Chinese Canadians: The Wong Kung Lai and Chu Man Ming Family
Concept(s) Cause and Consequence
Prepared for Grade(s) 5, 11, 12
By Christina Lanteigne, Tom Morton
Time Period(s) 1800-1900, 1900-present
Time allotment Two classes
Brief Description of the Task
Using the photo and text of the Wong Kung Lai and Chu Man Ming family as a starting point, students will study the various conditions that lead to change in history. Their final task is a counterfactual, such as "what would have happened to the history of Chinese-Canadians, if there had not been World War II?"
Required Knowledge & Skills
Although students could complete the required task based on the handouts, the more background knowledge they have of 20th century history, the easier it will be for them to think historically.
CBC Archives. A Tale of Perseverance: Chinese Immigration to Canada, consulted Dec. 2, 2007.
Cranny, M. and Moles, G. Counterpoints. Toronto: Pearson Education, 2001, pp. 10-11.
Library and Archives Canada.
Moving Here, Staying Here
Yee, Paul. Saltwater City, 4th edition. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2006.
Part 1 - Causes
1. If students are unfamiliar with the Benchmarks concept of causation described above, begin with some analogy or story to build on their own experiences. For example, the teacher could ask students who or what influenced their report card grades. Have them consider all the factors or conditions, all the people that might have helped or hurt their grades.
Of course, the student is responsible, but probe them for a wider list: family, friends, teachers, circumstances. Continue to probe them to consider social forces or conditions: if they were in a different country or a different historical period, their parents may have had to insist that they work instead of attend school. Thus, the economy and family welfare are factors. The Ministry of Education could change its policy and introduce new exams or, more radically, the federal government could declare war and recruit students into military service. Thus, politics could be a factor.
Group some of these on the board into three categories of individuals, groups and social conditions/forces. Explain that when looking for the causes of historical events, historians consider the same kinds of factors. Human beings make history, just as the students make the report card grades. We are responsible for our actions. However, we act inside certain conditions with various influencing factors. It is the same in history. People influence events, but they in turn are constantly influenced by social forces, by other groups, by geography and by history.
Ask the essential questions: "Who or what makes history? Do we control our fate or are we controlled by larger forces?"
2. Introduce the photograph of the Wong Kung Lai and Chu Man Ming family and ask students what kind of a photograph it is (a family photograph). Ask them to explain the clues that tell them that (body position, clothing, the different generations). Next, ask how it differs from a family photograph of today (multiple generations, the presence of three family members in uniform).
Identify the date (1942). This photo was taken during World War II, when most families had sons in the military. Today, though we have service members fighting in Afghanistan, Canada's armed forces are very small. Ask students to read the text on the side. Ask what other changes have taken place since that time (note especially the position of Chinese Canadians in society).
3. Explain to students that they will be studying some significant events in the history of Chinese Canadians and looking at the various causes of those events much as the class looked at the causes of their school marks.
4. Distribute handout 1.1 Wong Kung • Timeline, the chronology of important events in the history of Chinese Canadians, and ask students to identify the most significant events or trends. Reach a class consensus on one or two.
To save time, the teacher could direct students to consider certain events. The most background information is given for the achievement of suffrage for Asian Canadians and the change in immigration policy, although you may wish to consider other events or trends.
5. Introduce Handout 1.2, Cause and Consequence. Explain how to fill out the worksheet and have students complete it individually or as a group. Discuss as a class.
Bring the discussion back to the photograph: To what extent did the Wong Kung Lai and Chu Man Ming family influence events?
6. Depending on time and purpose, give students an opportunity with one or two more events or trends.
7. To test their understanding, ask students to write and answer to a "counterfactual" question such as "if World War Two had not happened, would Asian Canadians have achieved full civil rights?"
Counterfactual history is a thought experiment that alters a past event and examines its effect on later history to gain insight into causes and consequences. It also has the benefit of encouraging students to see the contingency of history, that the course of history was not inevitable.
