Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Crux of Social History

Old news (response to Who Killed Canadian History?) and well understood ideas but as I've finally gotten around to reading a piece that I ignored in a second year history course (sorry Dr. McDowell, I owe you one.) but I was re-introduced to it last week. It's a passage from A.B. Mckillop's response to a Jack Granastein book, "Who Killed Canadian History? (1998). Mckillop's response was titled, "Who Killed Canadian History? A View from the Trenches" (Canadian Historical Review, 80.2, 1999). As a student in his first years of understanding social and post modernist history, and forming reasoning as to why he studies and writes history, this passage articulated what has been solidifying in my mind for the last couple years. Mckillop is responding to Granastein's lament that in the absence of Canadian history being written on the political and social progress of the nation (ie. accomplishments and positive progress that tell the story of Canada's growth as a nation) historical writing has focused on specific aspects of specific groups in Canadian history that oft times don't reflect a very positive view of our past as the oppression of these groups comes to light.

"It was Canada's social historians, as much as its political historians, who rose to the challenge to see Canada anew. In their work they attempted to respond to the needs of long-neglected social groups to recover their own history and to understand why they had been, and continued to be, disempowered. To give them voice, to let the dead once again speak, it was necessary for historians to understand the particularities of past social experience.(f.66) The price they paid -- and it has been a steep one -- was the end of any pretension that a single narrative voice, based on power exercised from above, could tell the one story of Canada's true past, and do so in a palliative manner. For there was no one story, and Canadian history has involved pain as well as progress. In this respect, Canadian social historians understand what Granatstein apparently does not: that in order for Canadians to take the full measure of what it means to be Canadian, they must be made conscious of all aspects of their shared past. In this sense, there are no subdisciplinary hierarchies of historical significance. Citizenship entails the understanding of what it means to be weak as well to be powerful; it involves healing as much as it does pride."

Jordan Kerr

Monday, September 27, 2010

Archiving Poem (ya, ya I did...)

Thought of a poem while archiving. Enjoy my awful awful poetry :)

These are more than just papers,
Dull ink and dead wood.
These are life, knowledge & effort,
Hope, joy, love and faith.
These papers are human,
A life bound in files.
These papers are living,
E'en as time expires.

Jordan Kerr

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New post - Queer Ottawa #2 at...

Jordan Kerr

The LSR and some much needed optimism...

The League for Social Reconstruction (LSR) was a socialist think tank that existed in Canada between 1931 and 1942. Though incredibly idealistic their philosophy of society and human nature is nonetheless inspiring and brought out in me some much needed optimism. Some analysis and reflection on LSR philosophy is given in Michiel Horn's "The League for Social Reconstruction: Intellectual Origins of the Democratic Left in Canada 1930-1942." (University of Toronto Press, 1980):

"They believe that man is essentially co-operative rather than competitive; they have faith in his ultimate rationality and goodness."...At one point they write that the planned economy 'must invite allegiance' of every educated individual 'who has, in addition, a sense of social justice and has not soured in his hopes of human nature.'...Adjust the social and economic environment, and the human material will not show itself wanting." ...Sceptics will entertain the suspicion that the LSR's hopes rested on far too kindly a view of human nature...There will perhaps always be sceptics who believe such optimism to be foolish and mistaken, possibly even pernicious. The sceptics may be right. All the same, it is churlish to speak ill of those who would think well of us, who in any case think better of us than we believe ourselves to be." pp. 96-98

To end, in our increasingly secular and globalized world perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on this poem by Frank Scott, a member of the LSR, concerning this optimism.

The world is my country
The human race is my race
The spirit of man is my God
The future of man is my heaven
p. 98
Jordan Kerr

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I'm re-reading one of my favourite books for an essay, "The League for Social Reconstruction: Intellectual Origins of the Democratic Left in Canada 1930-1942." by Michiel Horn (University of Toronto Press, 1980). Just thought I would share.


Queer Ottawa #1

This is old but I forgot to post it. The first post in a series on Queer Ottawa history can be found here.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Remarks on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Statue of L.B. Pearson on Parliament Hill...

I was recently given a copy of the remarks made Lester B. Pearon's late son Geoffrey (he's GAHP in the top right corner) on the unveiling of his fathers statue on Parliament Hill in 1990. Geoffrey Pearson wrote "Seize the Day : Lester B. Pearson and crisis diplomacy" (Carleton University Press, 1993) which traces his father's role as Secretary of State for External Affairs and was working through a book on LBP as prime minister before he passed away in 2008. I do believe (though I'd have to check to confirm) that he assisted in LBP's memoirs and a biography written on the former Prime Minister. Geoffrey Pearson led a distinguished diplomatic and public service career,with several ambassadorial positions, including to the USSR from 1980-1983.

Anyway, here's a photograph of the remarks. I thought they were worth sharing.

Jordan Kerr

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy...

School is about two weeks in and I'm swamped! The work hit me like a tidal wave and as such I haven't had time to post here. I do post on Monday's on Christoper Moore's History News. I have a few ideas for posts here just not the time to realize them!

I hope everyone's settling into Autumn nicely!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Justin Trudeau Eulogy of P.E. Trudeau...

This still gets to me when I watch it. Perhaps from this it can be gleaned that Justin has more of a political future than what many have assumed.

random uni student

New post...

'Queering Ottawa's History' at Christopher Moore's History News

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Curing Gays Isn't Charity..."

