Articles

Volume 50, Issue 2

Special Issue: Rethinking Social Studies in a Post-truth Era

Contents

Introduction to the special issue
The Sociality of Post-truth: Neoliberal Culture and Its Rationality
Truths, Wounded Innocence, and the Post-truth Syndrome
Truthing: An ontology of living an ethic of shakihi (love) and ikkimmapiiyipitsiin (sanctified kindness)
Curriculum in the Post Truth Era: Is Truth Dead?

Read the full issue


Introduction to the Special Issue: Rethinking Social Studies in a Post-truth Era

David Scott

Werklund School of Education

University of Calgary

scottd@ucalgary.ca

Cathryn van Kessel

Department of Secondary Education

University of Alberta

vankesse@ualberta.ca

The triumph of Trump and the ongoing popularity of far right parties across the world have brought into question basic liberal democratic values of a free press, the rule of law, and notions of truth. Reflecting these developments, in 2016 the Oxford Dictionary (2016) recognized “post-truth,” as the word of the year. Pointing to an emergent political landscape where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Oxford Dictionary, 2016, para. 1), the March 2017 cover of Time Magazine equally asked: Is Truth Dead?

The implications of these developments for social studies and education more generally are profound. In a recent article entitled History Educators in a New Era, Dr. Peter Seixas (2017) from the University of British Columbia, asserted: “This is a dangerous moment, globally, for the liberal arts, education and research, for democratic values generally, and for history and history education specifically” (para .1). He went on to argue that liberal democratic traditions have increasingly come under attack across the Western world. Populist political agitators like President Donald Trump now present ‘alternative facts’ to describe provable falsehoods. This trend has led many social studies educators to reconsider what our role should be within this era of alternative facts.

Read the full article.

The Sociality of Post-truth: Neoliberal Culture and Its Rationality

Debbie Sonu

Associate Professor

Hunter College

City University of New York

dsonu@huntersoe.org

In her essay, Neoliberalism’s Frankenstein, Wendy Brown (2018) unpacks with meticulous depth how the current neoliberal condition valorizes private venture by eroding trust in the meaning of the social. In an attempt to understand, like Michel Foucault (1977), the governing rationality that generates certain kinds of subjects and their conduct, Brown chooses as her object of study the recent hypervisibility of white male right political rage and the inconsequentiality of truth in the context of a liberal “democratic” nation, the United States. With key leaders now legitimizing bigotry as a form of ‘greatness’, white right rage is given permission to explode onto the scene, crushing political correctness, multiculturalism, plurality and all democratic values, crying liberty and freedom at the helm of hatred and anger. As said by Hannah Arendt (1951), “being right has nothing to do with the objective truthfulness of the Leader's statements which cannot be disproved by facts, but only by future success or failure” (p. 383). Thus, the only reassurance audiences need in a post-truth culture is the constant reassurance that he, the leader, is winning, winning, winning.

Read the full article

Truths, Wounded Innocence, and the Post-truth Syndrome

Kent den Heyer

Professor

Department of Secondary Education

University of Alberta

kdenheye@ualberta.ca

[W]hen I hear people denounce our political scene as "post-truth," I have to wonder when exactly they think it was that politics was determined by the truth? The same goes for those who decry today's "fake news." […]To claim that with Trump's election we've entered a post-truth era of fake news is to claim that the U.S. was built on truthful politics and media. Political struggle isn't really about an existing truth but rather concerns the formulation of new truths and, more importantly, the materialization of those truths […] The political project involves the power relations that compose truths, and the pedagogical project involves how we engage ourselves, each other, and the world in transformative processes. (Ford, 2018, paras. 1-4)

This quotation captures my concern with an emergent liberal nostalgia narrative, a type of wounded innocence, fashionable in response to what many see as a contemporary affliction affecting democratic institutions. According to this story, Trump and his administration have moved us into post-truth times. As definitive nostalgia, this post-truth narrative constructs a never existing political consensus that has now been lost, from the functioning of formal politics to truth claims found in the academe.

Read the full article.

