Manitoba History: One Hundred Years of History Teaching in Manitoba Schools. Part 1: 1897-1927
by Ken Osborne
This essay is the first of three which are intended to examine the teaching of history in Manitoba schools over the last hundred or so years, from the 1890s to the present. They will deal with both the “what” of historythe content of curricula and textbooksand the “how”the ways in which it was taught and learned, though the evidence is much firmer for the first than for the second.
For the sake of convenience, I have divided the teaching of history in Manitoba into three periods. The first runs from the 1890s to the late 1920s, when a series of wide-ranging curricular revisions were introduced following the 1924 Report of the Murray Commission on education. The second runs from the revisions of the late 1920s to the mid-1960s, when a new history programme was adopted in the aftermath of the 1959 Report of the Macfarlane Royal Commission on Education. The third runs from the mid-1960s to the present and encompasses three major revisions of the history curriculum, the first in the mid-1960s, the second in the mid-1980s, and the third just getting under way in 1998, with results as yet unknown.
There is a certain logic to this classification in that it rests on major changes in the content and organization of the history programme in the schools, but there is also a certain arbitrariness. Education is notoriously slow to change, and even when a new curriculum is introduced it can take years before it begins to affect what happens in classrooms. Indeed, in some ways the classroom might not change at all if teachers simply adopt new subject-matter, say American history instead of British, but keep on teaching it in the same old way. Thus, the three periods around which this essay is organized should not be taken too seriously. They are useful organizational tools, but little else. The history of history teaching in Manitoba over the last hundred years is marked more by continuity some would say inertia than by change.
The 1890s to the mid-1920s was of course the period when the Manitoba public school system was reorganized and consolidated. In 1890 the Greenway government abolished the dual system created under the Manitoba Act; in 1897 a new Education Act incorporated the terms of the Laurier-Greenway Compromise that ended the Schools Question; and in 1916 the Norris government abolished the multilingual framework of the school system and made school attendance compulsory until age fourteen. As a result of these three measures, Manitoba’s original system of confessional and bilingualand for a period multilingualschools, at which attendance was voluntary, was replaced by a secular, unilingual and universal system of public schooling, where private schools were permissible but had to follow the public school curriculum, and which at least in theory brought all children within its embrace, except for those aboriginal children who were under the control of the Dominion government. Overwhelmingly, however, children left school somewhere between Grades 6 and 8, school attendance remained erratic in rural areas right into the 1930s, and only a minority of students went on to high school.
The Content of the History Curriculum
In 1930, the Deputy Minister of Education, Robert Fletcher, described the curriculum changes of the late 1920s as the first “real” revision of the Manitoba curriculum since 1890.  Certainly, the content of the history curriculum remained fairly constant throughout this period, with only two revisions of any note, one in 1911, which affected mainly Grade 5 and Grade 9, and one between 1919 and 1921 which made fundamental changes in Grades 9-11. The other grades, 1-4, 6-8, and 12, remained largely untouched except for occasional very minor adjustments, usually having to do with changes in authorized textbooks.
Throughout this period there was no systematic or formal study of history as a subject in Grades 1-4. Students were taught something about the past, but in the form of stories chosen from a wide variety of sources. Until 1911 this story approach continued into Grade 5, but in that year Grade 5 was changed so that it was devoted to the study of British history to 1485 with some attention also being given to the study of government and civics. In Grades 6 and 7 the programme consisted of a chronological study of British and Canadian history, taken as two separate but related subjects. Grade 8 was wholly devoted to a repetition and review of Grade 7 to prepare students for the “entrance” examination which qualified them for Grade 9 and high school, should they choose to go there. Before the revisions of 1911, this pattern was slightly different, with Grades 6-8 being devoted to British and Canadian history and Grade 9 to review. What seems to have happened in the 1911 revision is that Grade 9 was shifted to the high school, so that in effect everything past grade 4 was shifted down a grade.
In the high school, before 1919-21 the programme for grades 9 and 10 consisted of one more run through British and Canadian history, though obviously at a higher level of difficulty. Grade 11 was devoted to medieval and modern Europe, and Grade 12 to another treatment of selected topics in British history and some treatment of modem Europe. Between 1919 and 1921 this pattern was fundamentally changed, with Grade 9 being devoted to ancient and medieval Europe, Grade 10 to modem Europe (defined as beginning around 1500), and Grade 11 to a study of British and Canadian history, with Grade 12 remaining unchanged.
Although there was no study of history as a formal subject in Grades 1-4, the curriculum specified that children should read stories that had historical content, but with the goal, not of teaching them historical knowledge, but teaching them to read and “to create a desire for reading” as the programmes of study put it through the early 1900s. The stories were also intended to instill in children a set of ideals, such as honesty, bravery, courage, and so forth, and thus foster their moral development, or character as it was often called at the time. The stories described Old Testament characters, such as Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Daniel, and others; ancient mythology; native people; pioneer life; adventure and personal bravery; invention and discovery; early civilizations; animals and pets; and “occupations and industrial processes.”
Grade 5 took the same approach until 1911, consisting of European and Canadian biographies of great men, and a few women, all with a moral message, ranging from Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Columbus, Cortes, and Samuel de Champlain, to William Pitt, William Wilberforce, Lord Selkirk and many others. These biographies were intended to provide a “connected series of pictures of civilization” in which the “ethical as well as the historical value (was) to be prominent.” 
This use of stories was not unique to Manitoba, being the common practice of most North American and British jurisdictions of the day. It was in part a continuation of the Victorian tradition of using stories to teach morality but it was also based on a common-sense awareness that young children had very little sense of time and chronology and were not intellectually ready for the study of history. The position was nicely stated by H. A. L. Fisher, himself a noted historian and at the time also Minister of Education in the British government, in a speech reprinted In 1921 in the Winnipeg-based Western School Journal: “I believe that without undue strain, children between the ages of five and ten, may be given through a succession of stories and pictures, and by means also of a little intelligently contrived handwork, an arresting impression of the broad contrasts which are presented by different forms of civilization upon this planet.” 
Moreover, since children did have to learn to read, and to enjoy reading, the question became one of choosing the best reading materials for them to use. As Inspector Rose put it in 1901: “It is generally conceded that any method of teaching reading which does not develop a refined taste in literature and a desire to read good books must be essentially weak.”  Since an important goal of schooling was character development and citizenship, appropriately defined (this was after all why school attendance was made compulsory in the first place) then it naturally followed that their reading should be directed towards instilling in them an ideal of conduct, characterized by courage, bravery, honour, honesty, tenacity, justice, service, and other related virtues, which are often, and too easily, described as middle-class or bourgeois, but which can be defended on their merits, and were valued as much by liberals and radicals as by conservatives and traditionalists.
Such stories carried more than their share of gender bias, featuring larger than life heroes, and only a few heroines, and were intended to appeal to young children’s taste for adventure, romance and excitement. They could also create an interest in the past which could later be turned to good use when children were able to tackle historical study. Needless to say, they were light years removed from the graded readers and the Dick and Jane trivialities that later came to characterize the teaching of reading.
There is nothing in any of this that even faintly resembles what we later came to call the expanding horizons approach to social studies where children begin by studying their local community and then grade by grade expand into the world beyond their door. This did not enter the Manitoba schools until the curriculum revisions of 1926-27, to be discussed in a subsequent article. Until then, children were introduced from the very beginning to the world of adult action and emotion. As a Selkirk teacher put it in 1901:
This approach to the past using story and biography to illustrate desirable moral qualities was very much in accord with the best Herbartian principles of the day. Men like Daniel McIntyre, Superintendent of Winnipeg schools since 1885 and William A. McIntyre, Principal of the Normal School since 1893, both of them powerhouses in Manitoba education in these years, made it a point to keep abreast of educational theory and practice, and it would not be at all surprising if they introduced or at least encouraged Herbartian ideas in Manitoba. Disciples and adaptors of Herbart were influential in both British and American teacher-training in this period and their work would certainly have been known to men as well-read and up-to-date as the McIntyres (the two men were not related, Daniel coming originally from New Brunswick and William from the Perth area of Ontario). Moreover, Normal School examinations in the early 1900s included questions on Herbartian educational theory and practice.
The Herbartians were emphatic on the value of history as a source of character development and pioneered the imaginative use of story methods in history teaching. Both approaches were eloquently combined in the book, Special Method in History, published in 1903 and written by a prolific American teacher-educator, Charles McMurry. In fact, a related McMurry text, Special Method in History and Literature, was being used in the Winnipeg Normal School as early as 1902.
Like many Herbartians, McMurry insisted on the primacy of history in the elementary school curriculum: “The first question, preliminary to all others in the common school course, ‘What is the most important study?’ is answered by putting history at the top of the list.” And the value of history lay in its power of “illustrating and inculcating moral ideas.”  As an English Herbartian, Catherine Dodd, put it in 1906: “History is pre-eminent among the school studies. History taken in its broadest sense includes all the studies in the humanistic group, and it is placed first in the scheme of instruction because it is considered of primary importance in moulding the character and in stimulating interest.”  No one in Manitoba seems to have been this excited by history but there is an interesting similarity between what McMurry recommended and what the Manitoba curriculum contained, even down to the choice of specific biographical figures and stories.
