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Theme Months May Actually Teach Us Something

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 9:19 AM

As we move from Black History Month in February to Women’s History Month in March, people may wonder why we need these months at all. There definitely are a lot of theme months and some months even do double duty. In the health areas, we find Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Family Health Month and Physical Therapy Month. Minorities have American Indian Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Polish Heritage Month. This doesn’t even begin to look at all the weeks such as Freedom to Read Week (this week, by the way), Teen Reading Week and School Bus Safety Week. As a librarian, I’m always looking for a decorating theme to highlight some good books but surely, this isn’t a good enough reason to bury the calendar under a myriad of themes.
As far as the History and Heritage months go, they may make up for the enormous gaps in how history is taught in our schools. Our teenagers are taught world history in Grade 8, Quebec and Canadian history in Grade 10 and World History again in Grade 11 but only if they opt to take it. It’s really hard to get into much depth when you run from Ancient Egypt through World War II in one year.
Then, once we get out into the working world, the most history that the majority of us come into contact with is a movie that will probably make many errors to keep the plot going. I have no problem with that. Movies are usually produced to entertain and make their backers a lot of money. No one is too worried about educating the public.
Over February, there were some good documentaries on Black History on a few television stations and a few movies that got me interested in reading books on the topic. I’ve often found the same to be true for women’s history. The fight to achieve one’s rights makes some pretty dramatic reading and there are more than a few heroes in the American Civil Rights movement and in the Nineteenth Century Suffragette movements in Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
Many of us know who the American suffragette, Susan B. Anthony, was but what about Canadian women like Nellie McClung? Because of McClung’s tireless efforts, Manitoba was the first province to give women the right to vote and run for public office. She was a bestselling author and worked for a wide variety of social causes. Another memorable Canadian feminist was Agnes Macphail. In 1921, she was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. Macphail promoted workers’ rights and pensions for seniors.
These women are an important part of Canadian history and many of us don’t know their names because we flew through Canadian history in a race to get to the end of term so that we could pass the provincial exams. Luckily, many teachers are finding ways to give students the chance to go deeper into Canadian history through research projects and we can only hope that teenagers come out knowing more than what year the British North America Acts were passed. Dates are quickly forgotten but a good story will be remembered far longer.
So don’t be so quick to roll your eyes when a month is chosen to promote a health or historical theme. It may be an opportunity to learn something that you didn’t know before and it can’t hurt any of us to smarten up a bit.

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