History knowledge isn’t a bad thing

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 20:01 Lethbridge Herald Opinon

A recent survey suggesting few Canadians have any knowledge of the War of 1812 might suggest federal money spent to promote the bicentennial is wasted.
Or, perhaps it shows how badly Canadians need to be educated about their country’s history.
A Canadian Press story in Wednesday’s Herald indicated that few participants in the survey done for National Defence were even aware of the anniversary of the war between Canada and the U.S., “and even fewer could identify the War of 1812 by name,” the poll found.
The research noted that knowledge of the war was skimpy even in Ontario’s Niagara Region, which is close to where some of the war’s more significant events occurred.
The story indicated that might be bad news for the Harper government, which has spent as much as $28 million on historical re-enactments, TV commercials, museum exhibits and a $60 commemorative coin, among other features to mark the war’s bicentennial. On the other hand, it could suggest the money is well spent to help inform Canadians about what was a rather important part of the nation’s history. The war essentially hinged on the Americans’ dispute with Britain, and attacking Canada was a way to get back at Britain over those grievances.
Former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Col. William Duane in 1812, said: “The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighbourhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent.”
Fortunately, Canadian settlers backed by British forces succeeded in repelling the series of American invasions through the course of the two-year war. Otherwise, our country’s map could look considerably different than what it does now.
The War of 1812, then, was hugely instrumental in establishing the territory that is now Canada. Is it wrong to expect that more Canadians should have at least a rudimentary knowledge about the event?
Canadian history is filled with everything from significant events to interesting tidbits of which the majority of Canadians either know little or are completely oblivious. And that’s too bad.
Page A4 in Wednesday’s Herald featured a story about two southern Alberta students who gained national recognition for their video projects done as part of the Canada’s History Young Canadians competition. Milk River’s Alex Hansen’s topic was the deadly Frank Slide of 1903 while Dylan Taylor of Ecole Agnes Davidson School in Lethbridge focused on the Canadian link to the famous Superman comic book hero. How many people know that Joe Shuster of Toronto was a co-writer of the Superman stories, or that Metropolis was modelled after Toronto?
It isn’t necessary for Canadians to be up on all the history trivia about our country, but it wouldn’t hurt for us to be a little more knowledgeable about major events. For example, did you know that Dec. 6, 2017 will mark the centennial of the Halifax explosion, which killed 2,000 people and injured more than 9,000?
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to spend some public money on helping Canadians become better informed about the country’s history.

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