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Call for Papers: Doing History in Precarious Times
L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
4-5 July 2019

The Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University is pleased to invite submissions for its Retreat for High School Teachers, held in collaboration with the Ontario High School and Social Science Teachers’ Association (OHASSTA), to be held in Hamilton, 4-5 July 2019.

This special retreat for teachers is committed to exploring critical, thought-provoking and contemporary approaches to the teaching of history in the twenty-first century.Participants will have a chance to encounter not only some of the latest debates in the field but also concrete, innovative and practical strategies and lesson plans for the implementation of new approaches to Canadian history. The Wilson Institute aspires to take a first step in generating new interest in the subject matter of Canadian history, pedagogical practices, and the changing role of the high school history teacher in a time when their calling can sometimes seem difficult and the surrounding climate sometimes ominous.

The theme of the conference is ‘Doing History in Precarious Times’ and interested participants should speak to the following thematic questions and ideas: In the new world of work our students will enter upon graduation – a world characterized by precariousness, transnational capital flows, the reshaping of every aspect of life by the market – what is the use of learning history? In an era characterized by ‘fake news,’ populism, and globalization – is the subject of history living up to its professed ideal of enabling students to become responsible, active citizens? In an age where the politics of remembrance have made discussion of historical events, issues and figures such as John A. Macdonald highly contentious, how can teachers encourage informed, respectful and enlightening discussions in the classroom (and, at least in today’s Ontario, stand some chance of keeping their job)?

Brent Brenyo’s think piece: In Search of Usable Pasts: Debating History, Citizenship, and Politics in Ontario’s Classrooms, 1960s to the Present

Brent Brenyo’s Teachables: Vimy Ridge as ‘Birth of a Nation?’ & John A. Macdonald – A Complex Legacy?

Google Drive with every conference paper

Doing History in Precarious Times Program

Thursday, July 4, 2019

7:00PM: The Statue Wars: Is the global movement to tear down problematic memorials erasing history? Or correcting it? 

            Moderated by TVO’s Steve Paikin, this public debate about the “statue wars” will consider the conflicts in Canada and around the world over statues and commemorations. Scholars – Vanessa Watts, Christopher Moore, and James Daschukwill debate issues such as public memory, history, and commemoration. This event will take place at the Concert Hall at LR Wilson Hall.


Friday, July 5, 2019

All Panels in McMaster University, L.R. Wilson Hall, LRW 2001

9:00 AM: Opening Remarks and Brent Brenyo’s Think Piece

9:30 AM: Panel 1 – The Challenges of Doing History in Precarious Times

  • Alan Sears, Ryerson University, Social Amnesia and Doing History in Precarious Times
  • Lindsay Gibson, University of Alberta, Thinking Historically about Canadian Commemoration Controversies.
  • Sara Karn, Queens University, Understanding Others, Past and Present: Teaching Empathy in the 21st Century History Classroom
  • Charles Leskun, OHASSTA, Teaching history is always dangerous in precarious times and the times are always precarious!

11:00 AM: Break

11:15 AM: Panel 2 – New Approaches

  • Virginia Lynn Grimaldi, York University, Infusing Global History into Elementary and Secondary Classrooms
  • Samantha Cutrara, Independent Scholar, Meaningful Learning in Ontario History Education: Connecting students’ complexity with curriculum in a precarious 21st century world
  • Aaron Stout, University of Lethbridge, To what degree does a humanist approach to history education enhance the development citizenship education?

12:45 PM — Catered Lunch (at LRW 2802) 

1:45 PM: Panel 3 – Progress and Anti-Progress in History Education

  • Josh Cole, Independent Scholar, Progressivism and the Erasure of History Education
  • Elliot Hanowski, University of Manitoba Libraries, The Nova Scotia Textbook Controversy
  • Ian McKay, Wilson Institute for Canadian History, Doing History in Precarious Times: J.S. Martell, Nova Scotia High Schools, and an Expansive Progressive Vision of Public Education, 1935-1944

3:15 PM: Break

3:30 PM: Panel 4 – Dealing with Race, Anti-Racism, and Decolonization

  • Mark Currie, University of Ottawa, Students Live in History, They Just Don’t Know It: Teaching Historicity, Examining Everyday Socio-Historical Spaces, and Developing Antiracist Historical Consciousness
  • Samantha Hossack, University of Waterloo, Schools of Thought: Indigenizing Education in the Twenty-First Century
  • Daniel B. Panneton, Sarah & Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, Human Soap?: How Educators can fight Holocaust Denial in a Post-Truth Age

5:00pm: Wine and Cheese and Book Launch


Saturday, July 6, 2019 — OHASSTA workshops

9:00 AM: Kickoff Speaker

  • Henry Giroux, McMaster University

10:15 AM: Break

10:30 AM:

  • Ian and Brent present first teachable

11:00 AM: Breakout Groups

12:00 AM: Catered Lunch (@ LRW 2802)

12:45 AM:

  • Ian and Brent present second teachable

1:15 AM: Breakout Groups

2:15 PM: Break

2:30 PM: Conclusion