Saving an Endangered Subject: High School History in Ontario Schools, 1960-2010


  • Paul W Bennett Saint Mary's University


The rise, fall, and revival of History in Ontario high schools is full of twists and turns. History as an academic subject, once king of the social sciences, came, over the period 1960 to 2010, to occupy a smaller and smaller patch of the secondary school curriculum. Building upon insights gleaned from Bob Davis’ 1995 book Whatever Happened to High School History?, veteran teacher, textbook writer and education professor Paul W. Bennett analyzes the impact of rise of the “new social studies” in the 1970s, the spread of the so-called “skills mania” of the 1980s, and the demise of the prevailing national narrative on the teaching of the subject. Summoning up lessons learned in the Ontario history classroom, he demonstrates how the fragmentation of the history-centred social studies curriculum contributed to the so-called “Canadian History Crisis” of the 1990s. In the wake of the 1995 Quebec Referendum, the teaching of Canadian history resurfaced as a major public policy issue. The recent advent of the “Historical Thinking” movement, sparked by UBC education professor Peter Seixas, signalled the beginning of a more recent revival and Trent University historian Christopher Dummitt’s 2009 call in Contesting Clio’s Craft to “move beyond inclusion” has begun to close the gap in the teaching of history between the university and high school levels.

Author Biography

Paul W Bennett, Saint Mary's University

Director, Schoolhouse Institute, and Adjunct Professor of Education, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS


Included as Endnotes


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