University of New Brunswick
At the risk of self-promotion, I would like to draw your attention to a research note that has just been published in the Journal of New Brunswick Studies. As a graduate student who has devoted the past 5 years to exploring the phenomenon of historical consciousness, I am (needless-to-say) thrilled and honoured to see a small piece of my research published in a scholarly journal.
All this aside, the findings also warrant further discussion, since they provide an intriguing glimpse into an age group less commonly discussed in conversations around historical consciousness and historical thinking in Canada. The data was collected as part of a pre-survey that expanded upon the Canadians and their Pasts (2013) investigation with an entire class of Anglophone 7th graders. In working with this group of students, I had the privilege of learning a little bit more about their relationship with the past, and the narratives that they carry. Over a period of 15 weeks, we worked together to explore a material history framework for historical thinking in museums, which served as a cultural tool for deepening students’ historical consciousness.
As Stéphane Levesque (2014) has pointed out, “the study of historical consciousness makes it possible to understand how people use the past.” For the students participating in this inquiry, it was evident that they initially used the past to situate themselves within a Canada narrative of privilege and war. These “broad pictures” for remembering represented common themes that (just as Levesque has indicated) served as “backdrops” for acquiring new knowledge. For these students, their themes of privilege and war were predominantly optimistic.
In somewhat contradiction to this optimism, however, many of the students paralleled this schema with more pessimistic perceptions about change over time. In this regard the students were very unlike adult samplings in the larger Canadians and Their Pasts study. Hence, rather than perceiving things as getting better over time, nearly half (42%) of the students recognised progression as a contradiction. For these students, while technology had made life easier, the resulting pollution and conflict had also made life worse. In this sense, students’ narratives of privilege seemed to be somewhat at odds with their beliefs in change over time.