UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The introduction and historical development of social studies in the curriculum of the public schools of British Columbia Dawson, Elisabeth


Social studies first appeared in the official literature of the British Columbia Department of Education in 1927 when it replaced history and geography in the curriculum of the newly established junior high schools. During the depression the "new curriculum" introduced the concept of social studies to the entire public school system. Though the content of the social studies courses remained primarily history, with some geography in the elementary schools, the change in name to social studies allowed the goals to be oriented around behavior—rather than content. Through the goals of social studies, the concept of the 'socialization' of the individual was introduced into the public school system. The introduction of social studies into the curriculum was without controversy despite such politically-oriented aims, for many teachers, having experienced, directly or indirectly, the effects of World War I, saw social studies as part of a child-centred curriculum which would help students find a better life. In reality, though some experimentation did take place, very little changed in the classroom and most teachers and students noticed little difference. While there have been no fundamental changes in the content of the social studies curriculum, changes are to be found in the goals. Social studies was introduced into the curriculum to transmit citizen ship; to create a good Canadian citizen who would maintain British traditions. After World War II, though the goals remained citizenship transmission, the concept of a good citizen changed. A good citizen was seen as one who was not only a good Canadian citizen but also a good "world" citizen. During the 1950's the goal of formal citizenship transmission, as the "raison d'être" of social studies, gradually changed. Beginning with the revision of the elementary curriculum in 1957 a more traditional view of education held that knowledge was an important goal of social studies. The concept of social studies as a social science finally developed in the revisions for both elementary and high school which began in 1966. As the concept of social studies as a social science developed there was a demand for the inclusion of more geography in the curriculum. This coincided with the growth of departments of geography in Canadian universities, and resulted in the inclusion of geography in the 1966-68 revisions of the social studies curriculum on a basis equal to that of history. Until this last revision, the social studies curriculum had been based almost entirely on history though the definition of social studies had always included a list of the social sciences from which social studies would be drawn. Since this list was almost entirely ignored by the teachers who drew up the course outlines, it can be said that social studies, as defined by the Programmes of Study, has not been taught in British Columbia.

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