Truthing:

An ontology of living an ethic of shakihi (love) and ikkimmapiiyipitsiin (sanctified kindness)

Victoria (Vicki) Bouvier

Doctoral Student

Werklund

University of Calgary

vmbouvie@ucalgary.ca

I remember the exact day when I received the email inviting me to participate on a panel speaking to the notion of “post-truth,” and how perplexed I was by the idea that we, in Canada, might be post-truth or that truth might be dead (Scherer, 2017). Post-truth is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” [ CITATION Oxf16 \l 4105 ], thus meaning that facts are deemed less important or even irrelevant. The day I received the email was sunny and warm and I was at the park with my dog. I took a few extra laps that afternoon, mulling over what this post-truth might mean and the implications this might have on me, as a Michif-Métis woman, and main stream education system. A scroll of questions began to flow through my mind as I tried to align the meaning of post-truth and my own understanding of truth as a process of coming to know. I first questioned: When did truth become a noun, not a verb—an ontological orientation to the world? And further, when did truth become something that is fixed, and we acquire, something that can be consumed? I stopped mid-stride and wondered whose truths are being referred to in post-truth exactly? And, whose truths are being deemed irrelevant? At this time in Canada, it seems the truth of a history of genocide and the continuation of settler-colonialism has yet to have a deep impact on the consciousness of Canadian society.3 I was therefore troubled by this notion that we are post-truth. Thinking about the history and presence of Michif people, the claiming of a post-truth era is yet another move to colonize and oppress the truths of myself, my community, and of all Indigenous people in Canada (see Tuck & Yang, 2012). Nullifying and placating the facts—for example, dismissing the abuse in Residential Schools, not acknowledging the forced removal of people from the land, and ignoring institutional and personal racism—continues to erase our experiences, bodies, and stories from what is now called Canada.

Read the full article.

Curriculum in the Post Truth Era: Is Truth Dead?

James Colin Field

Werklund School of Education

University of Calgary

jfield@ucalgary.ca

“Trump has discovered something about epistemology in the 21st Century. The truth may be real, but falsehood often works better” (Scherer, M., Time, April 3, 2017).

Ironically perhaps, I took what the Donald has discovered about Western epistemology in our age to be true, so my first cautious answer to the question posed in the title is a qualified yes: Truth might indeed be dead, or at least dying, in the same way that Nietzsche proclaimed, more than 100 years ago, that God is dead. I think it’s important to note that Nietzsche wasn’t proclaiming that God did not exist, rather, he was stating that his existence has ceased to matter in the sense of bringing order, commitment, and a sense of purpose to a secular society.

So, the question for me is not does truth exist? That is, can we sort truth from lies, or the “fake news” from the factual reporting of important events, and from the false histories constructed through colonial, imperial, racist, or homophobic discourses? I do think that is a very important task, and a very real threat to living together in truth. Hanna Arendt (1948/1976) has provocatively asserted that the inability of the masses to sort the truth from lies is the primary condition for the rise of totalitarianism and the rule of strong men, and we might add, the election and possible re-election of Donald Trump. But that is another conversation that takes me away from my primary concern.

Read the full article.

Volume 50, Issue 1

What’s a poem good for?

Pedagogical connections between poetry and Social Studies

Wanda Hurren

Professor

Department of Curriculum & Instruction

University of Victoria

whurren@uvic.ca

In this article, Dr. Wanda Hurren highlights eight pedagogical opportunities that arise when sharing poetry in social studies classrooms. These opportunities are discussed as: aesthetic ways of knowing, contemplation, creativity, embodied knowing, pleasure, pondering, protest, and spirit. Connections between poetry as a way of coming to know things, and the overall goals and rationales for teaching social studies are highlighted. An annotated list of poetry resources that hold possibilities for social studies teaching and learning is included.

Read the full article.

“When it became equal”: How Historical Consciousness and Theories of Agency Can Explain Female Students’ Conceptions of Feminism

Scott Pollock

Teacher

St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School

Marie-Hélène Brunet

Assistant Professor

Faculty of Education

University of Ottawa

This paper describes the results of two research projects, which were focused upon female students’ historical understanding of feminism. In both cases the researchers found that the student participants harbored ambivalent or negative attitudes towards feminism and saw little connection between the present and feminist struggles in the past. While this attitude could be attributed to a wide range of variables, the authors illustrate that a focus upon the students’ form of historical consciousness and theories of agency can explain the tendency to see a “gap” between past and present. This paper concludes with a call for further research into the interaction between historical thinking, historical consciousness, and theories of agency.

