2014, high school students in Belleville, Ontario circulated a petition in support of making a Canadian history course mandatory at the Grade 12 level in Ontario. Students collected over 2,000 individual signatures as well as more than 30 letters of support from notable Canadians.
The initiative was begun in response to dismal survey results when Canadians were asked about their understanding of Canadian history. For example, only 34% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 received a passing grade in a recent survey on Canadian history, conducted by the pollsters Ipsos and Reid. The pollsters also discovered that 76% of Canadians are embarrassed by their lack of knowledge of Canadian history. Currently, Ontario high school students are only required to take one course in Canadian history. This occurs at the Grade 10 level, and begins with Canada’s involvement in the First World War. Consequently, Ontario students graduate from high school with little knowledge of Canadian history prior to 1914. This raises significant concern, as students are expected to become active, well-informed citizens, yet often lack a rudimentary knowledge of their own history. In a country as diverse as Canada, how can Canadians share a collective identity if they lack a collective memory?
At this time, the Ontario curriculum includes an optional course in Grade 12 History entitled Canada: History, Identity, and Culture (CHI4U). The course focuses on the formation of Canadian national identity by examining themes such as citizenship and heritage, local/national/global communities, and Canadian political, economic, and social structures. By making a course such as this one mandatory at the Grade 12 level for all Ontario high school students, we can greatly increase the provincial understanding of our Canadian heritage. Perhaps a stronger focus on local history could be included, to connect Ontario’s history with that of Canada as a whole.
Read more and sign the petition.