By students of John Myers at OISE.
By Tiffany Liu
Sherene H. Razack’s Dark Threats & White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism is a heart-wrenching story that explores issues of racism and imperialism that emerge through Canadian peacekeeping in Somalia. Drawing from records of military trials and the public inquiry, Razack examines the nature of violence and superiority of Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia. She aims to raise awareness of the injustice associated with these reports and to unmask Canada’s true identity. Canada is well known for its peacekeeping missions, but the dark truth hidden well behind our peacekeeping image resurfaces within this book.
This book is a great resource for a grade 10 academic history class. It covers many fundamental issues, such as racism, imperialism and peacekeeping, outlined in the curriculum. Unlike many Canadian history textbooks, this book portrays Canada in a negative light as it criticizes Canada’s role as a peacekeeper on the world stage. Because of this, I believe that this resource is crucial for talking about Canada’s international involvement. Personally, I would create an entire unit based on this book. But before reading, I would cover the context of the book with the class. Students can conduct their own research or I would provide them with some information on Canada’s involvement in international conflicts since 1982. For example, Canada had carried out many peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda during the late 1900’s. After that, students would be given some time to read parts of the book.
In order to stimulate discussion, I would put students into groups of four or five and they would have to conduct discussion-based seminars or round-table discussions. Each member of the group would be assigned a chapter. The discussion leaders of that week are expected to carry out the discussion within their group by coming up with some good questions. This not only tests their knowledge of the content, but it also trains them to think critically about the issues outlined in the book and to formulate good questions that can stimulate good discussion. When all the round-table discussions or seminars are done, I would debrief the entire class. To end the unit, I would make the class do a debate or write a persuasive essay on whether they believe Canada was a peacekeeping country.
By Stuart Siu
John Bird’s biography of Percy Aldridge Grainger, a prominent but often misunderstood composer for wind ensemble, connects to the grade 10 Canadian history course as it creates an interesting dynamic when discussing topics of nationalism and national identity.
When teaching a lesson on nationalism, I would frame it with respect to colonization. Grainger grew up in Australia which is similar to Canada in some ways because of its membership in the British Commonwealth. The question of national identity is one that is evident in Canadian culture but also one that has been debated and discussed over the years. From reading this biography students will get an idea of change over time. Grainger subscribed to a definition of national identity that was firmly rooted in a mixture of ethnicity, race, and physical features. Compared to modern definitions of nationalism, Grainger’s views would sound very foreign to students. In fact, they may even sound racist compared to modern standards. From this, students will learn to look at history through a non-judgemental, objective lens to understand the past and how it influences the present.