Spring / printemps 2020

Sputnik’s Children: History of the Major Work Program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Schools, 1954–1972

Reesa Sorin
Independent Scholar
Published April 1, 2020
  • Cold War;,
  • gifted education,
  • Major Work,
  • special education,
  • Sputnik,
  • Winnipeg education
  • ...More
How to Cite
Sorin, Reesa. 2020. “Sputnik’s Children: History of the Major Work Program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Schools, 1954–1972”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 32 (1). https://doi.org/10.32316/hse-rhe.v32i1.4671.


Set in the context of the Cold War, the space race, and the 1957 Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite, interest in gifted education, which had waned in the years leading up to the Second World War, was once again reignited in Canadian education. North America looked to its human capital, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science, and engineering to keep up with the Soviets. Departments of education in Canada and the United States prioritized the identification and nurturing of the “best and brightest” students for the sake of the nation. The Major Work program in Winnipeg, which began in 1954 and ended rather abruptly in 1972, seventeen years before the end of the Cold War, was one of many gifted programs introduced in Canada and the United States in an attempt to address the supposed innovation gap with the Soviet Union. This article looks at the rise of Winnipeg’s Major Work program in the 1950s, when society-centred rhetoric replaced earlier child-centred rhetoric and then itself was overridden by the 1970s social, economic, and political reforms, which again tended towards child-centred, integrated education.