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Who Killed Canadian History? Revised Edition Paperback – Oct 30 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Phyllis Bruce Books Perennial; Revised edition (Oct. 30 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002008955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002008952
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #95,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


After thirty years as a professional historian, Jack Granatstein is well placed to comment on the way Canadian history is taught. This book warns that a frightening future awaits Canada if we continue down a path towards historical amnesia. Functional literacy may be declining due to television and popular culture, but historical consciousness is also threatened with extinction. Granatstein argues that we can have no confidence in ourselves as a nation if we do not understand our past. His views eloquently echo Michael Bliss's demands a few years ago for a public history. Since surveys consistently show that Canadians desire a greater emphasis on their history and heritage, there are many who will agree with this passionate plea for the federal government to intervene and help re-create a national history.

Granatstein believes that the provincial educational systems are producing people who have debilitated identities and little cultural capital. He blames bureaucrats in provincial education ministries for draining Canadian history of most of its content and context. They have vetted writers' work according to politically correct criteria, so that school textbooks are now "the blandest of mush" and "air-brushed accounts of the past". History, as it is taught in the elementary and secondary schools, reflects the 1960s switch to a child-centred approach to education that stresses problem-solving and development of self-esteem. Curriculums have thematic courses that often aim to impart that sexism and racism are wrong. While these are unquestionably admirable ambitions, the result is a history of grievance and victimhood, in which individual and national accomplishments are sadly neglected. Regional concerns eclipse national and global contexts. The emphasis is on pluralism and the diverse experiences of ethnic groups, not on the efforts that created and united a nation. This is particularly true in Quebec, where history courses paint the rest of Canada almost as an "alien backdrop".

While the provincial educational systems are at fault for not demanding that students study history in their senior years, multicultural policies are also remiss for not giving new Canadians the cultural knowledge necessary to thrive in our society. As the child of immigrants, Granatstein is proud of Canada's work in welcoming those who come here to build new lives. But multicultural doctrines, he fears, undermine any sense that they have come to a society which already had some form of its own. In the process of affirming our respect for religious and cultural minorities, who may have "idealized versions" of their pasts, Canada's Western heritage has been warped "out of all recognition". While Canada has had its share of tragic episodes and racist interludes, these must be placed in the context in which they occurred. In the new search for guilt and victimhood, we lose track of the fact that Canada does not have a past record of human rights abuses that could ever rival many of the countries from which our immigrants have fled. In re-creating history to serve contemporary needs, however worthy this may seem, we are distorting what actually happened in the past. Perhaps the greatest problem with multiculturally massaged history is that it spreads the idea among immigrants-and also among francophones in Quebec-that Canada has no national culture.

Granatstein's most searing criticisms are for his own profession, because it is the academic historians who educate future teachers and government bureaucrats. He believes they have "let the side down totally and completely". "The writing of first-class history about the national experience," he says, "is something with which Canadian professional historians ought to be concerned." The compartmentalized approaches to the discipline that have developed over the last twenty years "do not always tell students who they are, where they have come from, and where we are going." He does not mind a history of women, immigrants, and workers, but he does not want them to eclipse politicians, soldiers, and businessmen. And he has found that, in defending their newly-won turf, advocates of the new history "have revealed themselves to be far more hidebound and rigid than those they denounce." (Please note that one of the reasons they are jealous of the happy few who teach national history-such as Bliss and Granatstein-is that these are the ones sometimes asked to provide lucrative media commentary.)

Granatstein may be a tad severe in saying that the only true value of the books that scholarly historians are churning out is "to secure tenure and promotion" for their authors. And should the reader not be familiar with some of the sorry prose written by historians these days, he provides examples of obfuscation and bafflegab that more than prove his point. Narrative, a tool that is a crucial component in the historian's craft, has been abandoned by many of its practitioners, particularly those who write micro-history. While academics tore apart Pierre Berton's and Peter Newman's treatments of Canadian history, the fact remains that these works captured a large audience because they are colourful and readable.

Many academics will dismiss Granatstein's views. There are historians who deliberately read as broadly as possible in their larger discipline so they can convey diverse thematic concerns to their students. The differing approaches to history developed over the last three decades, taken together, have yielded some interesting work and valuable insights. The enduring legacy of the New Left may well be to have rid historical writing of its blinkered Whig celebration of Western progress. The postmodernists, in their search for unexpected and unintended meanings, have contributed a stress on the critical evaluation of texts and past events. And some of the specialties Granatstein bemoans are useful adjuncts to national political history. Studies of the development of literacy and the impact of television help illustrate how the political nation has grown to incorporate more people, and how public debate and active citizenship have changed as a result. Other offshoots of recent social history, particularly examinations of nineteenth-century advertising and consumption, may be more aligned to museum studies than to the discipline of history as it has been traditionally taught, but this does not diminish their worth.

A question Granatstein might have pondered is this: How many historians-in any generation-are skilled at writing panoramic narrative that emphasizes, not the particular concern, but the broader national context? While mathematicians do some of their most creative work in their early twenties, it is not uncommon for historians to start to peak in their forties. Often it takes two smaller books and twenty years of reading before a master work emerges. For the most part, only the better work of superior historians has endured from previous centuries.

