Beware of Quebec`s revisionist history

Par Jim Wilson le 11 mars 2013

One of Quebec’s recent educational musings is to consider revising the History course presently been taught in schools. Revamping and revising school curriculum should be part of ongoing educational practice; however, when a history course is being changed it requires great scrutiny, for no other course is more susceptible to a government’s manipulation. The oft quoted statement that ‘history is written by the victors ’ can be challenged; history, as  taught in schools, is written not by the victors, but by governments, who have control of the curriculum content, the text books, and the examination format.  

In some U.S. jurisdictions, a science course which touches on evolution, can be controversial, so too can history raise the political antenna in Quebec. The present course, developed as part of the ‘reform’ could do with a healthy dose of revision, but not the kind that Mme. Malavoy has in mind. Just one simple example from the present book, provides us with the mindset of the authors. It states that Quebec ‘is not reintegrated into the Canadian Constitution’, because it did not sign to the changes made in 1982.  That is nonsense; it never left the constitutional fold, but does not prevent the statement from being incorporated into an officially verified and approved text. 

History taught in Quebec is inward looking, centralized, and standardized with nobody guarding the guardian because the guardian is the province itself.  It is essential to understand the curriculum process, in order to fully grasp how a government’s message cannot be challenged. A curriculum is established; supposedly vetted to guarantee its accuracy and appropriateness for the targeted group of students. Next, the text book which fits the course, which must be, as is the provincial examination, approved by a government committee. In order to graduate, a student is obliged to pass the exam.  Teachers are fully aware that certain topics, issues and personalities will be on the final exam, and they need to prepare their charges in such a way that they can provide the ‘correct’ answers. For example, no answer to a question on Bill 101 would ever be allowed to suggest there was /is a potential for a negative outcome. It is not a History of Canada ,but  a ‘Quebecentric’ course that would have the students think of the two World Wars as being mainly about the province’s conscription crises; atomic bombs and the holocaust are minor sideline events, if mentioned at all.   

Propaganda starts when the first step in process, the curriculum content, is determined by politicians, who seek not knowledge, but a specific outcome. The end product being presently mooted would oblige teachers to suggest to students, via exam responses, that there is an inevitable and appropriate goal for Quebec and that its destiny is to become a country. Teachers find themselves in a dilemma, none would want a student to fail, particularly when failure in a particular examination prevents graduation, but they may be teaching material which runs contrary to facts and their beliefs. 

Do not expect the English School Boards to say or do anything about the History course. Just two years ago, they produced their own exam for English schools, based on the fiction of “Quebec as a nation”. Thinking that the official looking exam was produced by the Ministry, I publicly questioned the exam’s validity, but the Ministry itself denied any involvement, making it abundantly clear that it was entirely a Board initiative. Instead of being embarrassed by the episode, the boards provided no explanation or apology for their incompetence, but did make a point of personally criticizing me for raising the matter.  A case of shooting the messenger.     

Fortunately, we are far from a new curriculum which is supportive of Quebec’s secession [a word, incidentally, that seems so politically sensitive that it is never used in the text book]. It took some time to develop the present course, and there is significant costs attached. New books would need to be written approved, printed and distributed. According to the Education Act, each student in a public school has the right to a free, ‘approved’ text book for each course. Given the fiasco in the last round of distributing books, and the glacier like pace of the Ministry, we can hope that Malavoy and her disciples will have departed the scene long before any such course is implemented. However, to this government and its like minded fellow travelers, the cost of installing a new History course is just a small price to pay if it means facilitating the march to Utopia, which goes under the guise of ‘sovereignty’ 

 I suspect many living in Quebec, particularly those non-Francophone and indigenous people, would agree with George Orwell’s insightful comment that;

 ‘The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their History’  


Jim Wilson  is a former president of the LBPSB teachers union


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