Read the full article.

Volume 49, Issue 1

Special Issue: Monumental Mistakes? Confronting Difficult Pasts

Introduction to the special issue
Editor’s provocation: On history, fantasia, and sacred commemorations
Is elevating Sir John A. Macdonald really worth it? Hitting the reset button on Canada’s founding narrative in the classroom
The question of residential schools in Canada: Preserve, demolish or Repurpose?
The ethical dimension of Canadian commemoration controversies
Reflections on continuity, change, and historical consciousness
Reconsidering the summer residence: The city-text, historical commemoration and banal settler geography
Hyper-activating Inukshuks: The renewal of social studies in Alberta
(Not so) monumental agents: De/colonizing places of learning

Read the full issue here


Introduction to the special issue

by David Scott & Cathryn van Kessel

This special issue of Canadian Social Studies, entitled Monumental Mistakes? Confronting Difficult Pasts, has brought together a diverse range of scholars offering insights into discussions regarding removing or altering monuments, buildings, and other reminders of difficult histories. We requested that contributors submit short essays that we hope will serve as accessible prompts for classroom and broader public conversations and inquiries. Read the full article.

Editor’s provocation: On history, fantasia, and sacred commemorations

by Kent den Heyer

In an opening provocation, editor Kent den Heyer calls on educators to attend to the ways public memorials embody powerful emotionally laden fictions around Canada’s official historical culture.

Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Rousseau, and Carl Schmidt have wrestled with the question of what role the sacred and theology plays in forming a functioning polity. The question concerns what kind of civic theology might become embodied as a sacred covenant in which individuals may be free through being bound together as a people; a people who assent to the ‘just’ rule of the executive branch of a government. Under this condition of political life, the people legislate and the executive carries out its wishes. In Simon Critchley’s (2014) reading, Rousseau, for example, railed against theatre for its simulacrum of human action and called for civic rituals, not by actors, but by people who, in shared performances, enact itself, ex nilio, into being as ‘the people’. Read the full article.

Is elevating Sir John A. Macdonald really worth it? Hitting the reset button on Canada’s founding narrative in the classroom

by Adam Gaudry

Adam Gaudry calls for Canadians to show their government how as a society we might amplify Indigenous voices to form a basis for more respectful relations on this land.

In August 2017, the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) passed a motion calling on the province to remove the name of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, from all of Ontario’s schools (Nasser, 2017). Building on years of criticism of Macdonald by Indigenous intellectuals, the ETFO’s motion is only the latest move to displace Macdonald in the Canadian nationalist mythos. To most Indigenous people (and to an ever-increasing number of Canadians) Macdonald is remembered chiefly for his horrors: Indian residential schools (Milloy, 1999), the starvation policy on the plains (Daschuk, 2013), the wholesale refusal to honour treaty relationships (Asch, 2014; Venne, 1997), a violent military confrontation with three Indigenous communities in 1885 (Adams, 1989; Stonechild & Waiser, 1997), and his longstanding goal of politically marginalizing (if not physically exterminating) Indigenous nations (Stanley, 2015). Read the full article.

The question of residential schools in Canada: Preserve, demolish or Repurpose?

by Adriana Boffa

Instead of the broader society seeking one "right" solution, the most helpful course of action for potential reconciliation, according to Boffa, will likely be different for each community.

With public debates surrounding the removal of historical monuments in Canada (e.g., statues of, or schools named after, John A. Macdonald) and the United States (e.g., Confederate monuments), at times the voices of those who are most directly affected by their presence can be either drowned out or left out of the conversation entirely. It seems easy for the broader public to pass judgements and come to a consensus on a "right" way to approach such debates, but these judgements tend to be overly simplistic and removed from the immediate context and its attendant complexities. Read the full article.