The twinning of English and Canadian history in Grades 6 through 8 (and including Grade 5 after 1911) and in the high school was commonplace in English-speaking Canada in these years and needs little explanation. Manitoba educationists saw Britain as their mother country, but, beyond this emotional bond, they also saw her as an especially attractive embodiment of desirable qualities. In the words of an 1886 textbook, British history was the record of “combining Roman order with Northern liberty, and harmonizing the freest development of individual mind and character with intense national unity and unfailing reverence for law.”  Even more important, England’s history was seen as Canada’s, especially in such things as the development of parliament, the common law, constitutional monarchy, and responsible government.
Even American historians insisted in these years that British history was a vital part of any history programme that took constitutional democracy seriously. An influential committee of the American Historical Association recommended in 1899 that the whole Grade 11 year in American schools should be devoted to British history as part of a four-year history programme designed to prepare young Americans for citizenship. As the American historians put it: “Edward 1 and Pym, Hampden and William Pitt, belong to our past and helped make us what we are.” 
For obvious reasons, such thinking was even more entrenched in Anglophone Canada, and not least among educationists, who saw the shaping of citizens as the most urgent task facing the schools. Moreover, Canada was part of the British Empire, and as Carl Berger and others have shown, few Anglophone Canadians in these years saw any contradiction between pride in Canada and pride in the Empire of which it was a part and which kept American influences at bay.  Thus, Canadian national identity, the health of the Canadian democracy, and the quality of public life generally, all demanded that Canadian citizens knew something of both Canadian history and the history of the “mother country,” and of how the former was an outgrowth of the latter. So important was it, in fact, that students’ final four years of compulsory schooling before they left at age fourteen were to be devoted to it.
There seem to have been two factors behind the revisions that were introduced in 1911. One was the reshuffling of subject matter that resulted from what seems to have been a decision to include Grade 9 in the high school, so that elementary school, or public school as it was sometimes called, following Ontario usage, now ended at Grade 8. The other was the result of a decision to simplify the programme so as to make it more explicit and manageable for teachers. It was, in the words of Inspector Belton of the Gilbert Plains area, a “bugbear to amateur teachers” and “unsuitable to the conditions of most country schools.” 
In the short run, at least, teachers were supportive. Inspector Parr of south-western Manitoba observed of the revised programme: “The general comment on it by teachers is that it is much superior to the old one because it is condensed, simplified and, as a result, more readily followed.”  Other Inspectors agreed. As Inspector Wright put it: “The teachers as a whole ... seem quite pleased to have a programme that is a help rather than a hindrance.”  There were some discordant voices, however. Inspector Maguire of the Portage la Prairie district noted sardonically that his teachers had held an “animated” meeting on the subject of the revisions, and that the revisers of the curriculum “should have been there - they would doubtless have learned a great deal about framing programmes of study.” 
Very quickly, it seems, the revised curriculum was found to suffer from the same faults as its predecessor. As Inspector Belton reported from the Russell-Roblin area, it was “apparently too comprehensive for thoroughness and too bookish for rural education.”  Indeed, in 1917 even the Deputy Minister of Education, Robert Fletcher, spoke of a “distracting multiplicity of subjects on the programme of studies.” He went on to note, though only to rebut it, “the oft repeated complaint that our school programmes are hopelessly overcrowded, that the multiplication of subjects in these latter days has resulted in superficiality and tends to produce a scatter-brained type of person with many trifling interests and no capacity for continuous hard work ...” 
More far-reaching than the 1911 revisions were those made to Grades 9 to 11 that were introduced between 1919 and 1921. They created a three year history sequence beginning with Ancient Greece and Rome in Grade 9, running though medieval and modem Europe in Grade 10, and ending in Grade 11 with a chronological treatment of British and Canadian history. It is tempting to think, though there is no evidence to say so, that this plan was an adaptation to Manitoba conditions of a recommendation made in two influential American Historical Association reports, the first of which was published in 1899 and the second in 1911. 
In these years the American Historical Association took a strong interest in the state of history in the schools, and urged with some success that American high schools adopt a four-year sequence of history. The 1899 Report recommended a year each of ancient, medieval and modem European, British, and American history, running from Grade 9 to Grade 12. The 1911 report changed this slightly by folding British history into European, and reducing the time given to medieval history, so that students spent a year on ancient history (defined as running up to Charlemagne), two years on modern Europe, and a final year on American history and government. In Manitoba Grade 12 was controlled by the University so that educationists had only Grades 9-11 at their disposal, but there is a close resemblance between what they created in 1919-1921 and what American historians had been recommending for the previous twenty years. Given the close attention paid by Manitoba educationists to developments in the United States and Britain, it seems quite possible that they were influenced by these American reports.
Whatever the backgroundand the record is exasperatingly uninformative on this pointthe 1919-21 revisions had been some years in the making. In 1914 the Manitoba Education Association had struck a committee to rethink the whole high school curriculum and it quickly came up with a suggestion for British and Canadian history in Grade 9, ancient and medieval history in Grade 10, and modem Europe in Grade 11. This remained a paper proposal, however, and in 1917 the Advisory Board and the University, working together, came up with the three year plan that was in fact put into effect.
There seems to have been general agreement that there should be a three year pattern of history from Grade 9 to Grade 11 that would make up a coherent and sequential programme. It was also agreed that the elements of this programme should be some combination of European, British and Canadian history, all designed to cultivate in students a constructive patriotism and to help them under-stand the world in which they lived. The tricky question was how to sequence the courses. In 1914 the M.E.A. had suggested beginning with British and Canadian history, but in 1917 the Advisory Board reversed this argument. Its decision to put Canadian and British history in the final year of the programme (i.e. in Grade 11) was apparently based on three considerations. One, not having taken Canadian history since Grade 8, students would find it fresh and interesting in Grade 11. Two, by Grade 11 they would be mature enough to understand the political and constitutional elements that were so important in the history of Canada. And, three, two years of European history would provide a good foundation for the study of Canada. 
It is possible, though the sources are silent on this point, that the case for including more European history was strengthened by the impact of the First World War. If the War was indeed the war to end wars, and if the sacrifice of so many lives was to be in any way worthwhile, then students needed a wider outlook on the world, and one way to do this was to introduce them to the history of Europe, which in those days was often seen as synonymous with the history of the world as a whole.
There might also have been another factor at work in this decision to revamp Grades 9 to 11, though it is impossible to be sure. The Great War saw the introduction in universities, especially in the United States, of courses in the history of Western Civilization. In the first instance these began as courses in Allied war aims, aimed especially at young army officers, and designed to implant the belief that the Allies were fighting for the values of Western Civilization against the evils of Prussianism, Kruppism, Kaiserism, and assorted German perversities. By the end of the War, this original emphasis on war aims was converted into a more general concern for so-called “Western” culture and citizenship, defined as resting on a core of values, stretching back to the ancient Greeks, which were seen as distinctive of, and perhaps unique to, western Europe and its settler colonies. 
Not surprisingly, this university focus on the history and values of the West quickly came to include the schools, which usually gave some attention to European history anyway, and it is possible that Manitoba’s decision to organize a two-year course of European history in Grades 9 and 10 was influenced by this kind of thinking, if only indirectly. Moreover, making Canadian and British history the final course had the effect of presenting Canada as the product of two thousand years of Western history and therefore as the embodiment of all those values which, after the War, were so readily seen as quintessentially Western. After the War citizenship was defined not only in terms of Canadian and British heritage, but of membership in a wider Western civilization. It is perhaps not coincidental that in 1919 the Manitoba Agricultural College reintroduced the study of history into its curriculum.
The overall pattern of the history curriculum from Grades 5 to 12, at least before the 1919-21 revisions, but even after them to a considerable extent, was cyclical, with the high school repeating, at a higher level of difficulty, what had already been taught in the elementary grades. In later years many educationists came to favour this approach, which they described as the “spiral” curriculum. Indeed, in the 1990s back-to-the-basics school reformers condemned it as a progressive fad, but, in Manitoba at least, it apparently had longer roots. In Manitoba’s case, the spiral consisted of two strands of British and Canadian history, with a dash of civics and some European history thrown in, but it was adopted, not from any attachment to pedagogical theory, but for three very practical reasons.
The first was the reality that most students did not proceed beyond Grade 8, with many not getting beyond Grade 6, even after the compulsory attendance law of 1916. Thus, insofar as schooling served as the basis of citizenship education and as the core of the assimilation of immigrants to Canadian traditions, as officially defined, it was imperative to ensure that all students got a healthy dose of British and Canadian history as soon as they were able to learn and understand it.
The second reason arose from the conviction of Manitoba educationists that an important function of the public high school was not to prepare students for university, but to give prospective elementary school teachers a basic knowledge of the subjects they would themselves have to teach. In these years most elementary school teachers entered Normal School with only Grade 11 or Grade 12, took a year or less of teacher training, according to what level of teaching certificate they wanted, and then went out to their schools. If they were to teach British and Canadian history to elementary school children, high school was the only place where they could learn it.
