An Ontario High School is Using Gord Downie’s Lyrics to Teach Canadian History

One of the many things that endeared the Tragically Hip to this country was that the group was unabashedly, unreservedly, proudly Canadian. No other rock band was able to namecheck Canadian people, places, events and ideals better than the Hip. And they did it without sounding cheesy, nationalistic or jingoistic.

During the outpouring of affection we saw with the band’s final tour, I predicted that it was just a matter of time before someone used various aspects of Hipology (i.e. a good word for the study of the scholarly aspects of the Tragically Hip) as teaching aids in all levels of education.

Why not use Gord’s lyrics to enlighten young skulls full of mush with stories of everything from the residential schools debacle to the fate of Bill Barilko to the injustices endured by David Milgaard and all the other important pieces of Canadiana that appear in Hip music?

That time is now, apparently.

Some teachers at Sutton District High School outside of Toronto have been using Gord’s lyrics and the Hip’s music to teach Canadian history to grade nine students. The classes also talk about Gord’s Secret Path project, the story of Chaney Wenjack and the need for reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations.

The trial has been so successful that teachers are now working on a module for grade 12 students. Steve Langhorst, one of the teachers, says they’re using a “BREAKOUT EDU” about the band. (I don’t know exactly what that means, but if you’re a teacher, you probably do and that’s all that matters.)

Here’s hoping that other teachers follow this example.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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