A Success Story in Education
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Jan 1974, p. 171-180
Gordon, The Honourable Walter L., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The National History Project: a two-year fact-finding investigation into the teaching of Canadian history, social studies and civics in the elementary and secondary schools. Findings reported in "What Culture? What Heritage?" (the Hodgett's Report) with suggestions for improvement. Suggestions led to a pilot project, currently four years old. Examples and descriptions of the success of the pilot project follow. Two examples: the Outaouais Project, and Projects of the Canada Studies Foundation: a five-year pilot project funded primarily privately; descriptions of the succesful programmes. Suggestions for what might happen next.
Date of Original
17 Jan 1974
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
Agency street/mail address:

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
JANUARY 17, 1974
A Success Story in Education (The Canada Studies Foundation)
CHAIRMAN The President, Robert L. Armstrong


Distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: The career, or should I say careers and accomplishments of our distinguished guest speaker of today provide sufficient material for a lengthy tribute, but in order that this audience may the sooner receive his important message, I shall attempt to summarize.

The Honourable Walter L. Gordon, who is the subject of that fascinating biography Gentle Patriot by Professor Denis Smith (who we are so pleased to have with us today) became a partner in the wellknown Chartered Accountancy firm, Clarkson, Gordon & Company in 1935, and subsequently in 1940 a partner also in the Management Consultant affiliate, Woods Gordon and Company, each firm bearing his family name.

He was highly successful in his chosen profession, and his skills being in demand in Ottawa, he was called upon to assist in the formation of the Foreign Exchange Control Board in 1939.

Among other important appointments, Mr. Gordon was named Chairman in 1946 of the Royal Commission on Administration Classifications in the Public Service, and in 1953, Chairman of the Royal Commission on Canada's Economic Prospects.

In 1962 he was elected Chairman, National Campaign Committee of the Liberal Party, the year of his first election to the House of Commons for Toronto-Davenport. He had been encouraged to enter the political arena by his close personal friend, the late Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, and he became the architect of the party's reconstruction. He was named Minister of Finance in 1963. He consistently urged progressive reform and is looked upon by many as a prophet ahead of his time. As the flyleaf of Gentle Patriot informs us, he was a politician beyond the ordinary who soon challenged some of the most sacred articles of his party's faith; he was a nationalist at a time when the fashion was internationalist and continentalist, and his political career was distinguished from the outset by courage, integrity and loyalty to his friends. His departure from the active political scene took place in 1968 when he resigned from the Cabinet and returned to private business. He is Chairman of the Board of Canadian Corporate Management Company Limited, which company he had founded in 1944, and a Director of Toronto Star Limited. He has again dedicated himself to the public service as Chairman of The Canada Studies Foundation, and Chancellor of York University. He is one of the founders of the Committee for an Independent Canada and is an author of two books, Troubled Canada-The Need for New Domestic Policies, published in 1961, and A Choice for Canada-Independence or Colonial Status, published in 1966.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege for me to introduce to you the Honourable Walter L. Gordon, Privy Councillor, who will speak to us on the subject "A Success Story in Education".

Mr. Gordon.


At a time when quite recently there was confrontation and hard words between school teachers and Ministers in Ontario, I should like to tell you something about a real success story in the field of education.

It is a co-operative story involving dedicated teachers in all ten provinces, school boards, teachers' federations, academics, and fascinated students.

It was made possible by the vision and determination of an inspired school teacher, Mr. Birnie Hodgetts of Port Hope -and by the generosity of a considerable number of individuals, foundations and corporations.

It is one of those privately sponsored ventures all of us can be truly proud of.

Nearly ten years ago, the National History Project was launched and financed by the Governing Body of Trinity College School, with Mr. Hodgetts as Director and an eager and enthusiastic staff. It was to be "a two-year fact-finding investigation into the teaching of Canadian history, social studies and civics in the elementary and secondary schools" across the country. As you know, eighty per cent of young Canadians finish their formal education when they leave high school. Therefore, what goes on in our elementary and high schools is vital, vital for our young people and vital for the future of our country.

The main emphasis of Mr. Hodgetts' investigation was on civic education--"that is the influence of formal instruction in developing the feelings and attitudes of young Canadians toward their country and its problems and the knowledge on which these attitudes are based".

In addition to all the usual research techniques, Mr. Hodgetts and his observers visited almost one thousand schools in all ten provinces, something no one else has ever done, on a national scale, before or since.