The third reason why the high school history programme took the form that it did originated with the University of Manitoba. From its point of view, high school prepared students for university studies while also setting a university controlled standard for all the grades below it. It thus also ensured that the tradition of a liberal education would remain alive and well in the Manitoba school system. More specifically, Grade 11 served as the junior matriculation year and thus provided entrance to the University, while Grade 12 counted as senior matriculation and was identical with first year university a practice which continued until the mid-1960s. As a result, the University effectively controlled the content of Grades 11 and 12, and exercised considerable indirect influence on Grades 9 and 10.
Manitoba school people, even those who saw themselves as friends of the University, did not especially like this state of affairs. They welcomed the University as a source of academic legitimacy and credibility, but they resented its control of the high school curriculum. Their resentment grew when the University refused to accept their arguments for making the curriculum more flexible by decoupling it from university entrance requirements. This conflict began in the 1890s, when educationists realized that the University’s requirements sometimes got in the way of using the high school to give would-be teachers the subject-matter training they needed. It became particularly marked in the 1910s, as more students began to enter the high school without any intention of proceeding to university, leaving the schools with what they saw as the impossible task of teaching a university-oriented curriculum that students neither wanted nor needed. Thus, in 1916, S. E. Lang, the province’s inspector of secondary schools, condemned the high school curriculum as needing “careful revision and re-organization, with a view to a fuller and more equitable representation of the various branches of human knowledge.” As he put it: “The modem public high school finds it a difficult task to satisfy at once the requirements of the University, which has for a long time exercised a strong influence upon it, and the demands of the community at large.” 
Goals, Purposes and Values
Unlike today, when school curricula devote much attention to matters of rationale, goals and objectives, programmes of study in this period were described almost exclusively in terms of specific topics to be covered or sections of the textbook to be read. To take only one example, throughout these years the Grade 12 history course was described in two sentences. One specified that Chapter 3, Sections 4-6 of Chapter 6, and Chapters 7-10 of J. R. Green’s Short History of the English People were to be studied. The other similarly specified particular sections of whatever European history text was authorized. And teachers were explicitly told that the departmental examinations would be based on the set textbook, or sections of it. Thus, for all intents and purposes, in these years the curriculum was the textbook and vice versa, although, as we shall see, this did not stop inspectors from routinely criticizing teachers for sticking too closely to the textbook.
In 1922 the Department of Education briefly broke with this pattern, but not for any philosophical reason. Having decided that Grade 11 should be devoted to British and Canadian history, it was unable to find suitable textbooks, and as a way round the problem it commissioned D. C. Harvey of the University of Manitoba history department to draw up a syllabus for teachers. He did so, but the Department remained unable to find appropriate textbooks that matched Harvey’s course. Making a virtue out of necessity, it recommended that teachers use a variety of reference books and supplementary readings. A few teachers warmly approved, but they were the well-qualified specialist teachers working in relatively well-equipped urban high schools. Most other teachers were dismayed. As one anonymously put it in 1923: “Our history syllabus has us gasping. Many of us are not long out of high school or universityour library is a thing of the futureour schools are without a usable reference library, and what are we to do?”  Acting on complaints of this sort, the history section of the Manitoba Education Association in 1924 lodged a protest with the Advisory Board over what many history teachers saw as unfair treatment. The Department’s response was to make minor alterations to its course and issue more detailed outlines, until in 1926 it finally found a text. In fact, the text was written by a Winnipeg teacher, G. J. Reeve of St. John’s High School, with the Grade 11 course very much in mind. 
However, though curricula and programmes of studies said very little explicitly about goals in these years, it is not difficult to see what they were intended to achieve. Above all else, their purpose was the education of citizens. This, after all, was why such a heavy emphasis was placed on British and Canadian history, and, after the Great War, on European history also. As the Minister of Education told teachers in 1920: “You must impress upon the minds of the boys and of the girls that they are Canadian citizens and that they must preserve the heritage that is theirs as members of the great British Empire.”  And of course, if they were to preserve this heritage, they first had to learn what it was.
“Citizenship” is obviously a very capacious word. Like a chameleon, it changes its colour according to its context. At the time of the 1919 General Strike, for example, farmers, trades unionists, socialists, capitalists, liberals, conservatives, feministsall used the word for their own purposes. Conservatives used it to present a message of duty, loyalty and obedience to constituted authority. Liberals used it to preach community and consensus. Socialists, when they did not dismiss it as a bourgeois smokescreen, used it to justify struggle and conflict and to raise issues of equity and justice. Farmers and feminists used it to point to a future of cooperation, nonviolence and equality. When educationists used it, they had four things in mind. For them citizenship was an amalgam of national identity and patriotism; political literacy; a balanced awareness of rights; and the fulfilment of duties. All four depended upon a knowledge of Canadian and British history, for only by understanding how Canada’s present was shaped by its past (which included Britain’s past also), and only through an appreciation of what today’s men and women owed to the sacrifices of their predecessors, could citizens fully understand the obligations of citizenship.
At a less intellectual, more emotional, level, a knowledge of history would also create the sense of tradition and heritage that made citizenship, not a matter of intellectual calculation, but of instinctive loyalty that prepared citizens to endure the sacrifices that citizenship sometimes imposed, as had been so vividly demonstrated in the Great War. As the Minister of Education, R. S. Thornton, put it in 1919: “The liberties, the privileges of citizenship which we enjoy as Canadians today have been handed down over the years as the results of great sacrifice. Our lads have fought and bled and died to preserve themto hand them on.” 
Throughout this period, the educationists’ language of citizenship had an obvious assimilationist thrust. It is well known that in these years Manitoba’s social and political leaders were troubled by the arrival of large numbers of non-English speaking immigrants. It was all very well for Clifford Sifton to praise his “stalwart peasants in sheepskin coats” but Manitoba educationists saw them as a challenge, and even a threat, to Manitoba’s British identity. In thewords of one Winnipeg principal, W. J. Sisler, they constituted a “peaceful invasion.” At the same time, however, they presented a golden opportunity. The need to Canadianize the new immigrants, to turn them into good citizens, speaking English, politically literate, and imbued with British and Canadian patriotism, presented Manitoba’s school promoters with what they saw as a cast-iron argument for the value of schooling. As the Manitoba Teachers’ Federation put it in 1921: “The greatest thing in the country is education, and the greatest calling is that of the teacher. Compared with making books, boots or butter, making men and women is of infinitely more importance.”  In these circumstances, even the stingiest of taxpayers must surely see the urgency of supporting schools. In the words of Inspector Willows:
As these words suggest, more was involved in citizenship education, and therefore in history teaching, than assimilating immigrants, as important as educationists saw this to be. They also had a vision of nationhood, of Manitoba forming part of an increasingly united and prosperous Canada. As teachers were told in 1920: “The story of Manitoba, however, lies not in the past but in the future ... The true promise of Manitoba’s history lies in the soul of its people, in the moral and spiritual progress they will make.” 
Neither Manitoba nor Canada had achieved full nation-hood yet, either technically or psychologically, but the day was not far distant when a true Canadian nationhood would emerge. The Great War, in which Canada had fought as an ally rather than a colony of Britain, had shown what Canada could do and the time might well come when Britain would have to pass the mantle of Empire on to her Dominions, with Canada in the lead. In 1909, the Governor-General of Canada, Earl Grey, had written to the historian, George Wrong, in this vein:
At present, however, the nation was still being built and it was this that gave education its special importance, not just for immigrants but for all citizens. If the work was not done properly now, the results would be found wanting. As the President of the University of Saskatchewan told Manitoba teachers in 1917: “The school becomes the great agency for perpetuating the language and traditions of a people, for quickening the national consciousness.” 
The education literature in these years is full of this kind of argument and it would be tedious to enlarge upon it. Its advocates were especially vociferous in the years before 1916, perhaps because they were so alarmed both by the Roblin government’s refusal to make school attendance compulsory and by what they saw as the dangerous spread of bilingual schools. Both developments made it impossible to turn the school system into a thorough-going agency of British-Canadian citizenship. With the election of the Norris Liberal government in 1916, however, and especially with the appointment of Dr. R. S. Thornton, an untiring advocate of using the schools to teach British citizenship, as Minister of Education, the citizenship boosters got all that they could wish. Henceforth, the schools would be unilingual and compulsory and citizenship education could proceed full steam ahead.
With the end of the Great War the argument for citizenship took a slightly different direction. There was less emphasis on assimilation and more on citizenship as “character” and “service.” As Thornton told a teachers’ convention in 1919: “The teacher is the true nation-builder. Yours is the glorious privilege of inculcating the spirit of unselfish service.” 
This idea of service had three sources. First, and most directly, it sprang out of the experience of the Great War. Those Manitobans who had fought in the War had above all demonstrated “the spirit of unselfish service”, and the best way to honour them was to follow their example in the post-war world. To quote Thornton again: “The spirit we need, then, is the spirit of unselfish service the spirit that our soldiers and our nurses displayed in France. We must face our problems in the same indomitable spiritwe must strive to develop a citizenship, a community life worthy of the sacrifice of our boys; we must prove that they did not die in vain.”  Second, the idea of service had deep roots in the social gospel tradition of Christian reformism which had become so strongly entrenched in pre-war Manitoba and which struck a sympathetic chord with many Manitoba educationists. Third, it was seen as especially necessary to counter the growing social and industrial conflict, of which the 1919 General Strike was the most obvious, but far from isolated, example. Both capitalists and socialists alike could find common cause in the service of the community: “Citizenship means service that we must do for the communitysomething over and above what one does for oneself.”  The Principal of the Provincial Normal School drew this conclusion from the unrest of 1919: “The school permeated with the idea of service and good-will is the surest guarantee of peace and social harmony.” 
