UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Portrayal of world interdependence in social studies textbooks Hannah, John Ogilvie Leo


This thesis focuses on how social studies textbooks, authorized for use in Canadian classrooms, portray our changing world. Preparing young people for citizenship in a world that is becoming increasingly interdependent requires presenting them with a way of thinking about the world that allows for consideration of alternative perspectives. The textbook, as a major vehicle for transmitting knowledge, can play an important role in that process. Although the volume of textual accounts of world interdependence is expanding, it is contended that the themes and images presented to students tend to reinforce unilateral rather than multilateral interpretations of reality. A framework of analysis is developed to determine if the textbooks employ either a multilateral thematic or unilateral thematic approach to the study of world interdependence. A multilateral approach encourages the exploration of different points of view on important world issues whereas a unilateral approach tends to focus on a particular interpretation of the same issues or events. This framework employs four rubrics suited to the analysis of the transmission of knowledge, description, explanation, prediction and prescription, to guide a series of analytical questions designed to determine if textbooks present unilateral or multilateral themes. Six significant world issue areas are evaluated in fourteen social studies textbooks. The issue areas profiled are: food supply issues, population issues, environmental issues, peace and security issues, human rights issues and economic Issues. The findings of this study indicate that the four dimensions of the framework are not adequately addressed in the selected textbooks. Twenty-two of the twenty-eight profiles studied tend to support a unilateral thematic rather than a multilateral thematic portrayal of how the world works. Preparing students for citizenship in a global age requires providing them with access to a body of knowledge that helps them to acquire a more integrated understanding of their world in order to make informed decisions and judgements about pressing global concerns. That goal is impeded when there is a propensity for textbooks to provide a particular viewpoint rather than a variety of viewpoints on important world Issues. Although this study is exploratory in nature, its findings present considerations for social studies educators when choosing to adopt particular textual materials for instructional purposes.

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