CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006
The student textbook, Canadian Civics, is recently published and written by Ontario teachers Ruypers and Ryall, specifically for the new Ontario grade 10 civics curriculum. This course is a compulsory half-credit course, and the textbook is approved and Trillium Listed by the Ontario ministry of education for use until 2011. The publisher is developing a version of the text for consideration by the curriculum unit of Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth.
The school subject of civics in this book is defined as having to do with citizenship, government and public decision making. This is supported through the identification of six main fundamental concepts – systems and structures, interactions and interdependence, environment, change and continuity, culture, and power and governance – which are the foci to one degree or another in each of the eleven chapters in the book. These chapters include: Why civics? Why Democracy?, What is Government?, How do Laws and Regulations Affect You?, How do Governments Make Policy?, How do Citizens Elect Governments?, What are Rights and Responsibilities?, How does the Judicial System Work?, Government and the People: Issues and Solutions, How do you Define Citizenship?, Human Rights in the Global Village, and Are We All Global Citizens?
In addition to the good visual appearance of the student book, there are a number of features built into the text that will assist the student in the understanding of and interest in the civics content, including Key Terms, CivicStar (profiles people or groups who have challenged the system and created change), Civics Toolkit (develops critical thinking), Pause, Reflect, Apply (addresses the student's understanding of the issue through summarizing organizing information, and providing evidence to support opinions), and The Web (directs students to websites for additional material). The actual civics content in the text is very contemporary and should be of interest to students. Belinda Stronach's “crossing the floor” in May 2005, the downloading of music under the Copyright Act, and the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII and the federal apology and the compensation package to redress wrongs, are but a few examples of the nature of the material in the book. Global citizenship dealing with issues such as poverty, the United Nations, HIV/AIDS, peacekeeping, environmental interdependence, and the Kyoto Protocol are presented in the book's last chapter.
Key Canadian citizenship themes are discussed, including responsibility, participation, conflict resolution, diversity and human rights.
The text, though, is not without weaknesses. The authors have tried to distinguish between the responsibilities of the different levels of government, namely federal, provincial/territorial and local. There is no mention whatsoever regarding school governance, be it at the local level or by itself. Students today leave school knowing absolutely nothing about how schools work or the role of school trustees. The failure to address school governance continues to be a problem with most elementary or secondary civics textbooks.
Under the header of the Canadian Copyright Act, there is no attempt made to describe its purpose or who is protected by it. The writers of the text go right into royalty fees, levies and the downloading of music. They ask the student whether royalties should be paid for the downloading of millions of songs. While an interesting question, the downloading of music in Canada for personal use is legal and free. No mention is made about the need for balancing the rights of creators and rights of users, a key concept for the education and library communities in Canada.
The accompanying text, Canadian Civics: Teacher's Resource, also written by Ruypers and Ryall, provides the classroom teacher with answers to questions posed in the student text, further civics information and one or two page student activity sheets blackline masters that may be reproduced for classroom use. Assessment and evaluation rubrics are provided for debates, written assignments, speeches, research papers, oral presentations, and multimedia presentations, all of which are reproducible for hand out to students. While the price of the Teacher's Resource is somewhat steep, it remains a useful tool for social studies teachers.
John Tooth, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Manitoba, is analyzing civics textbooks used in Manitoba schools from 1910 to the present for their reflections of citizenship and citizenship education.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.