Although common in historical arguments, there are few guidelines or rubrics for public school history teachers. Criteria could be plausibility (is the answer supported by a realistic consideration of the factors), comprehensiveness (are all important factors, groups and individuals considered), and accuracy.
Part 2 - The Moral Dimension
8. Ask students if they have ever done anything bad to someone or maybe someone really helped you out and felt you owed them something. Do they ever owe a debt to someone? Could a debt ever pass down from one generation to another, from your ancestors? Could a group or a government owe a debt to someone in the past?
9. Choose essential questions from among the following: "What debt, if any, do Canadians like you and me owe to those who were the victims of injustice in the past? What was the government thinking when it discriminated against Chinese Canadians? How should the government respond to demands for redress for the Head Tax or the Chinese Exclusion Act?" Introduce all of these or one or two to the class.
10. If the teacher wishes to focus on redress for the Head Tax, refer students to pp. 10 and 11 of Counterpoints.
11. Distribute the worksheet The Moral Dimension. Guide students to complete it. Students may not have enough background knowledge to understand the perspective or moral universe of White Canadians at the time. To help them move beyond a simple answer that they were racist, the teacher may need to draw attention to conditions like economic uncertainty and social competition at the time.
12. An optional step in this lesson would be to use the co-operative learning structure Corners to help students explore further how we might respond to discrimination of the past. For Corners students are given four choices. In the case of how ordinary Canadians should respond, the four choices could be as follows:
a. we are obliged to keep alive the memory of race based discrimination and fight against all forms of racism today;
b. we can learn lessons from this discrimination, perhaps about the dangers of racism, about perseverance or the importance of political action to achieve change in order to build a better future;
c. these events happened a long time ago and have little relevance to us today in modern Canada; history is not something you can change; past injustice is not a wound that can be healed;
d. the discrimination in the past can help us understand today, for example, how social pressure and economic uncertainty can lead ordinary people to discriminate against minority groups or the importance of speaking out against racism, but we need to consider how modern Canada is different. For example, we are not in an economic depression and racism is generally unacceptable.
Place a sign with each of these choices or corresponding letters in a different corner of the room. Have students choose one of these options and move to the corresponding corner, and team with a partner to share their reasons and then share these with the class. An additional valuable twist is to ask some students to paraphrase what is said.
A similar corners exercise could be done for the form of response to discrimination such as the Head Tax: financial compensation to victims; monuments or a memorial day; increased programs to aid immigrant groups and fight racism; or regret, but no concrete actions for reasons like c above.
13. Ask students to develop their answer to the final question on the worksheet into a paragraph answer or a letter to the Prime Minister either supporting or criticizing the government's decision in 2006 to apologize for and offer compensation for the Head Tax.
Alternatively, ask students to write a letter on another example of past injustice that has yet to be resolved, such as the Komagata Maru or internment of Ukrainian Canadians in World War One.
Concepts in Historical Thinking:
Cause and Consequence
You should expect students to be able to:
– demonstrate that human beings cause historical change, but they do so in contexts that impose limits on change. Constraints come from the natural environment, geography, historical legacies as well as other people who want other things. Human actors (agents) are thus in a perpetual interplay with conditions, many of which (e.g., political and economic systems) are the legacies of earlier human actions;
– identify the interplay of intentional human action, and constraints on human actions in causing change;
– construct counterfactuals (e.g., if there had never been World War II, would Asian Canadians have achieved equal civil rights?)
The Moral Dimension
You should expect students to be able to make judgments about actions of people in the past, recognizing the historical context in which they were operating.
B.C. Prescribed Learning Outcomes:
You should expect students to be able to:
– assess why immigrants came to Canada, the individual challenges they faced, and their contributions to Canada;
– describe the contributions of significant individuals to the development of Canada's identity.
– describe the factors that contributed to a changing national identity from 1815 to 1914.
– assess Canada's role in World War II and the war's impact on Canada;
– assess the development and impact of Canadian social policies and programs related to immigration, the welfare state and minority rights.
For all grades:
– apply critical thinking, including questioning, comparing, summarizing, drawing conclusions and defending a position, to make reasoned judgments about a range of issues, situations and topics.