Assignment: Core Knowledge

To my colleague,

The answer to the question, “what does every Canadian need to know today?” is a difficult one to answer, as I don’t think we can ever come to a true consensus  on what every Canadian needs to know. Our values and beliefs vary not just by region, but by religion, race, gender, socio-economic background and endless other variables – so I highly encourage you to ask this question to as many people as possible. It may be overwhelming and a lot of effort to go through, but I also think it highlights the rich diversity that we are known for and take pride in.

I will answer your question in regards to specific content that I feel all Canadian students should be taught (mostly in terms of Canadian-specific content in areas such as history and geography). Don’t take my response as definitive or indicative of all educators – again, I encourage you to seek out numerous different perspectives!

Canadian History. Despite the relatively young age of our country, we have an interesting and complex history that is worth examining throughout the educational path. What is  important though, is that we learn our country’s history through multiple/alternative perspectives. You will see that there tends to be a common narrative when teaching Canadian history – one that downplays the numerous instances of racial discrimination and mistreatment of minority groups. I also firmly believe we should closely study Aboriginal perspectives on Canadian history, as their experiences are unique and entirely different than that of other groups. We should also look at making connections between our past and our present – as you will see, many of the issues in our past still hold true today (indigenous rights and sovereignty, language).

Canadian Geography. Canada is a large country, with a wide array of landscapes and climates. I feel students should be knowledgeable about our country’s geography, and in particular, the natural resources that are available to different regions. Having a basic understanding of these will enable students to be more aware and informed about the issues surrounding them. Most of our population lives along the Canada-US border, so learning about our geography also opens students’ minds to new places they may not have a chance to travel to.

Canadian Government and Politics. I believe it is part of our role as educators to prepare our students to be active citizens in society. Whether we like it or not, politics permeates all areas of our life, and I think we should energize our students to be interested in our government and our democratic process from a young age so that they are equipped and informed to make positive change.

Language. Language has an interesting place in our country, and it quite often will spark interesting discussion. We are lucky to have such a diverse, multicultural population, and so I believe all students should learn an additional language other than their mother tongue throughout their learning. Not only does learning another language have many cognitive and practical benefits, but students are exposed to a different way of looking at the world  and are able to empathize better with those who are different from them.

While I have discussed mostly the content that I feel needs to be taught, I would also like to briefly mention how I believe educators should be teaching content (although this certainly warrants another email on its own!). I feel we should be doing more as educators to encourage and teach critical thinking to our students, and creating curriculum that is engaging and is relevant to them. Material should not be learned solely for the purpose of regurgitating it to get a mark; we should encourage our students to make connections, question, and critique what they see and learn. I also believe we should make more of an effort to “blur the lines” between subjects – math can also be art, or language arts can be put into practice during a science lesson. And I also believe we do not do enough to encourage healthy living/healthy habits  (physically and mentally) within our students. Physical activity/well-being should not be restricted to PE classes or for break times – we should do more to incorporate it throughout the curriculum. And now that we are working to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health, I firmly believe educators should be teaching psychological skills (self-control, mindfulness, positive self-talk, enabling growth mindsets and mastery orientations, for example) so that students are of healthy mind and body, inside and outside of the classroom.

Lastly, I would like to say to you, that whatever you do, model what your beliefs and values are as an educator. What you want to see your students practice/behave, make sure that you show that through your own behaviour as well!

Hope that helps, and see you in the classroom soon.




Things to look at – here are some links if you want to look/learn a bit further:

BC New Curriculum – British Columbia will be transitioning over into a new curriculum within the next year or so, one that emphasizes the personalization of learning, among other things (still trying to fully understand it myself).

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – this is a document Canadians really take pride in, and I think in general, it gives a pretty good summation of our values (whether we uphold them is another interesting discussion question).

How Government Works – A breakdown of how our government works. Note that, Education in Canada, is run by our Provincial governments, as opposed to our Federal government.


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