By the mid-1920s, if not earlier, this idea of service had spilled over into the international arena. Very quickly after the end of the War, Manitoba educationists embraced the cause of international understanding and peace. As early as 1921 Empire Day was used to promote a message of world peace. Having described Wolfe as an “Empire Builder” in the official Empire Day booklet for schools, G. J. Reeve added this comment:
Though H. G. Wells, John Dewey and radicals generally distrusted the League of Nations, and criticized it as only a league of governments and not of peoples which would carry on business as usual under a smokescreen of false goodwill, most Manitoba educationists saw it as the means to prevent war in the future. The League was, of course, an eminently respectable cause, actively promoted by J. W. Dafoe in the Free Press, and backed by the League of Nations Society, which included many of Canada’s most prominent social and political figures. In 1926 the Department of Education authorized the use in the Grade 10 history course of a booklet on the League prepared by the League of Nations Society. Teachers were told it would not form part of the final examination but students would not be allowed to write the examination without a teacher’s certificate to say that they had read it.  Also in 1926 the Department of Education began publishing a regular series of informational articles on the League, written by local academics, for the use of teachers and students. Indeed, so insistent was the emphasis on the League and its work for international understanding that in 1928 an anonymous Brandon teacher wrote to the Manitoba Teacher suggesting that the subject had been “worn threadbare in our monthly magazine.” 
Although these varying ideas of citizenship were intended to shape the way that teachers taught history, they did not appear explicitly in the programmes of study, which were in these years austerely factual. A curriculum was a list of topics to be taught, no more and no less. When, for example, the Department of Education issued D.C. Harvey’s detailed syllabus for Grade 11 British History in 1923, it consisted of seventy-two distinct topics, each designed to cover one lesson, beginning with “Lesson I. The Celts: (a) social, political and religious organisation; occupations; (b) Extent, character and effects of Roman occupation of Celtic Britain; and ending seventy-one lessons later with the problems facing contemporary Britain. 
This Joe Friday-just-give-me-the-facts approach to history was reinforced by the pattern of provincial examinations, which required the recitation of factual knowledge, sometimes directly tied to a particular textbook. Here, for example, are some typical questions set in Normal School examinations in the early 1900s:
Only in the examinations for a First Class teaching certificate did the questions become more sophisticated and call for some attempt at historical argument and explanation, as in these examples:
Even these questions, however, are less demanding than they at first appear, since they depended upon a detailed knowledge of a set text more than on an ability to argue from historical data, and could be fairly easily prepared for by anyone familiar with the examination patterns.
These Normal School questions were, of course, intended for teachers in training. They were by definition more demanding than those set for school students, that were remorselessly factual in their approach, to the point that some of the more qualified teachers complained from time to time that they were the very antithesis of good teaching and good history. As W. A. McIntyre of the Normal School put it in 1931:
There appear to be two explanations for this evident mismatch between the citizenship aims of history and the actual design of curricula and examinations. The first is true of almost all curricula, which are generally a mixture of the residual influences of the past and the emergent imperatives of the present. As Raymond Williams once put it, a curriculum “expresses a compromise between an inherited selection of interests and the emphasis of new interests.”  In the Manitoba case, the factual emphasis of the curriculum reflected an older view of education as the acquisition of general knowledge and culture, as an initiation into what Matthew Arnold famously described as “the best that has been thought and written.”
In recent years there has been a tendency in educational circles to dismiss knowledge as relatively unimportant, and certainly less important than skills. Facts, we are told, can easily be found. The important thing is to know how and where to find them, and having found them, to know how to use them. Education is all about “learning to learn.” This was most certainly not the view of the educationists of the period under consideration in this article. While distinguishing between worthwhile and trivial knowledge, they believed firmly in the value of knowledge for its own sake. In their view, no one could be called educated or even intelligent if he or she was not knowledgeable. Even W. A. McIntyre, one of the more child-centred educationists of his day, and one who was sympathetic to the claims of progressive education, insisted on the intrinsic value of factual knowledge, which he saw as the foundation of intelligence itself. As he put in the Grade 1-6 curriculum he drew up for the province in 1928:
To McIntyre and his contemporaries, to note that the curriculum emphasized the acquisition of factual knowledge would no doubt have seemed equivalent to observing that rain is wet. They might well have seen the comment as redundant. They certainly would not have seen it as a criticism.
The view of education as a training in citizenship, as the cultivation of national efficiency, which dominated educational theory in these years, was slow to capture the actual programme of studies. Only with the curriculum revisions that began to appear in 1928-30 did this new view of education begin to permeate the curriculum. Indeed the whole point of the revisions was to provide for the “better adaptation of the elementary and secondary schools to the needs of the communities which they serve.” 
The shift from culture to citizenship was nicely caught by Winnipeg Superintendent Daniel McIntyre in 1913:
Inspector Hunter of the Deloraine area took the same view, as indeed did most educationists in these years: “The old idea was that education makes a man accomplished. The new idea is that it makes him useful, and hence stands for the larger and completer man.” 
History was in the fortunate position of being able to straddle both positions. It made people both accomplished and useful. In 1901 the Brandon-based Educational Journal of Western Canada quoted an American writer: “History stands next to pure literature as a culture subject, and in general importance as material of education. It should serve as a guide to civic and political duties ...”  A necessary element of general culture, historical knowledge was also essential to the formation of what Daniel McIntyre called social and civic duty and national and patriotic spirit. Thus history was able to survive the transition in curriculum and did not need to be scrapped or drastically revised to make way for something allegedly more utilitarian. It was both academic and vocational at the same time. In 1920 an Elphinstone teacher, G. R. F. Prowse, referred to the debate then raging in the United States between the defenders of history and the proponents of the new subject of social studies, as simply the latest phase of the “present struggle between the vocationalist and the other “call it what you will: culture, happiness, balance.” 
This introduces the second reason why the factual orientation of the history curriculum did not change during these years. Manitoba educationists assumed, with all the confidence of nineteenth century imperialism, that the facts spoke for themselves. They saw no need to surround programmes of study with commentary, rationales, or other glosses in order to explain their purpose. The facts of British history, properly presented, displayed the glory of Britain and the British tradition for all to see. The facts of Canadian history showed a proud and confident nation in the making. One did not have to wave the Union Jack or the Maple Leaf; the facts of history made their own point: “Countless instances show how this deep natural love of freedom and all that truest liberty stands for among men, has been woven and wrought into the fibre of the British stock.” 
G. J. Reeve put it this way in his 1926 Canadian history text:
The message could not be clearer: an unbiased account of the facts would inevitably lead to a constructive patriotism. History was not simply the story of the past; it was the story of the unfolding of progresswhich is what Reeve called his book: Canada: Its History and Progress. It speaks volumes of the shift in the national mood and in the definition of history that forty years later, in the mid-sixties, Manitoba’s authorized history text carried the much less assured title: Challenge and Survival.
However, no matter how factual the curriculum, and no matter how strong the belief that the facts spoke for themselves, they still had to be selected, organized and explained, and here values begin to become obvious. As Raymond Williams and others have pointed out, a curriculum is a selection from a culture. Not everything can be taught and so selections must be made and this raises some obvious questions: who does the selecting, using what criteria, for what purposes? Why did the history curriculum, no matter how apparently factual its presentation, look the way it did? Here textbooks are often more informative than programmes of study.
As one might expect, textbook history was primarily political and military. In the revealing words of C. W. Colby, introducing a 1907 history text that was used in Manitoba during these years, and excusing its brevity: “But, above everything else, the writer of a school history is compelled to be terse. This means that he must confine himself wholly to politics ...”  And politics was seen as important because it was the key to nation-building.
Manitoba textbooks took an explicitly pan-Canadian approach. They embodied the cry of Manitoba’s Minister of Education from 1916 to 1922, R. S. Thornton: “We must become one country from east to west. A teacher should be a teacher, not for one province only, but for all Canada ...
Our schools should not be Manitoba schools, but Canadian schools located in Manitoba.”  Textbooks emphasized whatever was seen as contributing to the shaping of modern Canada while ignoring, or downplaying what did not. Thus, certain non-political elements of Canadian history were necessarily attended to: European exploration and settlement, as in the case of the Loyalists, the British migrations of the nineteenth century, the settlement of the Prairies; the building of railways, especially the Canadian Pacific; and other such topics which combined to give Canada the shape it had. The greatest emphasis, however, was given to those political and constitutional, and sometimes military, events which could be seen as leading up to Confederation.
