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What Lessons Can Canada Learn?

What are the two most valuable lessons from cultural isolation during the Edo period and rapid adaptation during the Meiji period for current Canadian policy makers on foreign and domestic issues?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this possible culminating challenge, students consider the implications of cultural isolation during the Edo period and rapid adaptation during the Meiji period by identifying the two most important lessons for Canadian policy makers.

Discuss life lessons
Display a copy of the poem "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum (see References). Read the poem aloud and ask students about the key lessons suggested by the poet. Invite students to recall the valuable lessons they learned from earlier experiences in their own lives. Ask students to write their answers quickly before sharing their ideas with the class. Encourage students to describe the events, to consider the positive and negative outcomes and to share the valuable lessons they learned.

Prepare a What?, So What? and Now What? chart
Suggest that much can be learned from examining the past. Indicate that the experiences of the Japanese during the Edo and the Meiji periods offer many lessons for other countries, including Canada, as they set domestic and foreign policies.

Post a large chart with the headings What?, So What? and Now What? across the top of the chart. In the left column, write headings for rows for the Edo period and for the Meiji period.

As a class, recall and record key events, changes or policies in the What? column for each period. Encourage students to draw on background knowledge gained in previous critical challenges.

To identify implications for the So What? column, ask students to consider the positive and negative implications for each event, change or policy listed in the What? column. Students may consider these factors:

  • the political, economic, social and cultural well-being of Japan and its people
  • influences on the worldview; e.g., remaining isolated and reinforcing traditional patterns and values; being open to others and rapidly adapting to change.

To generate lessons to record in the Now What? column, direct students to brainstorm possible lessons that other countries might learn from the Japanese experiences; e.g., whether we like it or not, it may be impossible to keep the outside world from influencing internal conditions; rapid change can cause its own set of problems. Encourage students to look for patterns within and across events. You may wish to work through a few examples for each time period before assigning groups of students to complete a chart for one or for both periods.

Identify and research current issues in Canada
Present students with specific issues in Canadian domestic or foreign policy or invite them to identify their own issues. Look for issues that might be informed by the Japanese experiences. For example, are there lessons to be drawn from the plight of the Ainu that might inform our use of the Indian Act to regulate Aboriginal peoples in Canada? Many other challenges face Canada: shortage of fresh water, global warming, free trade, outsourcing of production and services, Aboriginal self-government, Internet-based marketing and sales, large scale immigration and terrorism. Encourage students to conduct background research on their chosen issues.

Identify the most valuable lessons for Canadians
Invite students to identify, individually, two of the lessons from the Japanese experience that are most valuable for Canada's decision makers in shaping policies on the identified issues. To assist students in selecting valuable lessons to apply to Canada, discuss the following criteria:

  • The historical success or failure in the Japanese context helps us understand or confirm the nature of our current difficulty.
  • Acting on the lesson would have positive implications for the political, economic, social and cultural well-being of Canadians.

Ask students to justify their choice of the two most important lessons using these two criteria.

You may want to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to help students defend their conclusions.

Extension: Write a letter to your MP recommending a policy
Ask students to write a letter to their Member of Parliament recommending the desired policy stance that Canada should adopt if it is to learn from the Japanese experience.

Extension: Sharing lessons from the past
Invite students to volunteer their time to inform others, e.g., students, parents, community organizations, about how the lessons learned from the past, such as the plight of the Ainu, may be valuable for Canadians in addressing contemporary issues; i.e., Aboriginal self-government.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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