The ethical dimension of Canadian commemoration controversies

by Lindsay Gibson

Lindsay Gibson uses the ethical dimension of historical thinking to critically examine calls to rename an elementary school in Regina named after Nicholas Davin who wrote an influential report advocating for residential schools.

Many Canadians expected that the summer of 2017 would be a time of celebration for Canada 150, the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation, but few could have anticipated that it would be the year that commemoration controversies were thrust onto the main stage of public debates. In addition to the contentious arguments about the celebration of Canada 150, there have been, and continue to be, vigorous debates about whether commemorations of controversial historical figures such as Hector Langevin, Egerton Ryerson, Joseph Trutch, Nicholas Flood Davin, Mathew Baillie Begbie, Edward Cornwallis, and Sir John A. Macdonald should be renamed, altered, or removed. Read the full article.

Reflections on continuity, change, and historical consciousness

by Gabriel A. Reich

Adding further insight into how historical thinking can be used as a lens to examine such debates, Gabriel Reich’s piece on continuity, change, and historical consciousness shifts our focus to the U.S. context.

One of the greatest historical traumas experienced in the United States was our Civil War. Over 600,000 Americans died in that war, and chattel enslavement—described in Mississippi’s 1861 secession declaration as "the greatest material interest of the world" (Civil War Trust, 2017)—was abolished. The rebelling southern states were devastated. African Americans, long depicted as form of degraded farm animal, had proved themselves equal in humanity and battle and were voted into power across the South. Read the full article.

Reconsidering the summer residence: The city-text, historical commemoration and banal settler geography

by Bryan Smith

Through the example of the city now known as Toronto, Smith shows how critically examining city-texts can provide a generative way to thwart the insidiousness of the colonial settler project.

In 1793, Elizabeth Simcoe, along with her husband (John Graves Simcoe) and an accompanying surveyor, rowed out onto Lake Ontario and came across the white sand of the local area’s bluffs. Upon seeing it, Simcoe was reminded of Scarborough, England and the bluffs there that defined and constituted the community’s central geographic feature. Already named Glasgow, the area that "appeared so well" was renamed Scarborough by John Graves Simcoe, a name that remains to this day as the official toponym of Toronto’s easternmost borough (The Scarborough Historical Society, n.d.). Read the full article.

Hyper-activating Inukshuks: The renewal of social studies in Alberta

by J-C Couture

Along these lines, Couture reminds us that monuments (and curriculum) need not be reduced to one more piece of clutter, but, rather, reminders about where and how to be in the world.

A recent study that surveyed close to 500 Alberta social studies teachers concluded that irreconcilable pressures "point to tensions between the formal program of studies and its prescribed outcomes, and the realities and complexities of classrooms where teachers attempt to realize good practices" (Alberta Teachers’ Association, 2016, p, 46). Read the full article.

(Not so) monumental agents: De/colonizing places of learning

by Marc Higgins & Brooke Madden

Marc Higgins and Brooke Madden invite us to consider the colonial logics continually reified across both the materiality and spatiality of place.

What might it mean to inflect the current focus on public memory encapsulated in monuments by considering an equally important yet more subtle or (not so) monumental agent: educational institutions as products and producers of colonial logics and ways of being in relationship? In this essay, the authors offer pedagogical orientations that seek to embed curriculum in a multiplicity of colonial here-nows and there-thens that always already constitute our places of learning and learning selves in the making. Read the full article.

Volume 47, Issue 2

Contents

Editor’s Introduction: Roger I. Simon
Remembering Roger I. Simon: A Pedagogy of Public Possibility
Grains of Truth: A Rumination and Poem for Roger Simon
Learning from Roger Simon: The Work of Pedagogy in the Social Studies
The Transitional Space of History: Reflections on the Play of Roger Simon’s Remembrance Pedagogy
Bomb Me: trans/acting subject into object, an installation for R.I. Simon and Angela Failler
Unsettling our Narrative Encounters within and outside of Canadian Social Studies
Inheritance as Intimate, Implicated Publics
Remembering in a Context of Forgetting: Hauntings and the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement
Poetry of Roger Simon