Though the authorized textbooks were changed from time to time, they presented much the same view of Canadian history. They made it clear that nations were the work of exceptional individualslarger than life explorers, heroic soldiers, clear-sighted statesmen, intrepid pioneers. There were occasional references to so-called ordinary peopleLouis Hebert in New France, anonymous Loyalists and pioneers and so forthbut readers were then immediately whisked off into the world of the great and famous, though by the 1920s there seems to have been a growing awareness of a kind of social history. In the 1925 Empire Day booklet teachers were told:
As this quotation suggests, history was often used to present a moral message, which was seen, not so much as a gloss on the facts, but latent in the facts as presented. The Loyalists were a favourite vehicle for this kind of treatment, as in this example from a 1907 text that was used in Manitoba for several years:
By the standards of the 1990s, the history that was taught was unduly narrow. Little was said about the First Nations, for example, and there was no doubt that Europeans “discovered” Canada. Reeve’s 1926 textbook, for example, bore the dates 1000-1925 in its title, thus ignoring our thousands of years of Aboriginal history. More often than not, Aboriginal history was confined to a quasi-ethnographical self-contained chapter, the textbook equivalent of a reserve, replete with self-serving observations resting on dubious judgments: “As white settlement advanced it became necessary that the Indians should be persuaded to give up their wandering habits, which often brought them to starvation, and to settle down in places where they could be educated, receive instruction in agriculture, and in other ways learn to become self-supporting.” 
Even the First Nations, however, received more coverage than did women, except for such stock characters as Marie de L’Incarnation, Marguerite Bourgeoys, Laura Secord, and one or two others. And nothing said was said about questions of class and class conflict. The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, for example, only began to receive serious textbook attention in the 1960s. As Hodgetts was to note, perhaps a shade unfairly but with reasonable accuracy, in 1968, textbooks presented a “bland, consensus version of history.” 
Teachers and the Teaching of History
It is easy to be misled by curricula and textbooks. They consist of words on a page. They represent the kind of data with which the historian is used to working. Unfortunately, they are rarely what the students learn or remember of history. That is mediated through the teacher. Few students ever see a curriculum guide and in later life few remember what textbooks they used. But we nearly all remember our teachers. In the language of today’s educationists, we need, therefore, to concentrate not so much on the curriculum as intended but on the curriculum as experienced. Just what were students actually taught by their teachers? How much did they learn? And how were they affected by their study of history?
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find out just what went on in classrooms in the past, whether in history or any other subject. Very few teachers or students wrote about their classroom experiences, and those that did are almost by definition atypical. There are very few surveys, and those that exist necessarily take a broad brush approach, so that it is never certain just how accurately they reflect what went on in individual classrooms. Articles in pedagogical journals usually describe what should have been rather than what actually was, though even so they provide some indirect evidence. Inspectors’ reports deal with history only in passing, when they mention it at all, and one can never be sure whether an Inspector is writing objectively or riding some personal hobby-horse. Teachers’ and students’ memories of their schooldays suffer from all the familiar weaknesses of memory and oral testimony, and are in any case few and far between as far history is concerned. Thus, any attempt to recreate the classrooms of the past must of necessity be tentative and suggestive rather than definitive and exhaustive.
Illustrative of this difficulty are two judgements on the state of history, both published in 1926. The first comes from an anonymous tribute to D. C. Harvey of the University of Manitoba history department, who spent considerable energy working with teachers. Thanks to his efforts, the writer said, history had changed from being “one of the worst-taught subjects in the curriculum to its present status as one of the very best-taught subjects.”  In the very same year, however, the Curriculum Revision Committee was considerably less up-beat: “Too much time is spent in elementary and high school grades upon the provisions of acts and treaties which are swallowed by the children with pain and difficulty, rarely digested, and disgorged ‘without trace’ at the first convenient examination.” 
The question that obviously arises is: who was right? The safest answer probably is that they both were in their own way. As Inspector Herriott of the Gladstone area put it in 1913: “It is almost impossible to generalize about history, geography, or composition. They all range from good to poor.”  In a few schools, usually urban high schools, well equipped with resources and staffed by confident specialists, history was in good shape. Elsewhere, an inspired teacher could work wonders, no matter what the odds. But in many schools, and especially in the smaller ungraded rural schools, for understandable reasons, history was not well taught, if indeed it was taught at all.
This is certainly the impression one gains from reading inspectors’ reports throughout this period, for example. When the inspectors mentioned history at all, which admittedly was not all that often, it was to criticize rather than to praise. Inspector Hall-Jones of the Emerson region was not untypical:
Inspectors’ criticisms were fairly consistent. As they saw it, there was too much unimaginative reliance on the text book; too much use of repetitive question and answer techniques; too much stress on unimportant detail; too much emphasis on memory at the expense of imagination and thought; and as a result students knew all too little of the history or either Canada or Britain.
At the same time, inspectors did not hold teachers altogether responsible for these failings. Their reports described in detail the difficulties that teachers faced, especially in small rural schools. They were too young to have seen much of the world, and had neither time nor money to read or travel. They lacked equipment and resources. They all too often were minimally trained and knew little more history than was in the textbook. Responsible for teaching all subjects, and much else besides, they had little or no preparation time. They were expected to concentrate on the three R’s and so often relegated history to whatever space was left over once the basic subjects had been dealt with. In these circumstances, the curriculum itself made impossible demands on teachers. In 1923 an anonymous teacher described the state of science teaching in Manitoba schools, using words that were equally applicable to the work of the history teacher:
And despite the importance of their work as moulders of citizenship and builders of Canadian nationhood, teachers were underpaid and lacked status. As the Deputy Minister of Education put it in 1913, the “calling of the teachers must be raised from the condition of a merely casual, occasional or temporary occupation to the status and dignity of a life work and a profession.”  There was a steady cry in these years, from teachers, inspectors, and educationists of every stripe, that training was inadequate, working conditions were often next to impossible, pay and job security were altogether unsatisfactory. Anyone who today reads the inspectors’ reports of these years will be struck, not with how poorly history was taught, but with admiration at how much young teachers, many of them only just out of high school themselves, were able to accomplish, often in the face of appalling difficulties. As one observer wrote in 1923, “the only wonder is that the young teacher in the little lonely school on the prairie does as well as she does.” 
The great majority of history teachers in these years were not specialists, even in the high school grades, and it is understandable that they found the textbook an invaluable support in dealing with a subject they did not know well themselves. Perhaps for this reason, a common method of teaching history from about Grade 6 onwards, in Manitoba as throughout much of North America, was the “recitation” or its refinement the “socialized recitation,” both of which were based almost entirely on the textbook and made few demands on the imagination of the teacher.
Essentially, the recitation consisted of three steps: first, assigning students a section of the text to read, with whatever instructions and explanatory comments the teacher thought necessary; second, requiring students in turn to recite what they had learned in answer to questions from the teacher; and third, ending with some form of written work, usually in the form of notes, or a series of short questions. The socialized recitation varied from this approach only by allowing students to work together to some extent. 
The recitation technique could obviously become very arid and predictable and its promoters urged teachers to use it flexibly, to concentrate on “understanding” rather than memory, to make history come to life. Throughout this period, there were teachers who rejected it, or used it sparingly, though one suspects they were always a minority. The pedagogical journals contain regular criticisms from teachers themselves that history was taught in too dry-as-dust a fashion, that students were too often swamped in pointless facts, that the subject lacked excitement. As one teacher put it in 1918, history as it was often taught was “a useless subject.” In her view: “A series of isolated facts and dates about kings and wars and treaties, with little or no attention paid to cause and effect and far-reaching influence can’t be of much use to anybody ...” 
Some teachers suggested remedying this state of affairs by concentrating on everyday objects or the local community: “A study of familiar objects, implements, weapons, materials of manufacture, modern household inventions, and the likeis infinitely more inspiring and suggestive to a young child than the study of the printed page.”  Brother Joseph Fink of Provencher School in St. Boniface, who was described by his Inspector as “a most progressive teacher,” in 1910 set up a school museum with a focus on the historical development of objects of everyday life, such as coal oil, cork, knives, scissors, glass, pens, soap, and so on.  Inspector A. L. Young of south-eastern Manitoba in 1910 urged the use of local history, including the reminiscences of “oldtimers.”  Some favoured relying on the inherent interest of the subject matter, provided that teachers could bring it to life. As one teacher put it in 1919: “When we see the wonderful struggle that our ancestors made, and realize the faith and hope which could inspire such tenacity of purpose, surely civics becomes a study of absorbing interest.”
By the 1910s, historical plays, pictures and stories were increasingly available and teachers were being told of the potential of using drama, literature and art to teach history. As a Brandon teacher, Neil McLenan put it in 1928:
Some turned to the new ideas of progressive educationists who claimed to draw their inspiration from John Dewey and insisted that real learning demanded that students be actively involved in problems that they saw as important and interesting and that had some clear connection with the world outside the school. In 1900, for example, Inspector S. E. Lang took the well-known pedagogical principle of proceeding from the known to the unknown to its logical conclusion and advocated teaching Canadian history backwards, beginning with the present and systematically moving back in time.  In a 1922 article Annie Murphy of Hamiota assumed that it was well known that such procedures as mock elections, mock trials and mock parliaments were widely used in civics classes.  In the same year, T. A. Neelin was authorized to experiment with a course in industrial history designed for commercial course students at Miniota.  In the Model School, operated as a laboratory by the Normal School in Winnipeg, students were engaged in what today would be called resource-based learning, studying history through research projects that required the use of reference material, group discussion, oral presentation, and so on. 
