Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's a Historian to do

We're working on a new website for Canada's History and I've spent the afternoon working on our New Research section. Academic research - understanding it, writing it, finding it - needs to be a part of high school history classes. It' s just not acceptable that young students should graduate from high school with no real sense of what historians do at the academic level.

But here in lies my frustration. I've been reading the Canadian Historical Review and a great article about Gender and Class in early Montreal by historian Elise Chenier. It's a really interesting piece that I think would be even more interesting given the emphasis on volunteering for high school students. It examines how young elite women moved from debutant balls and high society to more engagement in "volunteering" as economic times deteriorated.

Of course, I've been reading it through my account as a former student at the University of Western Ontario. I also am on campus at the University of Winnipeg so I could read it here in the library. But for the average high school teacher, where are you supposed to go to download a copy of this article. Worst of all, the University of Toronto Press charges $13 to get a PDF of the article. An annual subscription only costs $60 and it is just not reasonable to expect the general public to pay at that level for individual articles.

It's a frustrating experience for those who believe that academic history had an important place in high schools, in particular challenging students and encouraging them to study history at the university level. What's a historian or teacher to do?