With my various posts on Tommy Douglas and queer history you'd be correct to assume that I sit somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum. However, I don't want to make this blog too directly political, aside from the occasional comment on less sensitive issues. So, I won't comment on these two links from (what I believe is) a leading Canadian LGBT blog, "Slap Upside the Head". and you let take from them what you will.

"Curing" Gays Isn't Charity
Slap Into Action: "Curing" Gays Isn't Charity

The blog was found via this post from Hill Queeries, the political blog from the LGBT newspaper Xtra!

random uni student

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

National Post on Tommy Douglas and...Jack Bauer?...worst article ever!

In connection to my last post, I happened to glance at the National Post today in a corner store and noticed there was an article on the soon-to-be unveiled Tommy Douglas statue. When I got home I looked up the paper online (because...really, who actually buys the paper anymore?) and found a candidate for the worst newspaper article of the year! On the front page of the Post (yes, you read that right, the front page) with two huge pictures of Tommy Douglas and Keifer Sutherland is a critique of current political issues from the perspective of....wait for it...Jack Bauer, the fictional Fox TV character of "24". Sure, I can see doing an article on what Keifer thinks about the issues, showing the evolution of the family and differences time has made but honestly, what the hell does Jack Bauer have to do with the perspectives of Tommy Douglas or current Canadian political issues for that matter!

Sure, the article is cheeky and I'm not saying it doesn't have a place in the paper or is useless but honestly, does it really deserve to be front page news and be the only article on the Douglas statue? Seems demeaning to me...but maybe it's supposed to the National Post is a rather conservative paper. I still would have expected more respect even from a conservative paper. Hopefully they'll have a more tasteful article on Friday on the unveiling...but I'm going to assume we can read about it on page c-12.

I know it's only a comment article and not a news article...but it's still useless and rather inappropriate. In the Post's weak defense I will note that they do mention Douglas as a "Canadian political icon".

Be annoyed!

random uni student

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tommy Douglas statue...Tommy says nay!

So, CBC tells me (thanks to my partner for passing on the Tweet!) that a statue of Tommy Douglas will be unveiled in Weyburn Sask. (what can be considered his home town and his constituency as Premier) by his grandson Keifer Sutherland, best known for his role in Fox TV's series '24'. It seems that acting runs in the family as he's the son of Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland and Tommy himself was an actor in his early years I believe).

I love the idea of a Douglas statue but, while it's placement in Weyburn is fitting and appropriate, as a central Canadian federalist I'd prefer it on Parliament Hill! But, I don't think Tommy would be too wild about the statue and as soon as I find my source I can tell you why! ( have left the book in a friends car).

Going on without my source, my feeling is that Tommy would have thought of himself as part of a movement, not the head of a party. His work was that of the movement and not, necessarily, for political or personal gain. To him, I believe, the movement, the ideals and the successes should be recognized, not the leaders. But, that's just my feeling.

More to come!

random uni student

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest blogging...

Hi Everyone,

For the upcoming school year I've been accepted as a guest blogger at Christopher Moore's History News. I'll try to keep posting regularly at his blog and my own.


Jordan Kerr

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ontario History Textbooks

Came across this historical survey of Ontario history textbooks in the 20th century at by Larry A. Glassford of the University of Windsor:

Citizenship Literacy and National Self-identity: The Historical Impact of Curriculum and Textbooks in Shaping the Character of Ontario 

A quick search revealed that Glassford has written several items on Ontario education history.

It's a fairly compact article and draws conclusions about the power of schools for political socialization. I enjoyed it but couldn't help but thinking, 'my god, it was boring enough reading these textbooks in public school and high school, how did this man survive reading through them all and writing about them without reverting to some sort of bored and resentful adolescent state?'

For those of you who went to Ontario elementary or high school I'm sure the narratives for the mid and late 20th century texts will sound painfully familiar and dredge up memories of awful boredom as you force-read passages from these texts whilst sitting in blandly painted classrooms...enjoy!

random uni student

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ash cloud and dry conditions reveals ancient crop marks in the UK....neat

Neat, the recent ash could that grounded planes across the globe and dry summer conditions in Britain coincided and have revealed unknown ancient archaeological sites in the UK via aerial reconnaissance...see the links below...


random uni student

Great blog post from Andrew Smith..."How the Iraq War Weakened the USA: Lessons for Canada"

Check out this recent article in Andrew Smith's blog. Though it seems a but shallow in places, which I believe is just due to the nature of blogs, it's an excellent article that makes some very poignant connections. Something to muse on.

random uni student

Technology killed the history star? cont.

In connection to an earlier post, here's a blog post from a British rail way historian I found that provides more anecdotal info on the subject of the affects of technology on historical research.


random uni student

Googling the Future

There is a plethora of debate and writing on Google but here's a few sources that deal with Google in its modern and possible future impacts and contexts...

An interesting article on Google and its future impacts from the NY Times by William Gibson, the author of the forthcoming novel “Zero History.”. Too much info and quotations there for me to not write a 3 page blog post so I'll just post the article and welcome any discussion via the Comments on specific points.

Here's another good article on Google in relation to the above by Daniel J. Solove in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The later article is from a larger collection of articles from various experts and disciplines from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled,

"What's the Big Idea? For the 10th-anniversary issue of The Chronicle Review, we asked scholars and illustrators to answer this question: What will be the defining idea of the coming decade, and why?"


random uni student