In the early 1920s, under the leadership of Superintendent Alfred White and a school principal, B. A. Tingley, Brandon schools adopted the “project” method. In 1921, Tingley, in addressing the annual convention of the Manitoba Education Association, explicitly referred to the work of the American founder of the method, W. H. Kilpatrick of Columbia University. He referred also to Charles McMurry, who by this time was also a promoter of the method, and urged Manitoba teachers to follow their example. For a practical example of the method in action he drew on an article in an American pedagogical journal, The Teachers’ College Record, which showed how modern history could be taught through projects. Such an approach, argued Tingley, would not only make history more useful, it would involve students in such activities as keeping civic notebooks, using the library for research, reading newspapers and magazines, preparing maps and charts, creating work groups and committees, and engaging in frequent discussion of problems.  The approach was not limited to Brandon. F. D. Baragar of St. John’s High School in Winnipeg, advocated its use in teaching geography, describing it as teaching “by means of assigning to the class a definite problem, which can be solved in the light of experience, reading, actual experiment, and the application of reason.”  He went on to advocate the collecting of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other such materials in order to build up a classroom research library.
Other teachers sought to help their students make sense of historical facts by putting them in some sort of framework, thereby teaching history with a capital H, no matter how whiggishly teleological it became. Thus in 1918 Miss M. E. Wood suggested a framework for British history, which, she said, was the story of the unfolding of the ideals of freedom and justice:
With this in mind, Miss Wood offered a view of British history, beginning with King Alfred, whose reign was “one long endeavour to gain and keep freedom for his people, and to implant a love of justice in their hearts,” through Magna Carta and the beginnings of parliament, the Civil War and the American Revolution (where the Americans applied British ideals in their struggle against George III), all the way to the British Empire, which had liberated Indians from “the oppressive tyranny of the native princes” and brought them to “a condition of prosperity and freedom which they had never before enjoyed,” while also satisfying Egypt’s two great needs, “justice and water,” finally ending with Britain’s involvement in the Great War, which was the embodiment of her ideals of freedom and justice.  Whatever one thinks of Miss Wood as a historian, it is difficult to withhold admiration from her obvious enthusiasm for her subject and her determination to bring it to life.
Surprisingly, Manitoba teachers in these years seem to have done little to use historical documents in the classroom, even though it was the subject of a good deal of discussion in Britain and the United States. By the early 1900s some American historians, such as James Harvey Robinson at Columbia and Albert Bushnell Hart at Harvard, were making extensive use of primary sources in their teaching and wrote eloquently of the value of primary sources in bringing history to life for students. Some, such as Fred Morrow Fling of the University of Nebraska, went even further and urged replacing textbooks with collections of original sources, admittedly carefully selected and prepared, in schools. Fling pioneered a whole course in ancient history at the junior high level which was based not on a conventional textbook but on documents, and became known as the father of the “Nebraska method.” 
Printed collections of documents for classroom use were appearing with increasing frequency by the early 1900s, and when the American Historical Association issued its report on history in the schools in 1899 it found it necessary to devote a whole section to the use of documents in the classroom. It did not go as far as Fling, and argued that the full-blown “source method” was too demanding for school students, but it did endorse the use of documents and other sources for illustrative purposes and as the basis of occasional special exercises.  This pragmatic approach found at least one supporter in Manitoba, where in 1900 Inspector S. E. Lang warmly reviewed a collection of documents on English history prepared by C. W. Colby of McGill, noting: “It is of very great advantage to the student of history to be able to read these ancient documents. It is from such as these that historians construct their theories. When the student has been granted access to them his reading of the neat historians will be much more intelligent than before.” 
Fling’s more whole-hearted approach to the use of sources in the classroom found some support in England, where the Reader in Education at Oxford University, M. W. Keatinge, published a book in 1910 which urged the use of sources in teaching British history.  Keatinge’s book, which largely consisted of practical examples in the use of primary sources, was in fact used as a text in the Winnipeg Normal School through the 1920s, as was an American text which first appeared in 1915, Henry Johnson’s Teaching of History. Johnson was much less enamoured of the use of primary sources than were men like Fling and Keatinge but he nonetheless endorsed their limited use, if only for illustrative purposes. Normal School students in the after-degree class used a classic textbook of historical method, which also had a great deal to say about the nature and use of primary sources, Langlois and Seignobos’ Introduction to the Study of History. Beyond this, they also had some direct experience with historical sources, since their history of education course required the use of two source-books, Munroe’s Source Book in Greek and Roman Education, and Norton’s Readings in the History of Education. Years ago I bought a second hand copy of the latter in Winnipeg and it contains a fair number of hand-written marginal comments, suggesting that the books were actually used by students in their classes.
Thus, from the 1920s on Manitoba teachers must have been aware through their Normal School training of the potential of using documents in the classroom. Moreover, in the 1920s the Department of Education began to include source collections in its bibliographies of supplementary teaching materials and to make them available through the provincial textbook bureau. And some schools must have responded, as I found out when I settled into a new classroom in Daniel McIntyre Collegiate in Winnipeg in the late 1960s and found at the back of a cupboard a complete eleven volume set of Bell’s English History Source Books, published in the 1920s and authorized for use with the Manitoba Grade 10 curriculum which in those years was British History.
However, although the books were some forty-five years old when I discovered them, they showed few signs of use and one suspects that they represent the Manitoba experience of using documents in the classroom. At best, some teachers might have used documents to add colour and authenticity to their teaching, and perhaps an occasional teacher went further than this, but students did not work with documents first-hand. Inspector Lang’s 1900 endorsement of the source method seems to have had no impact. There is no mention in the pedagogical literature in these years of lessons or methods requiring the use of documents by students, and textbooks and examinations continued in their traditional descriptive ways. Indeed, it is far from clear what Normal School students, with no more than high school history themselves, would have made of the Keatinge and Johnson texts they were required to use. Both books assumed that their readers were to some degree history specialists, but this was certainly not the case in Manitoba. And Normal School examinations on the teaching of history did not include any questions on how documents might be used in the classroom, concentrating instead on such practical matters as lesson planning, the use of the textbook, and the teaching of specific topics on the provincial curriculum.
In these years there had not yet emerged a strong enough cadre of history specialists in the schools to follow the lead of such pioneers as Fling, Robinson, and Keatinge. Whatever they learned about historical documents in Normal School, teachers were unable to apply it in practice. As a Brandon teacher observed in 1921:
The Principal of the Normal School, W. A. McIntyre, was the first to admit that Normal School training was inadequate and he spent much of his long career (he retired in 1933) pushing for a longer and more effective period of teacher training. And once they reached the classroom, especially in rural Manitoba, teachers faced too many more immediate problems to worry about whether or how to incorporate historical documents into their teaching.
By the 1920s, however, there are clear signs that a nucleus of qualified, competent, and committed history teachers was emerging, especially in urban high schools. People like D. M. Duncan, Principal of Kelvin High School in Winnipeg and later assistant superintendent of Winnipeg Schools, Aileen Garland also of Kelvin, and George Reeve of St. John’s wrote popular and well-received textbooks. They often had masters degrees in history, were well connected with the University, active in committee and related work, frequent contributors to pedagogical journals, and provided the spark for continuing professional development. One such teacher, Hazel Manwaring of Birtle, reported in 1928 that the teaching of history had been much improved in recent years. She gave some of the credit to the non-textbook Grade 11 course that had been introduced after the War, which had forced teachers to change their ways. Until then, she said, history had been “one of the easier subjects, of which if the teacher was not interested, the child could obtain sufficient information from the textbook for all necessary purposes, which were the examination purposes only.” Much more important, however, in her view, was “the increase in the number of history specialists in the Province, who have not only raised the standard of history requirements but who are responsible for better trained students with a keen interest in history, many of whom, in their turn, will go into our schools better equipped to teach history.” 
Dissenters and Activists
Even non-specialist teachers must at times have found it difficult to escape the impact of developments in society at large in these years, especially in the case of a subject such as history. Certain special events had a built-in historical relevance: the annual celebrations of Empire Day and of Armistice Day, for example, as well as such one-off celebrations as Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897, the sixtieth anniversary of Confederation in 1927 and the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of the creation of Manitoba in 1920 and 1930. During the First World War inspectors regularly reported that classes were taking a greater interest in history and geography and current affairs. 
Much more generally, the period from the 1890s to the 1920s was a time of intense political debate. To quote Allen Mills: “By 1910 Manitoba, and Winnipeg especially, was a variegated garden of exciting and sometimes extravagantly radical ideas, which in the next ten years helped turn the province into a centre of agitation unparalleled in Canada.”  Feminists were demanding the vote for women, and much else besides. Labour was pressing for greater power both in the workplace and in society generally. Socialists were preparing themselves for the downfall of capitalism. Farmers and agrarian reformers were demanding a new and co-operative social order. Church leaders were preaching the social gospel. Reforms such as direct legislation, the recall, the referendum, the initiative, public ownership, the single tax, group government, the prohibition of liquor, were in the air. It must have been a very dull history teacher indeed who could leave such issues at the classroom door. There is some evidence that, even if they wanted to, students would not always let them. A British exchange teacher, for example, told of her Winnipeg students engaging her in discussions, whether she liked it or not, of such topics as companionate marriage and equality for Native Canadians. 