Read the full issue


Editor’s Introduction: Roger I. Simon

Kent den Heyer

Department of Secondary Education

University of Alberta

kdenheye@ualberta.ca

The triumph of Trump and the ongoing popularity of far right parties across the world have brought into This is a response to several people. I’d like to start with raising questions about two things: the sufficiency of identity and recognition as the basis of talking about historical consciousness or memory, and two, the sufficiency of narrative as Jörn talks about it in his paper as an organizing concept for understanding the form of collective memory... I think that how one takes up these particular issues of what is the underlying purpose of memory and what are its potential forms of modes of representation and transmission have a lot to do with questions of how we talk about hope, how we talk about the notion of history’s function in how it brings us together or not as human beings. So that’s sort of an opening gambit I suppose (Simon, in den Heyer, 2004, p. 204).

Read the full article.

Remembering Roger I. Simon: A Pedagogy of Public Possibility

Lisa Farley

Faculty of Education

York University

lfarley@edu.yorku.ca

Aparna Mishra Tarc

Faculty of Education

York University

amishratarc@edu.yorku.ca

Roger Simon’s scholarship bequeaths to theorists, teachers, and curators across Canada and beyond a theory of education that opens up responsibilities to past and present others. Writing the call for papers, we were struck by the deep and generative quality of Simon’s legacy, which is mirrored in the diversity of papers included in this issue. The papers gathered for this special issue address many of the difficulties that he dared educators to hold in mind. What Simon opens are big questions for education in a time more often consoled by the promise of solutions, best practices, and evaluation. These are questions about the interpretive quality of knowledge, the meaning of responsibility, justice, and the role of pedagogy in the reparation of historical trauma. Indeed, Simon lived with questions as the ground of his pedagogy, and in their articulation, he leaves behind an absence that is brimming with potential to make social and historical knowledge matter.

Read the full article

Grains of Truth: A Rumination and Poem for Roger Simon

Carl Leggo

Department of Language and Literacy Education

University of British Columbia

carl.leggo@ubc.ca

As a young teacher in a small town in Newfoundland where everybody claimed to know everything worth knowing, where fundamentalism raised its voracious, even rapacious, head with violent hunger, I needed wise voices who could call me to other possibilities, visions, and stories. Roger Simon was one of the most important wise voices I heard.

As a graduate scholar I gravitated to a circle of scholars I knew as the critical pedagogues, the romantic radicals, a club of apparently cool scholars who questioned everything (and I was on a tireless quest of questioning), but in the midst of that often cacophonous circle, the two scholars I most admired were Paulo Freire and Roger Simon.

Read the full article.

Learning from Roger Simon: The work of Pedagogy in the Social Studies Curriculum

Aparna Mishra Tarc

Faculty of Education

York University

amishratarc@edu.yorku.ca

This paper conducts an affirmative reading of key constructs of pedagogy, ethics, culture and justice put forth in the texts of Roger Simon. Rereading these texts with, against and across the trajectory of one thinker’s thought, the article generates new possibilities for pedagogy in global and contemporary times. The paper demonstrates that reading affirmatively is a generative form of critical thinking that considers, deliberates and renews thought as an active ongoing and dialogical process of meaning making. This way of reading, as closely inhabiting the lines of the other’s thought, seeks to do justice to the lifework of this remarkable thinker and contributes a view of reading the other’s words as a vital to thinking, learning, teaching and acting in the world.

Read full article.

The Transitional Space of History: Reflections on the Play of Roger Simon’s Remembrance Pedagogy

Lisa Farley

Faculty of Education

York University

lfarley@edu.yorku.ca

This paper reads Roger Simon’s concept of “transactional memory” in relationship to D.W. Winnicott’s theory of “transitional space” to examine the emotional dimensions of making historical significance. Drawing on a personal memory of archival study with Simon, I suggest that his attention to the ethical qualities of remembrance at the same time offers a theory of remembrance as a work of creative play that sets into motion the painful and hopeful process of working through the anguish of loss.

Read full article.