The report on their findings, entitled What Culture? What Heritage? was universally acclaimed by educators and quickly became the best-selling book in Canadian education in over twenty years. It is a damning indictment of the treatment of Canadian studies in our schools. Let me read two paragraphs from the concluding chapter of the report:

"Considering what has been said about content and teaching methods in the preceding chapters of this Report, it is understandable that civic education in Canada is achieving very few of its stated objectives. The schools are not satisfying the reasonable expectations of the individual student, nor are they doing the job that society has every right to expect of them. The majority of English-speaking high school graduates leave the Canadian studies classroom without the intellectual skills, the knowledge and the attitudes they should have to play an effective role as citizens in present-day Canada. What they do remember has neither practical nor aesthetic value; it has not enriched their minds. They have found very little in the Canadian past which is interesting and meaningful to them and practically no source of inspiration in their cultural heritage. They are future citizens without deep roots, lacking in historical perspective and only vaguely aware of traditions that have by no means outlived their usefulness. Contrary to clearly stated national goals in education, they develop an apathy toward Canadian history which tends to influence adversely their feelings toward modern Canada. By continuing to tolerate antiquated materials, by using teaching methods that so often produce attitudes the very opposite of those desired, by functioning as autonomous units in society, by overemphasizing provincial concerns and inadvertently neglecting legitimate national interests, the schools are reinforcing unwarranted, as distinct from natural and desirable, regional feelings. Canadian studies do not give to most of our young people a constructive sense of belonging to a unique, identifiable civic culture.

"Although French-Canadian students may identify more readily with their past, Canadian history as presented in the classrooms and textbooks of the French Roman Catholic schools of Quebec is completely different from that of the rest of the country. Successive generations of young English- and French-speaking Canadians raised on such diametrically opposed views of our history, each of which reflects an entirely different value system, cannot fully understand each other or the country in which they live. Nowhere is Arnold Toynbee's dictum that 'history books not only tell history, they make it' more apparent than in Canada. Canadian studies do very little to encourage a mutual understanding of the separate attitudes, aspirations and interests of our two main linguistic communities. Unless the schools in all parts of Canada set out to bridge this fundamental gap, the chances for tolerance, understanding and accommodation between French- and English-speaking Canadians are remote. The present emphasis on bilingualism in education, vitally important though it is, should not obscure the fact that, regardless of the language of instruction, what we teach all of our young people about this country also is a matter of utmost concern. "

The Hodgetts Report made some specific recommendations involving a breakthrough in interprovincial co-operation. What evolved was the Canada Studies Foundation, a privately financed, five-year pilot project established with the approval of the Council of Ministers of Education of the ten provinces.

Its principal goals were:
1. To show that co-operation among educators in the field of Canadian studies is both feasible and desirable.
2. To provide opportunities for educators (both academics and school teachers) from different regional and linguistic groups to work together.
3. To involve classroom teachers-from the beginning-in the planning, development and implementation of each project; et cetera.

The last annual report of the Foundation states: "In seeking to achieve these objectives, the Foundation now sponsors forty-nine project teams ranging in size from two to over forty educators each. These teams are located in thirty-eight centres across Canada. At present, they involve more than seven hundred people from every level of education and over 8,500 students from all provinces."

Our experience to date-and the pilot project is almost four years oldshows conclusively that this is the way to enthuse both teachers and students. And it shows what can be gained from a conscious effort to encourage interprovincial cooperation in the field of Canadian studies.

Let me give you two examples, both bilingual projects, of what is going on.

A group of English-Canadian teachers in Toronto and 550 of their students are working with a group of French-Canadian teachers in Montreal and 350 of their students in studying selected periods and themes in Canadian history. There is no thought of developing a simple single interpretation of our history that all Canadians would agree with. That would not be possible or practicable. It is practicable, however, to explain to English-speaking students how their opposite numbers in Quebec interpret certain incidents in our past. And vice-versa. And that is the beginning of understanding.

This is being accomplished, in this particular project, by a series of student visits and by the English- and French-speaking teachers getting together in monthly seminars. If in the long run this helps English- and French-Canadians to obtain a better appreciation of each other, it is surely well worth while.

My second example is what is known as the "Outaouais Project" which focuses on the role of a national capital in a bilingual multi-cultural country like Canada. Under the auspices of the Foundation, a number of teachers, university professors, administrators and school board members from Ottawa and Hull met jointly for the first time in history. Prior to that, the Ottawa River had been as unassailable a barrier as the Berlin wall.

Now, teachers and students from both sides of the river are working together in the development of learning materials about the Capital Region and having a lot of fun doing so.

A year ago, the Outaouais Project sponsored a four-day national student conference on the theme, "Towards a Mutual Understanding". Students and teachers attended from all ten provinces. They spoke in French or English or an uncertain combination of the two. But they managed to communicate. They were all tremendously enthusiastic about the opportunity of meeting and discussing mutual interests with Canadians from other parts of the country.

As I listened to them, it seemed to me that if this particular experiment could be repeated on a larger scale; if a great many more young Canadians could have the chance of meeting and talking to one another, it would do wonders for Canadian unity. More perhaps than all the election-time speeches of our politicians put together.

Late in 1972, the Canada Council completed an extensive evaluation of all the Foundation's bilingual projects (there are five of them) in order to decide whether it should continue its support. It has decided to do so as a result of this review and has complimented the Foundation on what is being achieved.

