When Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore visited Prince George on Thursday to speak to the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, he devoted much of his talk to a gripe about how Canadian history just isn't taught in high schools anymore.
It was virtually identical to a well-reported talk he gave in Vancouver last October, for those in the audience wondering if they had heard all of this before.
Fewer than half of adult Canadians can name Canada's first prime minister (John A. Macdonald) and even fewer know who Canada's first French prime minister was (Wilfrid Laurier), without explaining why our knowledge of those two men should extend further than their faces on the $10 and $5 bills respectively.
Furthermore, he said, only four Canadian provinces have a mandatory high school history course and B.C. is not one of them.
Education falls in the jurisdiction of provincial governments, not the feds, so Moore was harping about something he has no authority to change.
To make matters worse, he couldn't be more wrong.
Social studies is a mandatory high school subject through Grade 11 in B.C. The Grade 9 Social Studies curriculum is devoted to the history of Canada from the arrival of European explorers until 1815. The Grade 10 Social Studies curriculum targets Canada's history from 1815 until 1914.
Grade 11 Social Studies veers away from history and offers a broad introduction into four academic disciplines - political science, human geography, sociology and international studies - but uses Canadian examples throughout. History 12 is available as an elective for Grade 12 students, focusing on Canada's transformation and modernization from 1914 to 1991.
So not only is Moore wrong about B.C. kids not being taught Canadian history, his charge also begs the question of what exactly they should be taught.
Is it really important to be able to rattle off the names of early prime ministers?
During his presentation, Moore put up a picture on the screen of Donald Smith pounding in the "Last Spike" into the Canadian Pacific Railway. It doesn't really matter exactly when the railway was finished (Nov. 7, 1885) but it surely is important to know the railway physically linked our young nation together and opened up Western Canada to trade with Central and Eastern Canada, as well as fostering settlement by non-aboriginal peoples. The railway also helped keep Western Canada from falling into the hands of the United States.
There's simply no excuse for Moore's baseless charge. At 36, he surely must remember the high school social studies classes he took (and passed) before graduating from Centennial Secondary in Coquitlam and coming up to UNBC.
But Moore wasn't only off-base when talking about the lack of history in B.C. high school education.
He showed a slide with the B.C., Ontario and Quebec provincial flags and said that B.C. will have as many MPs in Parliament as Ontario and Quebec after the 2015 election. The audience clapped at the news.
Too bad it's not true.
B.C. currently has 36 MPs, and will elect 42 in 2015. All of Western Canada will elect 104 MPs in 2015, which still doesn't match the 106 Ontario MPs currently sitting in the House of Commons. More bad news - Ontario got half of the 30 new seats being added to Parliament in 2015, meaning they'll elect 121 MPs in 2015, and Western Canada will fall further behind, since it only got 12 new seats.
By the way, Quebec currently has 75 MPs and will elect 78 in the 2015 election.
In short, Moore's return to Prince George (he's arguably UNBC's most famous graduate to date) gets a failing grade in history, political science and math.