Indeed, some teachers were actively involved in these issues. When the feminist pacifist, Gertrude Richardson, founded a Suffrage Association at Roaring River (near Swan River) in 1912, a local teacher, Grace Shaw, was on the executive and was soon writing in the local press defending the tactics of militant suffragists in Britain.  There must have been others like her, who were not afraid to take a public stand on the issues of the day. W. L. Morton once made a passing comment to the effect that agrarian democratic ideals, embodied in the hope that the West would be a working Utopia, were in part kept alive by “young women who taught school in Ontario and the West.”  Unfortunately, we know all too little about them.
Teachers were no less politically active in the cities. In Brandon, when activists organized a branch of the Dominion Labour Party in 1918, the executive included James Skene, the Brandon School Board’s Director of Manual Training, and Tom Mellor, the Board’s Attendance Officer, as well as two school janitors, D. Wood and W. G. Darvill. A St. Boniface teacher, W. D. Bayley, caused a minor stir when he suggested in 1918 that the anthem ‘God Save the King’ should be changed to ‘God Save the People.’ Ironically, he became principal of King George V School in Norwood, only to be dismissed in 1921 when he was reported to have made “atheistic statements at a labour meeting in Victoria Park.”  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Bayley case was that his politics apparently did him little harm. He had been elected an MLA in the 1920 election and was re-elected in 1922, becoming in 1927 Director of Temperance and of Correspondence Courses in the provincial Department of Education.
Other examples of radicals being shielded by the school system include Fred Tipping, an active, though moderate, trade unionist who taught carpentry at Lord Roberts School in Winnipeg from 1910, and was the only teacher to strike in 1919, with the apparent connivance of Superintendent Daniel McIntyre. McIntyre also helped the 1919 Strike leader Dick Johns when he came out of gaol, finding him work in the schools and supporting his education till he became a fully fledged shops teacher in 1927. What, one wonders, did men and women like these do with their political ideas in the classroom? They would have been too professional to propagandize their students but their views must have coloured their teaching in some way. In later years, looking back at her suffragist youth at Roaring River, Grace Shaw recalled, “My two years there educated me ... Our members in the midst of pioneer patching, gardening, preserving, milking, baking bread, and making butter, achieved something of a world consciousness.” 
Feminists like Grace Shaw and Gertrude Richardson were well aware of the male bias of textbooks, both in their omission or stereotyping of women and in their emphasis on competition and conflict, which were seen as largely masculine values. As Nellie McClung put it in 1914: “History, romance, legend, and tradition having been written by men, have shown the masculine aspect of war and surround it with a false glory and sought to throw the veil of glamour over its hideous face.”  McClung in fact switched to supporting the war effort, but other feminists remained firm in their anti-war convictions and through the 1920s and beyond the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom persistently checked history courses and textbooks for any sign of glorifying war and its associated values, pushed for the replacement of national political history with more globally oriented social and economic history, and urged history teachers to enlist in the cause of peace and international understanding. 
Winnipeg, together with Toronto and Vancouver, was one of the three centres of League activity in Canada. Lucy Woodsworth, wife of J. S. Woodsworth, was active in its affairs, serving as national treasurer of the League for some years in the 1920s. Thus, Winnipeg and Manitoba more generally experienced the full range of League educational activities: teacher and student conferences; essay contests; petitions to school boards and provincial authorities; running candidates in school board electionsall designed to ensure that history was not taught so as to glorify nationalism or militarism, to eliminate cadet training from schools, and to replace political with social history in the curriculum.
Socialists and labour activists were similarly aware of the bias of much school history. Even the conservative American Federation of Labour regularly condemned the class bias of the schools and called for the inclusion of labour and working people in curricula and texts.  Most active Canadian unionists, especially in unions affiliated to the AFL, would have been aware of such criticisms. Indeed, Canadian labour people had their own analysis, taking it for granted that the schools served primarily the interest of their employers and the capitalist system in general. This was why, for example, in the aftermath of the 1919 General Strike, Winnipeg trade unions rejected an invitation to take part in the much-vaunted national conference on Education for Character and Citizenship. The One Big Union called it “a most sinister meeting so far as the education of working class children is concerned” and suggested that it should be called “Dope the Kiddies.”  In this spirit, one Vancouver militant in 1924 called for the abolition of school history courses altogether “inasmuch as they were nothing more than stories of kings and queens and other tripe.” 
At the same time, however, labour saw the value of schools, at least as they might be, if not always as they actually were, and was certainly not opposed to knowledge. The left had its own interpretation of history, which differed from that presented in textbooks, and wanted to see a greater emphasis on social and economic matters, but thought that the facts, if honestly presented, would by and large speak for themselves. In other words, history, if honestly taught and properly understood, would inevitably produce a socialist understanding of society. Most left-wing Manitobans in these years would have agreed with Vancouver’s Angus McInnis: “Education, even present-day education, with all its defects, tends to stimulate the imagination and sharpen the perceptions of those who receive it; and under adverse circumstances they begin to question the fitness of things.” As McInnis put it, “knowledge is essential for universal progress but fatal to class privilege.” 
In this spirit, the Independent Labour Party made a point of presenting a brief to the Murray Commission on education created by the Bracken government in 1923. The Party sent a powerful delegation, consisting of the Mayor of Winnipeg, S. J. Farmer, J. S. Woodsworth, by now an MP, two MLA’s, William Ivens and W. D. Bayley, and Robert Durward, a union and party activist and now a Winnipeg school trustee who had served as assistant secretary of the General Strike Committee during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Commended in the Commission’s final Report for presenting “a very thoughtful and comprehensive statement,” the ILP couched its brief in terms of citizenship, arguing that democracy called for the exercise of the highest intelligence from all its citizens and therefore that full educational opportunity should be available to all, right through to university. So far as the curriculum was concerned, the Party did not touch on history directly, but condemned all forms of bias and propaganda in teaching and urged that “truth should be presented with the aloofness with which pure science is usually taught and the mind of the child so trained and his power to think and his reason so developed that he should be able to evolve his political and economic theories from the civilization that he sees around him.” 
The farmers’ movement was similarly enthusiastic about the potential of schools, but critical of their actual practice, at times taking dead aim against the way history was commonly taught. The farmers wanted not a competitive, but a co-operative society, characterized by a good measure of equality and social justice. To achieve it, they called for a new and higher type of citizenship and a new political morality, and this, they believed, could be achieved in part through the schools.
Taylor has pointed out that by the 1920s the farmers had largely abandoned their original class-based analysis of Canadian society for a more consensual view of common citizenship, but they never totally abandoned their more conflictual analysis. Textbook history and civics must have seemed very tame to people who were moved by the sentiments contained in these verses, which appeared in the Grain Growers’ Guide in 1920, for example:
Many teachers were related by blood or marriage to people active in farmer, labour, feminist and other causes. Given the intensity of the Manitoba political scene in these years, they must have had occasion to wonder from time to time whose side they were on.
If they did not ask themselves this question, others asked it for them. There were plenty of people like Miss McCallum of the Grain Growers’ Association, herself a former teacher, who told a teachers’ conference in Winnipeg in 1919 that the teaching of history left much to be desired. It was, she said, far too often only “a recital of facts in chronological order.” There was no attempt to link past with present, no attention to motive and effect, and no “social interpretation.” She took the Canadian Pacific Railway as her example. It was taught, she said, as a series of facts, but with no mention of it as an example of a “despicable system of land holdings for speculation.” Even worse, teachers did not seize on the CPR as an example of all that was wrong with Canada: “The development of Canada’s fiscal policy has been and is of far more vital influence on the lives of the people of Canada today than has any other one phase of life, and not the remotest attention is ever given to it in the study of history in our schools.” 
As even this brief survey shows, social reformers and radicals took an active interest in schooling in general, and in history teaching in particular. With their teacher allies they did what they could to change the schools from within. They also operated a counter-education from without, whether in the form of Socialist Sunday Schools, People’s Forums, Labour Churches, Summer Camps, Youth Groups, magazine columns, or some other agency. They had their own analysis of society and their own theories of historical development, ranging from Marxist to populist. They were often skeptical of the history taught in the schools, but they valued history nonetheless.
At the same time, it is obviously important to remember that this kind of activism was the exception rather than the rule. Most history teachers simply struggled to cover the curriculum, keep their students busy, and prepare them for their examinations, while also trying to make their lessons as productive as they could. A close look at what teachers actually did in their classrooms, whether activists or not, warns us not to be too quick to accept the notions of Anglo-conformity, ideological manipulation, and cultural hegemony, that are so easily and so often used to describe schooling. As we well know by now, hegemony is not a top-down imposition of a dominant ideology, but rather a process of negotiation, constantly in flux, open to resistance, manipulation and manoeuvre. What the Department of Education wanted to happen in classrooms was not necessarily the same as what actually took place in them. When teachers taught history, they had more pressing things to worry about than wondering how best to sing the praises of the British Empire.
