CBC Digital Archives

It's Debatable: Why teach history?

Drugs, student power, non-conformity, problems in education - adults can talk about these subjects all they want, but it's the students who really know the score. This was the premise behind It's Debatable, a CBC Radio program that ran on Friday evenings during the socially turbulent years of 1967 to 1969. Recorded in high school auditoriums, the panel would typically consist of two teenage students (usually a girl and a boy) and an adult expert in the topic at hand. Walter Pitman hosted during the spring of 1967, but the host from September 1967 onward was the witty and provocative Elwy Yost.

Why teach history? In this 1967 episode of It's Debatable, two students from Toronto's Western Collegiate, a teacher and a Globe and Mail columnist discuss this complicated question. "(History) endeavours to give some perspective," explains Roy King, history teacher and principal of C.B. Parsons Secondary School. But the students feel it's not always useful. King agrees history class isn't always as relevant as it could be, but blames poor teaching, not the subject itself. "A good deal of history is taught badly," he admits.
• The usefulness of learning history has often been debated, with advocates believing history is the best way to understand the present, and detractors doubting the discipline's value. American historian and author David McCullough once said, "History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are." On the other hand, writer Kurt Vonnegut has said, "History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again."
Medium: Radio
Program: It's Debatable
Broadcast Date: April 7, 1967
Guest(s): Roy King, Peter Patersall, Jean Walker, Barrie Zwicker
Moderator: Walter Pitman
Duration: 28:34
Photo: Eldridge Stanton/Library and Archives Canada/PA-034028

Last updated: January 26, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

A Lost Heritage: Residential Schools extra cl...

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

Fighting Words: Bill 101

On March 31, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Quebec's language law but ruled that the...

A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

1990: Graduation for Canada's oldest universi...

University of Toronto bestows 100-year-old Selma Plaut with an honorary degree.

Religion in the Classroom

Canada has struggled with the role of religion in public schools throughout the past half-cent...

An Inuit Education: Honouring a Past, Creatin...

While Inuit parents were being moved from igloos to houses in the 1950s, their children were b...