Biennial education conference tackles key issues in schools

The 16th biennial conference of the Canadian History of Education Association (CHEA) will look at “Education in Tough Times: Tough Times in Education” with some 90 presentations by scholars from across Canada and countries including Mexico, the United States, Chile, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany.

The conference, hosted by York’s Faculty of Education, will take place Oct. 21 to 24 at the Novotel Hotel, 3 Park Home Ave. (near Yonge and Sheppard) in Toronto.

Topics will touch on all aspects of education from early childhood, children and youth with disabilities, racism, sex and social segregation, and the sixties revolution, through to education and media in rural Canada, Aboriginal experiences, and teaching, learning and schooling in the Second World War.

“This is a particularly large conference this year,” says York education Professor Paul Axelrod (right), co-coordinator of the conference. “It draws people from a variety of disciplines – history, education, sociology and psychology.”

One presentation will look at commercialism in schools – what adjunct history Professor Catherine Gidney of St. Thomas University in British Columbia calls “The Cola Wars: Commercialism in Canadian Schools” –  while Kristin Hall (left) of the University of Waterloo will talk about “How to Stay Married: Marital Education for Women in the Canadian Home Journal, 1955-1958”.

Other presentations will reach back into history to shine a light on particular areas. University of Western Ontario education Professor Rebecca Coulter (right), will present “Commies at the Chalkboard: National Security, Teachers, and the Long Red Scare”. York history PhD candidate Jason Ellis (MA ’05) will discuss “Early Inclusion of Children with Disabilities and Learning Difficulties in North American Public Schools, 1890-1920” and York University archeologist and historian Karolyn Smardz-Frost (left) will talk about “Schoolyard Archaeology: Digging for Toronto’s African Canadian Heritage”.

“We developed our theme in the midst of the economic meltdown last year,” says Axelrod, “and invited contributors to reflect on how schools, colleges and universities coped with and confronted challenges in the past. The conference should provide a good foundation for reflecting on current educational challenges.”

In addition, a photo exhibit with short essays by education historians, “Picture in a Thousand Words”, will explore the use of visual sources in education.

The CHEA was founded in Calgary in 1980 to promote the study of the educational past in Canada. Its members come from a variety of fields and examine educational practices in both formal and informal settings through many disciplinary perspectives.

For more details, including registration information and a list of presentations, visit the Canadian History of Education Association website or e-mail