I have children, and one of them is now old enough to be learning serious subjects in what was once called “Social Studies”, or “History and Geography”, depending on your age. Today it is all lumped together with Language Arts (what I remember as English) into a morass called “Humanities”. I think you get my attitude on this.
I have been frustrated that my teenager cannot named the ten provinces of Canada, let alone label them on a map. Or know when they joined the confederation. She doesn’t know the US states or which ones seceded in 1861. She probably can’t label a map of Europe, even if you let her ignore the little states. But I don’t think this is her fault. This is the fault of the education system that some time ago decided that rote learning was a waste of time.
I was driven to write this blog entry based on my latest frustration with what they are teaching in “Humanities”. They have learned “all about Tiananmen Square” and the protests there in 1989, according to my daughter. She was explaining that people were protesting because they didn’t have political freedoms or freedom of expression. I asked her two questions: In what city is Tiananmen Square located? and Who’s portrait hangs over Tiananmen Square? She could answer neither of these questions. She knew Tiananmen Square was in China, but had either not been paying attention or was never told it was in Beijing. What I thought was worse was that anyone was trying to teach about the struggles between communist totalitarianism and liberty in China without any mention of Mao and his little red book… After I told her that the portrait was not “some guy”, but was Mao Zedong, she swore she had never heard that name at school. Further, there had been no discussion of the fundamental ideology underpinning the totalitarianism that Mao espoused. They were simply told that the students were protesting a lack of freedom and were crushed for it. I also asked if she understood whether things had changed in China since then. She said she had no idea. Once again, I must question what are we teaching our kids? The events in Tiananmen Square are important, but how can you understand them without the history, ideology and even knowing that from a political freedom perspective, very little has changed in China in the 24 years since.
If you know a teacher or have kids in the schools in Canada, watch carefully. They aren’t learning what you learned.