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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Portraying the Canada-United States relationship in social studies texts Seney, Bruce Everett


The relationship between Canada and the United States is the focus of many accounts in Canadian social studies textbooks. A variety of topics highlighting different themes of the relationship are exhibited in numerous secondary school textbooks. However, it is postulated the accounts of Canada's relations with the United States are singular thematic in format and nation-centric in approach. The study develops a framework of analysis that first, enables a binary decision of the overall prevalence of a singular thematic format or a multiplictic approach pertaining to textbooks. The term multiplictic refers to the multiplicity of points of view about a topic of study. The approach presents a number of different themes that helps explain the complexity of the relationship. A multiplictic method would utilize diverse viewpoints about issues representative of the relationship. A second feature of the framework is that it provides a more detailed assessment of the perspective evident in five issue areas central to the relationship. To assess each issue area as being nation-centric or multiplictic, three determinants are used to interpret how the Canada-United States relationship is portrayed. The determinants used to analyse the single or multiple themes are: the existence of a nation-centric perspective; the usage of rhetoric describing the relationship; and the preponderance of singular thematic judgments. Profiles of five issue areas that represent the Canada-United States relationship are evaluated in fifteen Canadian social studies textbooks. The five issue areas are: cultural issues, defence issues, environmental issues, foreign ownership issues, and trade issues. Results of the study indicate that fifty-two of the fifty-seven profiles analysed have a tendency of being singular thematic and nation-centric in perspective. Also, nine of the fifteen textbooks examined show a tendency to be negative in their description of the Canada-United States relationship. These findings suggest that portrayals of the Canada-United States relationship in textbooks fosters an autarkist mentality. Such a perception of Canada's relationship with the United States would appear to focus on Canadian survival in a global context instead of enhancing student understanding of internationally-oriented issues. The exploratory study reveals an underlying trend in textbooks concerned with the Canada-United States relationship that is significant to a variety of audiences including scholars and educators interested in the study and teaching of Canadian-American relations and publishers responsible for developing appropriate classroom materials.

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