canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Teaching Canadian Literature: Followup

January 29, 2003

Here's a followup. I've done a bit more research.... 

Not to much has happened with the recommendations in the Canada Council report. I spoke with the report's writer today at the Writers' Trust. She's somewhat hopeful that the CC will get behind the recommendations and push for the government to provide funding (probably through Heritage Canada). Responses to the report on The Danforth Review have pretty much fallen into the pattern outlined in the report itself. Seems even (a substantial constituency of) Canadian literary readers would prefer to cut the head off to save the body. 

On the curriculum front, the news is even worse. In Ontario, the ministry of Education provides money to school boards only to buy approved textbooks. The textbooks, I'm told, contain no sustained (ie, long) passages. They even cut short stories in half because they apparently believe students can only handle fragments. (Apparently, all teenagers today have ADD, according to the curriculum writers!) Where creative things are happening, it's because teachers are going around the curriculum. 

The writer of the CC report said she suspected things were bad out there, but she didn't realize how bad until she started doing the research. It's not simply a matter of getting Cdn books on the curriculum, she stressed. Many teachers aren't interested in teaching Cdn works. Have no sense of CanLit. Have never met a writer. Prefer to stick with the "classics." Teachers (for the most part) aren't required to learn anything about CanLit as part of their education, and so feel no obligation to pass it on. Have no sense of "what's out there." 

The key recommendation of the CC report is that a new organization be created (by whom? Heritage Canada, probably) to bring together all of the stakeholders and create a comprehensive strategy that integrates the interests of publishers, writers, teachers, Ministries of Education, book sellers, and ultimately students. Much has been done the past 30 years to promote CanLit, but the writer of the report said she felt as if all of that effort hadn't hardly made a dent in either the institutions or the attitudes that ensure the status quo continues. 

Michael Bryson




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