Incidentally, I am not aware of any other group or organization that has succeeded in recent years in getting English- and French-speaking Canadians to work together in such an intimate, co-operative and enthusiastic way. We take considerable pride in this.

The report of the Foundation describes each of the various projects that are being sponsored, including those in Western Canada and in the Atlantic provinces where a high proportion of the work is being done. All projects have certain features in common:

(a) They are teacher-based, thereby providing an immediate impact in the classroom.
(b) They have academic and other expert consultants to ensure that the materials produced are sound.
(c) They have a high degree of inter-regional-i.e., interprovincial co-operation.
(d) They have generated impressive local support in cash, services, etc., from school boards, universities and teachers' federations.
(e) They are developing classroom materials for use in other schools. Many of these materials will be published commercially during the remaining year and a half of the Foundation's existence.

It has become obvious to those involved in this work that our over-all concern as adult Canadians must be not just with education in history or geography or political science for our young people-but rather, education for citizenship, citizenship in a regionally divided, bilingual and multi-cultural society, a positive citizenship that can only be based on a real knowledge of our diverse country and then on mutual understanding. Through its many projects, the Canada Studies Foundation is addressing itself to this need in a direct way.

It is the largest nationally-based experiment in the history of Canadian education.

As I have said, the Foundation is a five-year pilot project that in the main is being privately financed.

Its budget for the five-year period is $3,000,000, of which about $500,000 is being provided in the form of local support, and another $500,000 in grants from the Canada Council and payments by the Secretary of State from its established programs for travel and translation.

This leaves about $2,000,000 to be obtained from individuals, charitable foundations and corporations.

The late Sam McLaughlin who, in a long life, sponsored and supported so many useful causes, gave us $200,000 just before he died. Tom and Hartland Molson of Montreal provided $125,000. Nine charitable foundations contributed generously, as did a number of corporations of which I shall mention only three examples: the International Nickel Company-$33,000 a year for five years; Stelco-$30,000 a year for five years; and Brascan and Labatt's together-$25,000 a year for five years.

Full particulars of all contributions to 30 June, 1973, are included in the Foundation's annual report. As shown therein, the Banks, among others, were most generous in their help.

This whole unique experiment in the field of Canadian studies would not have been possible without the initial sponsorship of the Governing Body of Trinity College School and the very great generosity of some seventy-five Canadian individuals, corporations and charitable institutions, all of whom would like Canadian students to get a better break when it comes to learning about their own country. As is stated in the Foundation's last annual report:

"A country like Canada that is multi-cultural, regionally divided and diverse, and exposed to external cultural and economic influences places severe demands on its educational systems. Within their own borders, Canadians need to communicate effectively across a great variety of personal, class, regional, linguistic and cultural boundaries. What Culture? What Heritage? clearly indicates that the schools do not help future citizens to meet this need satisfactorily. Inadequate learning materials and provincially- or locally-designed Canadian studies programmes such as most schools are still using seldom give students any real appreciation of their country as a whole or of the thoughts and feelings of people living elsewhere in Canada. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the great majority of elementary and secondary school teachers have no opportunity to work with people in the profession from other regions and cultures. Thus the normal social process by which our young people develop their values and standards of judgment through strong regional and ethnic forces is not balanced in formal education by sufficient opportunities to understand the total Canadian environment. In these circumstances, the importance of the Foundation's objectives becomes readily apparent."

The work of the Foundation is proving to be a great success, due primarily to members of the Canadian teaching profession who have contributed so much and so willingly of their time and their enthusiasm. We are fortunate to have teachers of this type in all parts of Canada. What should happen now? Those who have been connected with the work believe it should be continued after 30 June, 1975, when the period of private financing ends. After that date, provincial governments will be asked to assume the financial responsibility. We shall be approaching them in this connection over the next few months and will hope to have their decisions by June, 1974. This would then give the Foundation a year to plan for the future before the pilot project ends in 1975.

I have taken the liberty of telling you something about the Canada Studies Foundation today because I believe that when Canadians achieve something that is really good, we should all be informed about it. The work of the Canada Studies Foundation is a real success story; it is a story of enthusiasm and of co-operation involving many people. It is a story of inspiration, farsightedness and of exceptional generosity. I hope very much that the provincial governments will decide its work should be continued.

The Honourable Mr. Gordon was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. H.N.R. Jackman.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


A Success Story in Education

The National History Project: a two-year fact-finding investigation into the teaching of Canadian history, social studies and civics in the elementary and secondary schools. Findings reported in "What Culture? What Heritage?" (the Hodgett's Report) with suggestions for improvement. Suggestions led to a pilot project, currently four years old. Examples and descriptions of the success of the pilot project follow. Two examples: the Outaouais Project, and Projects of the Canada Studies Foundation: a five-year pilot project funded primarily privately; descriptions of the succesful programmes. Suggestions for what might happen next.