Not knowing history makes us more proud
Educated Canadians aware of 'a lot of warts'
Randy Boswell, Canwest News ServicePublished: 2:04 am
It's a familiar lament in Canada: declining public knowledge about the country's history is leading to a diminished sense of national pride.
But a survey by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies suggests the long-held assumption may be wrong, and that relative ignorance about Canada's past may actually foster a certain patriotic bliss.
The telephone survey of 1,500 Canadians, conducted Oct. 5 to 8 by Leger Marketing, showed that 73 per cent of those with just elementary-level schooling strongly agreed with the statement: "I am proud of the history of Canada."
Nearly 60 per cent of those with only a high school education strongly agreed with the statement. But less than half of the respondents with college or university credentials -- between 40 and 49 per cent -- voiced such a strong sense of pride in Canadian history.
"Those who argue that people lack pride in the country and its history because they lack awareness of it might be startled to learn that those with less education -- which can safely be equated with less knowledge -- are most likely to express pride in the country's history," said ACS executive director Jack Jedwab. "More awareness of Canada's history may reduce pride in the country rather than augment it."
The result suggests that increased knowledge of darker episodes in Canadian history -- the 18th-century expulsion of Acadians, the mistreatment of Aboriginal Peoples, the turning away of Jewish refugees during the Second World War -- can temper pride in the nation's past.
Canadians exhibit a strong sense of pride in the country's history relative to other countries. But, Jedwab adds, Canada's past "does have a lot of warts" that can challenge people's perception of the nation's reputation for tolerance and peaceful accommodation among different cultural groups.
The survey suggests that an emphasis on teaching Canadians about generally uncontroversial episodes in history -- our key contribution to victory in the two world wars, for example -- will bolster national pride better than subtler explorations of the past, says Jedwab.
A "focus on the heroic moments" is likely to produce a stronger sense of pride than a more detailed knowledge about Canada's past, warts and all.