The social studies curriculum issue

by Yule Heibel on January 30, 2005

Never write something straight online, always write in some document first, then copy & paste. I just lost a long comment-response that I wrote to my previous entry, Coincidentally, and now I can’t seem to post to comments at all….

So, here goes again, my entry for this day (Jan.30) being what should have been a comment (on Jan.27), now however in the guise of an entry: from the discussion that ensued on Coincidentally (required reading if this is to make sense), I feel that I need to email the nice gents at my kids’ school (SIDES), the ones responsible for curricula, because this problem is really bugging me. The course offerings I described in that last entry were developed by (**) The Open School, [which] bills itself as “British Columbia’s foremost provider of high quality educational materials, Kindergarten to Grade 12. We provide professionally designed, teacher-tested courses and resources to help put students in just the right learning situation.” Yet their self-contained social studies modules don’t cover the Shoah, until — I searched their site for “holocaust” — this grade 12 course. In that course, Module 2 (typically, each course has 3 to 4 modules) deals with “War in Mid-Century,” and the Nuremberg Trials as well as The Holocaust are appended at the very end of the module. The Holocaust page (above) is a page of links put together by the Open School, and it’s quite good — yet most of the links go to American websites, however, which makes me wonder why there isn’t anything by Canadians, especially given Canada’s wretched history of turning away Jewish refugees and the general climate of anti-Semitism in mid-century Canada. I’m reminded, for example, of Rosalie Silberman Abella, born in Stuttgart in a Displaced Persons refugee camp in 1946, the daughter of Shoah survivors, who was recently appointed a supreme court justice. Her parents managed to emigrate to Canada, but the father, although a lawyer himself, was not permitted to practice law in Canada. He was instead admitted to Canada in 1950 as a men’s underwear cutter.

The Open School’s Holocaust Theme Page links to sites with lesson plans for teachers in grades 5 through 12, so there’s clearly a model for introducing this material at various stages (and actually, the Anne Frank page has lesson plans for gr.3 and up). But it really must be up to the individual teacher’s discretion, since it’s not integrated into the Open School’s curricula until grade 12! That’s just not good enough.

And incidentally, searching the Open School’s site for “Inquisition” brought no results at all…

Oh gosh, those boys at SIDES are going to be so happy to get another series of long haranguing emails from me… (Dear readers, you wouldn’t believe what I put them through with regard to the crappy English 10 they were daring to offer — it’s being reworked from scratch as I type! I believe that course, too, was an Open School offering (**), but while the Socials curriculum isn’t bad — it’s just flawed by incompletion — the Eng.10 curriculum was an exercise in dumbing down.) Since the school is building a virtual high school from scratch, it’s moving away from some of the Open School offerings and developing its own materials (which appear to be, judging by the first unit of English 10 they finally coughed up, far, far superior). Well, this social studies issue is going to be another hot-spot they’ll need to look at. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled…

It’s things like this that keep me from writing about the Thursday seminar at PaCTaC. Patience, we’ll get there. It’s just hard to keep believing it, sometimes.

(**) Ok, correction: I’m not sure that Open School developed the particular courses I’m referring to. They may have, but it’s such a bureaucratic tangle of Ministries and this’s and that’s, I’m finding it impossible to say with certainty. Doesn’t matter, though, insofar as Open School’s curriculum doesn’t touch the Shoah until gr.12, and that, as should be obvious, isn’t good enough.


Kate S. February 3, 2005 at 12:05 pm

Oh my! When you snooze, you loose, I tell myself as I scramble to catch up with your writing…
One note: I am wordcentric, I guess, because if the word Holocaust does not describe the “weeping wound of the 20th century,” then I don’t want to use it anymore. Whoosh! It’s gone.
I just wanted to say, the Diary of Anne Frank was required reading in my education from about 5th grade on through high school. That book changed my life and my outlook on humanity for the rest of my days. I started a diary. I wrote term papers in public school and academic papers at university. I researched and read and cried. I loved the little girl that I would never get to meet, who taught me how to write, how to feel, how to be spiritual, in the face of great odds and obstacles and travesties and injustices. She was my heroine. She taught me about Man’s Inhumanity To Man. She taught me how to turn the other cheek, how to understand oppressors. She still is a hero to me. She is one of the few reasons I have for wishing for a hereafter, just for the slight chance that I would be able to meet her and shake her ethereal hand.

Yule Heibel February 5, 2005 at 2:55 am

Nicely put, Kate. I keep asking myself how she could stand being imprisoned in that “annex” for 2 years and not go insane. And then, after all that, to be deported and murdered after all — it’s too much, really.

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