Granatstein's criticisms and fears run parallel to ones expressed by others. A decade ago the American historian Gertrude Himmelfarb savaged trendy methodologies in The New History & The Old. More recently, in England, Richard Evans's In Defence of History attacked ministers of education for not laying down common curriculums. But there is a belief that the pendulum is starting to swing back a bit and that social, intellectual, and political history may converge into something more balanced. Increasingly, the Marxist critique of the West is being rethought by a younger breed of historians, and some stimulating work that emphasizes social cohesion is emerging. It may be a while before the results percolate down to primary schools. One can only hope that concerned parents will heed Granatstein's advice and lobby for a more balanced approach that will resuscitate Canadian history before it is too late. Belinda Beaton(Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

J. L. GRANATSTEIN is the author of over 60 books, including the bestsellersWho Killed the Canadian Military? and Whose War Is It?, along withYankee Go Home?, Victory 1945 and The Generals, which won the J. W. Dafoe Prize and the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography. A distinguished research professor of history emeritus at York University, he was a member of the RMC Board of Governors and is chair of the Advisory Council of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. He lives in Toronto. Visit Granatstein atwww.whosewar.ca.

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Format: Hardcover
Professor Granatstien has presented readers with a very interesting book with "Who Killed Canadian History?". It has generated a great deal of debate within history cirlces - both good and bad.
The book itself is a quick read, coming in at a very short 149 pages. the main thrust of Grantstien's argument is that the pursuit of social history in Canada (which encompasses many fields such as Native and feminist histories) has swung too far. The result is that few people emerging out of the public chool system know much about thier national history. In fact, Grantstien claims that we are losing our history. The book is a polemic in this regard. Grantstien casts a wide net of blame in what he percieves to be the decline of historical knowledge in Canada.
Of course, this all begs the question as to whose "history" Dr. Grantstien is referring to? By no means is Canadian history dead. Critics of Granatstien and others like him such as Michael Bliss, believe that the history these people are advocating is that of a bygone era. Before the revolution in "social" history of the laet 1960s and early 1970s history tended to be based on the actions of the proverbial dead, white, male, politician (see Donald Creighton). The history that Grantstien advocates is usually cast in this light. The implication being that this history will once again marginalize the stories of women, natives, minorities, etc...
I personally do not believe that is what the debate is about. Grantstien is unfairly cast as some unsensitive brute who wants to turn the clock back to when the writing of history was much easier. When in reality he is simple percieving the historiographical trend as similar to a pendulum.
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Format: Hardcover
A friend of mine is a History Major at the local univeristy, and she had the distinct pleasure of having taken a class with Prof. Granatstein before he retired. She passed this book to everyone she knew, and I was lucky to get my turn with it early.
Canada has a rich and diverse culture, and its history is often scoffed (indeed, I can remember my family, all of us immigrants from England, saying, "Canada doesn't *have* any history.") This notion is wrong, and yet, it perpetuates.
Well, the question of who killed Canadian History is what Granatstein tackles in this book. It is a quick read, but one you'll re-read, and is a pithy and witty account of how fragmented our educational system is on the concept of teaching Canadian History. There are relevant facts scattered throughout this book, and statistics that made me, for one, ashamed of the Canadian educational system. Granatstein speaks of changes that need to be made on both the educational system front and in post-educational institutions, and has put together a book that sincerely, and objectively, points out why Canadian History is so lost.
Who Killed Canadian History? We, the Canadians, did. It's time to turn that around.
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Format: Hardcover
A very impressive book! Prof Granatstein has done a marvelous job presenting the changes the presentation of Canadian History has undergone in the past 30 years. I was particularly impressed with his treatment of various "schools of thought" which have come to dominate - ie post-structuralist, feminist, social/marxist, etc... He recognizes that these schools have made valuable contributions to the study of Canada's History, but points to some of their major shortcomings - chiefly their inability to provide a cohesive narrative for our last 300 years. While these interpretations can be extremely enlightening, they lose their effect when the reader has no foundation or "story" to compare them against - a foundation that used to be provided in the elementary and high school years. The only regret I had after reading the book was that it was so short - it would have been nice to see Granatstein develop and back-up his thesis in greater depth. But it's still a must read for all Canadians!
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Format: Paperback
Factual Canadian History has been marginalized by educators and successive governments. If History is taught the facts are manipulated to suit the occasion. Feminism, Political correctness and Socialism are much to blame.
The Author, J.L. Granatstein, has definitely identified the problem(s) and supplied some of the answers to correct this injustice.
Canadian History should be a mandatory High School subject and the Federal Government should set the standards.
If our young adults are left unaware of the errors of the past then more than likely those errors will be repeated.

I would suggest this book "Who Killed Canadian History" should be placed in every public and school library in Canada. And, should be recognized as a teaching tool by our educators.

Informative and well written.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book and thought why is this not required reading for every Canadian High School student. It explains why we seem to have no sense of who we are and try to please every group in our society , in detriment to our identity as a nation. Looking at history in politically correct terms does not give anyone a sense of who we are and where we are going. It proves you can not change history using todays politically acceptable language and have any substance in the text. Loved this thought provoking book! Wake up CANADA before we lose our total identity!
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