Using an online archive of historical source materials covering several events in the recent and more distant past, students prepare for a classroom debate on this question. The purpose is to cover the mandated curriculum while also prompting students to think deeply about why historical questions are so challenging to answer, and why different stories exist about the same past events.
How This Project is Carried Out
I developed this unit with Ozlem Sensoy, several BC teachers, and a group of graduate students, with funding from Heritage Canada and the Canadian Council on Learning. We have implemented it twice in Vancouver-area schools. Each time the researchers have made careful observations of each class day to understand how the materials and lesson plans might be improved. We have also taken measurements of students’ ideas about why different stories about the past exist, before and after the unit.
Why This Project Matters
In increasingly diverse Canadian communities, it is important for students to develop the understanding that stories about the past differ for many legitimate reasons. If one story does not agree with another, it is not necessarily because one person is lying or telling the story in a biased way. History is also not just a matter of perspective, where everyone is entitled to their own view. Students will be more able to navigate life in a multicultural society with tolerance if they appreciate that stories about the past can differ even when they are based on good evidence and careful analysis, but that using evidence and careful analysis is still worthwhile.