2021 in blue, on a yellow background. A wrinkled number zero is floating away.

How the lessons of history should inform our future readiness

We are so fortunate at MacLachlan to have teachers who genuinely understand and fuel our passion to re-imagine possibilities and ensure that every student we encounter is prepared to address the future in a state of readiness.

There are many wonderful examples of initiatives at MAC and it’s difficult to single one out. However, one stands out for me right now as we reflect on a globally historic year. Before the holidays our grade 10 history teacher Samantha Campbell, messaged MAC staff asking them to share any stories from their past of important historical events. Sam was looking to inform a new history project she is planning for her students return in 2021.

Sometimes we wonder if history really does have application to how we approach the future. As any educator knows, storytelling not only entertains, it educates and preserves cultural and moral values. Books are full of examples of where we actually fail to learn from history and there is the reality that it’s hard to think of the time we are now living in is actually future history!

This particular history project revolves around students interviewing people who experienced historical events in the last 50 years or so. Through this, students will work to develop an understanding of the impact of history on everyday life and how perspectives may change over time. They will conclude the study with a comparison to 2021 – how we view it now and how we might view it in the future.

It’s also fascinating to hear from some of the people whom the Grade 10s may interview about what stands out in their memories.

Some reflected on the Mississauga train derailment on November 10, 1979 when a freight train carrying chemicals and explosives derailed near Mavis Road and Dundas Street West. More than 200,000 people were evacuated including my family. My father bundled us all into the camper van and headed off down the QEW toward Niagara. I still have a cookbook containing a recipe for The Mississauga Evacuation Special which was a delectable combination of hamburger, onion, ketchup and Libby’s canned spaghetti!

USA - Canada flag pin on lapel

And, of course, there is the lasting memory that we all have about 9/11.

My mother recalled the École Polytechnique massacre when 14 women lost their lives at the hands of Marc Lepine. “When we learned of the event, we planned a special remembrance at the school. Paul Kerry, who was teaching social sciences at the time, was the organizer. He asked me for a suggestion of music which was Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. I was not at the school for the remembrance as I was on my way to Montreal to meet Lisa who was living in Montreal at the time. She and I stood on the crowded sidewalk opposite the church right beside the fourteen waiting hearses. It was a cold, dismal December day and the images are seared into my memory.”

Being reminded of this massacre reminded me of that time also, witnessing the arrival of fourteen white hearses and white coffins being carried into the church.

Still others recalled Y2K when MAC hired a consultant to protect our computer data and we installed a generator in case the electrical systems all went down. As it turned out that was much ado about nothing.

On the more positive front we have memories of how Canadians played an enormous role in the liberation of hostages held in Iran and when Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison before leading the end of apartheid in South Africa.

It’s interesting as well how we tend to remember most readily the tragic events that occur. It is probably testament to Dr. Rick Hanson’s theory that “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”

It will be fascinating to learn the outcomes of how the students interpret past events and study their relevance to the realities of 2021. At the same time, we can all reflect on the indomitable spirit of humans and our ability to move forward as future-ready humans.

Finally, now that we’re into a new year you, like me, may be considering your resolutions for 2021. One definition of resolution, beyond a firm commitment to act, is the quality of being determined or resolute. At MAC, our entire private school community is resolute in our determination to be mindful of the many lessons learned during this pandemic. We will continue to adapt, pivot as necessary and fulfill our mission to cultivate intellectual curiosity in our students and inspire them to be active contributors to our ever changing world.

Let’s move on with confidence and strength. Happy New Year!

Author: MacLachlan College

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