The Nation in the Schools: A Canadian Education


113 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-7744-0271-7





Reviewed by Ethel M. King-Shaw

Ethel King-Shaw is a professor emeritus of curriculum and instruction at
the University of Calgary.


Professor Rowland Lorimer is Associate Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Simon Fraser University. While a Research Fellow at the Canadian Learning Materials Centre, he investigated the extent to which Canadian realities are present in the school curriculum.

The Canadian constitution places responsibility for education with the provinces, and, while it “may retard the process of moving towards a culturally sensitive education, it need not discourage us from conceiving education from within a national cultural framework.”

In the book the cultural focus of contemporary school curricula is examined in the specific areas of language arts, including literature, and social studies. Content analyses of reading materials indicate little that reflect the Canadian perspective. From among the most frequently listed novels read in the secondary schools, three different thematics are representative of differing values and concerns of the British, American, and Canadian societies. The author questions whether these works are presented by the teachers so that students understand the different cultural contexts. Through a variety of recent provincial projects a “positive cultural perspective is returning to the social studies.”

Concerns are expressed regarding teacher educators and the curriculum for training teachers. Student teachers receive insufficient Canadian orientation because professors of education do not view this as a priority. Possibly too many education professors are raised or trained outside the country, notably in the United States.

Procedures used in the selection of learning materials are also analyzed, including publishers’ development and marketing strategies. Although provinces have procedures for reviewing and evaluating materials, they tend to favour the publications of the large monied companies (with foreign main offices).

Lorimer concludes that “schooling remains quite out of touch with the everyday realities of Canadian culture.” The shortcomings of teacher education, the development and use of educational materials, and the teaching of reading and literature are detailed. Nine recommendations are presented.

This book is highly recommended for teacher educators, publishers, and teachers throughout Canada. Significant questions are raised regarding the development of an understanding of a national cultural identity. Because of the brevity of the book, some of the arguments are not fully presented. For example, the author refers to the influence of reputable American-based international organizations, omitting reference to uniquely Canadian professional associations.

The plea for a Canadian education is clearly outlined and will stimulate further debate. The recommendations provide a sense of direction for the future.


Lorimer, Rowland M., “The Nation in the Schools: A Canadian Education,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,