Teaching Public Issues in a Canadian Context


194 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-7744-0247-4





Edited by Donald C. Wilson
Reviewed by Edward L. Edmonds

Edward L. Edmonds is a professor of education at the University of
Prince Edward Island and an honorary chief of the Lennox Island
Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island.


Pericles, the great Greek statesman, once said that though we could not all be initiators of policies, we should all be sound judges of them. Basically, the aim of this book is to develop a pedagogy for high school students to enable them the better to judge four major issues in Canadian public life today, namely: the quality of life, multicultural Canada, Canada and global issues, and Canada’s relations with the United States. All the authors then follow a pattern that used to be called project method, later schemes of work, later centers of interest or the topic approach, and now a problem-based approach. One of the book’s many merits is that the material presented is very contemporary. The case studies are real and not fictionalized, as so often happens with some case study books published south of the border. The source references, too, are excellent, again indicating a breadth of knowledge of the subjects by very imaginative teachers. Indeed, the only section not quite so deserving of praise is the first, on the quality of life (“a slippery notion to define and measure, let alone teach,” as the authors admit). The section on a multicultural Canada covers some familiar ground, but it is very much in line with modern research, which suggests that where teachers at least face up to the problem and try to explain sources of intercultural and ethnic difference of opinion, friction is reduced. A gentle criticism might be, however, that in presenting some case studies, they have the enormous asset of hindsight. One great value of the “jackdaw” approach in teaching history was in its presentation of a wide range of original sources. For example, those of us who lived through the dreadful days of Pearl Harbour realize how overwhelming was the immediate reaction for ensuring national security.

The book is well produced in a very convenient size, as are all the works from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The print is easily readable and well set out. One suggestion, if the book goes into a second edition, would be the addition of an index by topic. This would enable handy reference to be made and would break down the possible compartmentalization of the four public issues upon which the book concentrates. The price, however, is likely to cause raised eyebrows. At $19.50 the book will most likely find its way into school reference libraries rather than into the classroom, which is a pity.


“Teaching Public Issues in a Canadian Context,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38999.