By the early 1920s the curriculum that had been in place for the previous thirty years was coming under increasing criticism. Teachers said that they found it difficult to teach, especially in the many rural schools where subject specialists were few and far between. They also said that it was too bookish for many of the students who were now required to stay in school. The University, the Normal School, and employers complained that high school graduates had neither the knowledge nor the skills they were supposed to have been taught. Rural communities felt that the curriculum was too urban and academic and had little application to rural life. Winnipeg had opened two technical high schools in 1912 and some people felt that much more needed to be done in technical, vocational and agricultural education. Labour was pressing to raise the school leaving age and to make education more genuinely accessible to all. Advocates of particular causestemperance, co-operation, world peacewanted their place in the curricular sun. There was general agreement that more needed to be done about moral education and the training of character. Progressive education was making its way into Manitoba and its proponents wanted the curriculum to be more child-centred as they liked to say, teachers had to teach children, not subjects.
When John Bracken became premier of the province in 1922, he was well aware of these concerns. He kept the education portfolio for himself, a move which, according to his biographer, John Kendle, was taken to mean that education would not be seriously changed.  It seems equally likely, however, that Bracken knew that education was facing some major challenges and wished to keep control of the process. His agricultural background and his extensive farm contacts ensured that he was well aware of rural concerns. Indeed, he probably shared them. True to his non-partisan principles, he sought a solution to the problem in a Royal Commission on education, chaired by his former colleague, Walter Murray, President of the University of Saskatchewan. Among other things, the Commission was charged with investigating “the better adaptation of the elementary and secondary schools to the needs of the communities they serve.”  It reported remarkably quickly and had its recommendations on Bracken’s desk in 1924. Among other things, it recommended that a committee of experts review the whole curriculum, in all subjects, at all grade levels, and a review committee was immediately appointed. By 1930, the curriculum, in history as in other subjects, had been substantially changed, as will be explained in a subsequent article.
For now, perhaps the last word should be given to the students, who were no doubt as healthily resistant to the good intentions of their teachers then as they are now. In 1924 a Winnipeg teacher, Ms G. S. Sinclair of Machray School, reflected back upon her early days in Winnipeg immediately after her arrival from her native Scotland. After a shaky morning, she found herself faced with a lesson on David Livingstone and having herself taught in Livingstone’s birthplace, Blantyre, and knowing a good deal about his life, she saw her chance to shine:
17. For the 1899 report see note 9 above. The 1911 Report was titled, The Study of History in Secondary Schools: Report to the American Historical Association by a Committee of Five, (New York: Macmillan, 1911).
18. Report of Results of the Examination in British and Canadian History, Grade XI, 1922, in Minutes of the Advisory Board to the Minister of Education, 31 August, 1922. Provincial Archives of Manitoba, File GR 1635.
19. For the development of courses in the History of Western Civilization, see G. Allardyce, “The Rise and Fall of the Western Civilization Course, “ in American Historical Review, 87 (1982), pp. 695-725. For a recent discussion of the concept of “the West” see David Gress, From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and its Opponents, (New York: The Free Press, 1998).
22. G. J. Reeve, Canada; Its History and Progress 1000-1925, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1926).
30. R. S. Thornton in Western School Journal, XIV (6), June, 1919, p. 207. For a general discussion of the connection between education and citizenship, see D. B. Heater, Citizenship: The Civic Ideal in World Politics, History and Education (London: Longman, 1990). For a tentative attempt to describe the course of citizenship education in Canada, see K. W. Osborne, “‘Education is the Best National Insurance’: Citizenship Education in Canadian Schools, Past and Present,” Canadian and International Education, 25 (2), 1996, pp. 31-58.
34. Department of Education, Empire Day 1921: Four Empire Builders, (Winnipeg: Dept. of Education, 1921), p. 35. The four Empire builders were Wolfe, La V’erendrye, Selkirk and Dufferin, chosen because their statues were located at the east and west entrances to the Legislative Building.
35. Announcement in The Manitoba Teacher, December, 1927, p. 3. For discussion of the work of the League of Nations Society in Canada, see Donald Page, “Canadians and the League of Nations before the Manchurian Crisis,” University of Toronto Ph.D thesis, 1972, and. more generally, Richard Veatch, Canada and the League of Nations, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975).
45. G. R. F. Prowse, “Some Changes and Chances in Teaching High School History,” Western School Journal, XV (1920), pp. 203-205.
47. G. J. Reeve, Canada: Its History and Progress 1000-1925, (Toronto: Oxford University Press., 1926), p. iii.
52. G. J. Reeve, Canada: Its History and Progress 1000-1925, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1925), p. 30.
53. A. B. Hodgetts, What Culture? What Heritage?, (Toronto: Ontario institute for Studies in Education Press,1968), p. 24. For other analyses of Canadian history textbooks, see K. Osborne, ‘Hard-working, Temperate and Peaceable’: The Portrayal of Workers in Canadian History Textbooks, (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Education Monograph IV, 1980); D. Pratt, “The Social Role of School Textbooks in Canada” in E. Zureik & 12. M. Pike (eds.), Socialization and Values in Canadian Society, (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1975); G. McDiarmid & D. Pratt, Teaching Prejudice: A Content Analysis of Social Studies Textbooks Authorized for Use in Ontario, (Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1971); M Trudel & G. fain, Histoire du Canada: Enquete sur les manuels, (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1969); G. Laloux-Jain, Les manuels de l’histoire du Canada au Quebec et en Ontario, 1867-1914, (Quebec: Les Presses de 1’Universit’ Laval, 1974); P. I. Clark, “‘Take It Away Youth’: Visions of Canadian Identity in British Columbia Social Studies Textbooks,” (UBC Ph. D thesis, 1996).
61. For an example of the recitation technique, see Hannah I. Clarke, “Plan for Teaching History,” Educational Journal of Western Canada, III (4), June-July, 1901, pp. 109-110. Also Mable (sic) Cooper, “History and Civics: Grades VI, VII, and VIII,” Western School Journal, XIV (6), June, 1919, pp. 244-246.
76. F. M. Fling, A Source Book of Greek History, (Boston, D.C. Heath, 1907). Also his “One Use of Sources in the Teaching of History,” first published in 1909 and reprinted in The Social Studies, 85 (5), September-October, 1994, pp. 206-210. For a sampling of the discussion concerning the use of sources in these years, see, inter alia, A. B. Hart, American History Told By Contemporaries, (New York: Macmillan, 1897-1901); C. D. Hazen, et al., Historical Sources in Schools: Report to the New England History Teachers’ Association, (New York: Macmillan, 1902); J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1904); J. H. Robinson & C. Beard, Readings in Modern European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1908); R. C. Hackett, “A Lesson in Source Materials,” The Historical Outlook, XVII (33), March, 1926, pp. 128-129. Most of these titles were quickly acquired by the University of Manitoba library and so were presumably known in Winnipeg historical circles.
82. For instance Inspector Dunlop said of the Treherne, Rathwell, McGregor area that students had a “surprisingly comprehensive knowledge of the whole situation, but particularly of the part our own Empire is playing.” (Report of the Department of Education, 1913, p. 103). For similar comments by other Inspectors, see the Department of Education Reports for 1915 (pp. 90, 91, 99); 1916 (pp, 107 & 147); and 1917 (p. 84). Apart from direct teaching, students were also involved in a variety of activities to support the war effort: fund-raising; letter-writing; preparing gift boxes for soldiers; making bandages and articles of clothing; salvage drives; and so on, all of which must have sharpened their awareness of events in Europe.
87. For Bayley’s reversal of the national anthem see Bill Majiecko, “Public Schools and the Workers’ Struggle, Winnipeg 1914-1921,” in Nancy Sheehan, J. Donald Wilson & David Jones (eds.), Schools in the West: Essays in Canadian Educational History, (Calgary: Detselig, 1986) p. 227. His dismissal is described in the Bulletin of the Manitoba Teachers’ Federation, 21, January 1922, pp. 181-182. He appealed his dismissal to the Teachers’ Federation and the Federation arranged a so-called compromise whereby he was allowed to resign instead. Besides being a teacher, he was an ordained minister and a powerful advocate of temperance. He gave up his political career in the mid 1920s.
89. Nellie McClung, In Times Like These, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972, reprint of 1915 edition), p. 15.
90. For the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, see Barbara Roberts, “Women’s Peace Activism in Canada,” in Linda Kealey & Joan Sangster (eds.), Beyond the Vote: Canadian Women and Politics, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), pp. 276-308; Thomas Socknat, “For Peace and Freedom: Canadian Feminists and the Interwar Peace Campaign,” in Janice Williamson & Deborah Gorham (eds.), Up and Doing: Canadian Women and Peace, (Toronto: The Women’s Press, 1989), pp. 66-88; and Beverley Boutilier, Educating for Peace and Cooperation: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Canada, 1919-1929, Carleton University M.A. thesis, 1988.
Page revised: 10 July 2016