leads inexorably to our democratic (and tolerant, diverse, respectful and pluralistic, in the words of the Quebec guidelines) present.
Regardless of the organizational structure of civics curriculum, there are three notable characteristics of curricular aims and procedures. First, almost all curricular guidelines characterize civic knowledge as primarily procedural and legislative in content. The Alberta guidelines serve as one example among many: “Responsible citizenship requires an understanding of the structure and function of government ... the rights and duties of citizenship in a changing Canadian society,” including an understanding of parliamentary democracy, the levels and functions of government, and the constitution.lxxv Another common assumption in provincial models of civic education is that civic literacy progresses linearly, from civic knowledge to civic engagement. That is, only once students have mastered this detailed procedural information are they ready to take on more active forms of civic life.
Second, every provincial and territorial curriculum guideline suggests that civics courses should teach knowledge of fundamental Canadian civic virtues. They suggest that educators provide current and relevant examples of ideal civic qualities and then allow students to discuss other ways of manifesting these values. Commonly accepted Canadian values listed in provincial guideline documents include the following: tolerance of diverse political communities, pluralistic backgrounds and profiles according to culture, religion, gender, socio-economic status and former nationality;lxxvi pride in Canada’s tradition of inclusion and justice,lxxvii environmental sustainability, gender equity, multiculturalism and anti-racism; respect for Aboriginal culture;lxxviii understanding of the “value of equal opportunities for people regardless of race, culture and creed”;lxxix acceptance of global interdependence;lxxx and “moral attitudes of openness to the world, tolerance, respect for cultural differences, and intellectual values” such as a belief in the importance of a “systematic approach to work, a critical spirit concerning social phenomena and a search for truth.”lxxxi The foundation of civics courses is built upon those values that Canadians identify as representing the best qualities of the national culture.
Third, ministry documents suggest comparable pedagogical approaches to further develop and deepen student knowledge and commitment to the democratic process. Most of these fall under the rubric of developing skills in communication, collaborative problem-solving and decision-making. Strategies include debate, brainstorming, role-play and other small-group interactions and simulations. For example, the curriculum guideline for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut suggests that students hold an in-class election or choose a class mascot: “Begin with a campaign, and take the students right through the voting procedures to the posting and celebration of results.”lxxxii The Ontario guideline for the compulsory Civics course suggests that students “describe the changing nature of Canadian citizenship rights and responsibilities based on an examination of provincial legislation, the Bill of Rights (1960), and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982).” This would give students the opportunity to examine “democratic notions of fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights, language rights, and Aboriginal rights.”lxxxiii
Only occasionally do guideline documents suggest that students should follow a controversial civic issue that is fundamental to the democratic process. For example, the New Brunswick curriculum guideline suggests that students react orally or in writing to the following statements:
a)Interest groups are dangerous to democracy since well organized minorities are able to influence governments.