Bomb Me: trans/acting subject into object, an installation for R.I. Simon and Angela Failler

Renée Sarojini Saklikar

The Canada Project

rsaklikar@shaw.ca

Inside the archive of loss, there is that which is public, an object. Incident as bombing: objectionable.

Release: the body, subject. Survivor, and family. Inside, what it is means to touch. What is means to live in aftermath.

Subject:: history, a reduction. My hand is made, body to material. Icon‐hand.

Exhibit: to touch

Subject: this is the hand. The subject is touching. Objection, it is we the living. Replicated. Sara Ahmed writes about a Willfulness Archive, examining the hand, the body as resistance. So, too, within the saga that is Air India, we find the body.

Angela, do you remember, in Paris? We sat on that bench outside the main symposium. We spoke of your teacher, then, too.

Read full article.

Unsettling our Narrative Encounters within and outside of Canadian Social Studies

Nicholas Ng­-A­-Fook

Faculty of Education

University of Ottawa

nngafook@uottawa.ca

Robin Milne

Faculty of Education

University of Ottawa

rob@itutorls.com

In 2007, Indian Residential School System (IRS) survivors won a class action settlement worth an estimated 2 billion dollars from the Canadian Government. The settlement also included the establishment a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Despite the public acknowledgement, we posit that there is still a lack of opportunity and the necessary historical knowledge to address the intergenerational impacts of the IRS system in Ontario’s social studies classrooms. In this essay we therefore ask: How might we learn to reread and rewrite the individual and collective narratives that constitute Canadian history? In response to such curriculum inquiries, we lean upon the work of Roger Simon to reread and rewrite historical narratives as shadow texts. For us, life writing as shadow texts, as currere, enables us to revisit the past as a practice of unsettling the present, toward reimagining more hopeful future relations between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities across the territories we now call Canada. As Simon’s life‐long scholarly commitments make clear in this essay, the onus lies with those present to teach against the grain so that we might encounter each other’s unsettling historical traumas with compassion, knowledge, and justice.

Read full article.

Inheritance as Intimate, Implicated Publics: Building Practices of Remembrance with Future Teachers in Response to Residential School Survivor Testimonial Media and Literature

Lisa Taylor

School of Education

Bishops University

ltaylor@ubishops.ca

In this article, I contextualize and outline my use of testimonial literature, including orature, by residential school survivors in a preservice course focused on building practices of witness­as­ study (Simon & Eppert, 2005). My theorization of the course curriculum and pedagogy draws on key texts by Roger Simon as a means of proposing pedagogical strategies that teacher educators and teachers in Canada might bring to their classrooms as we take up the invitation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to engage the broader Canadian society in the task of publicly witnessing and commemorating the testimonies of First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) residential school survivors.

Read full article.

Remembering in a Context of Forgetting: Hauntings and the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement

Naomi Norquay

Faculty of Education

York University

nnorquay@edu.yorku.ca

This paper explores the data produced from an oral history project about a Black pioneer settlement in Grey County, Ontario. Twelve area residents were interviewed and the data produced points to various community practices of both remembering and forgetting. I employ Avery Gordon’s (2008) theorization of ghosts and hauntings to make sense of the gaps, silences, and contradictions that populated the interviews. The paper ends with a consideration of Roger Simon’s (2000, 2005) plea for a practice of remembrance that is both ethical and pedagogical.

Read full article.

Poetry of Roger Simon

Judith Robertson

Faculty of Education (Emeritus)

University of Ottawa

jrobert@uottawa.ca

In the Rare Book Room of the Strand I went looking for you, Three floors up and left off the red elevator, Past the gentlemen’s leather chairs upholstered with hammered nails And over the plush Persian rug. I skipped the trajectory of Classic Pulp. (Imagine you using House of the Wolf As a platform for your commitment to tomorrow), Casting about instead in Manager’s Picks: (Martin Amos, James Joyce and Faulkner) Good company, but not your cup of tea, I guess. Moving on, I nosed through Treasures Under Glass (Lee Friedlander, “Self Portrait, Inscribed”), And—relieved not to find you lurking there— I ziggzagged on to Signed Copies and Ephemera.

But the wish wouldn’t take.

Read full article.