Passage #1

“Marshall later claimed that his earliest memory, dating from this [1913] time, was a view of the Peace River in Edmonton, seen from a streetcar on a bank overlooking the river. According to this memory, he saw horses in the distance and was profoundly impressed that they appeared small enough to fit into his nursery.”

I was interested in this passage because it shows that even from a young age (two years old), Marshall McLuhan was constantly analyzing the world. His first ever memory is of his analysis of a horse’s size. This might seem a somewhat unremarkable first-memory, but it’s intriguing that a two-year-old would have the thought of how the size of an object relates to another size of an object, even more so that the two-year-old would find it impressive.

This passage reveals something different about Canada. I found that it showed a lot about how Canadian cities connect with nature. The passage says how, from Edmonton, a rapidly expanding city at the time, Marshall overlooked the Peace River and found horses on the banks. I can see how Canadian cities are connected with nature, especially living in Vancouver, where even the most urban areas are flooded with parks and greenery. I feel that keeping cities harmonious with the nature around them is a Canadian value that relates to our love of the environment and the outdoors.


Passage #2

“McLuhan embarked on a five-year honors course that was intended to ‘lay a broad foundation’ for the students and that included physical sciences and foreign languages as compulsory subjects.”

I found this passage interesting because of how similar the University of Manitoba’s course of 1928 seemed to the current high school courses in grade 9 and 10. I found parallels in how both educational systems wanted all of their students to have a platform or foundation of all important subjects from which students could learn in-depth.

This passage shows how Canadian school systems have almost always kept to giving their students a foundation level of education on all important subjects. This passage shows that this foundation system has only barely changed over almost a hundred years because of its effectivity. However, the system has been pushed from the university level to high school level, which shows that Canada is committed to strengthened and innovative education wherever possible.


Passage #3

“For all this [mental] agility he was not, initially, a good student. He certainly did not remember his teachers fondly’ later in life he stated flatly that he had ‘never had a teacher who made me the slightest bit interested in anything I was studying.’ He actually failed grade six […]”

I found this passage intriguing because of the parallels I find within Marshall McLuhan’s early school life and my early school life: we both were completely disinterested in our earlier grades of school. For me, it all changed when I went into the MACC program and gained access to an educational system which I found challenging and interesting. However, McLuhan, one of Canada’s most celebrated intellectuals, never had any access to gifted learning programs, and therefore never enjoyed, and rarely did well in school until his later university years. I find it staggering to see how much Canadian school systems have changed to allow better education for all learning type students.

I think that this passage provides an insight into how early 20th-century education systems in Canada and around the world were not accepting of different learning styles. It seems strange that a country known for its accepting nature would only accept one educational program for one type of learner, and I would imagine that it would be difficult for some learners, like McLuhan, to keep up with the ‘standard’ type learners. Nowadays, we can see multiple different types of educational systems, made for most if not all types of learners, which leads to higher rates of success in school, so it is interesting to see how Canada was not accepting of different learning styles less than a hundred years ago.


Passage #4

“McLuhan felt that his upbringing on the prairies provided him with a kind of natural ‘counterenvironment’ to the great centers of civilization. He felt he had the advantage that any bright outsider brings with him from the boondocks when he comes to the big city: a freshness of outlook that often enables him to see overall patterns missed by the inhabitants who have been molded by those patterns. It was the advantage that he felt accrued to Canadians in general vis-à-vis the United States or Europe.”

This passage resonated with me because, not being from the prairies or from a developing Canadian city in the early 20th century, I have also experienced this fresh outlook on not only patterns but ways of life in different countries or cities. I feel like being from a place that has only one distinct pattern of life can lead to a feeling of confusion or misunderstanding when looking at another’s way of life.

This passage directly states how the freshness of outlook on other people’s life patterns is an advantage “accrued to Canadians in general”. This is because Canadians spend life in Canada not only around one ‘way of life’ or life pattern, but around many due to multiculturalism. This witnessing and sometimes participation in more than one way of life leads to most Canadians being open to other countries’ or ‘centers of civilizations’’ life patterns.


Passage #5

“McLuhan lived in an age advantageous to children. It was an age in which, as one of his contemporaries remarks, “we weren’t organized within an inch of our lives, and we were allowed to laze around and watch the clouds.’”

This seemed like a strange passage to me because my entire childhood was crowded with after-school activities, classes and lessons. I remember having little spare time, and never having time to ‘laze around and watch the clouds.’ One of the biggest things that has changed over time is not how adults live, but how children live. Over the centuries, adults would standardly keep a routine similar to the last generations’. However, children’s lives change from period to period. Once upon a time, children had to work with their parents and multitudes of siblings to gather enough food to survive the winter. There were periods throughout history of ‘lazing around’ that Marshall McLuhan got lucky to enjoy during his childhood. Now, in our hypercompetitive world, children have organized schedules during and after school of intense lessons and activities to ‘ensure’ a successful position in their adulthood. This drive to secure a position in the routine that the adults of the world have always followed and the world conditions changing is what makes the children’s lives different. If they need to farm to be a ‘successful’ adult in the future, they will farm. If they need to study, then they will study. If they need to do nothing, then they will do nothing.

I feel like this idea of doing whatever it takes to make children successful in the future is a Canadian trait. All the education systems that I have encountered go above and beyond to ensure that the children enrolled in their programs have a successful adult life.