Home: Creating a Contrapuntal Canadian Identity Through the Institution of Education

 

firstnations

We have been tasked as a group to present some research strategies on how to better the future of Canadian Literature and what that might look like. William Wordsworth once said “To begin, begin,” and as a group we have decided that the best place  to start is indeed at the beginning. The beginning of the Canadian educational path is the curriculum  Canadian youth are taught in elementary and upper school levels. We were all struck by the video “What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom.” One student mentions that the classroom atmosphere is once of ignorance. She suggests that the exclusion of Aboriginal perspectives in the education system is driven by the assumption that Aboriginal people are absent, or “aren’t here,” this is reminiscent of the vanishing Indian theory in Susanna Moodie’s work and King’s Green Grass Running Water. One of the most influential parts of Canadian history is the trauma inflicted by the residential school system which has further problematized education for Aboriginal people. Early proponents of residential schools believed they would be the “most efficacious educational instrument” for assimilation as well as functioning as a “valuable tool of social control” (Ward). And certainly, as James G. Gibb writes in The Archaeology of Institutional Life, “institutions permeate our lives, and their actions — and inaction — ramify for generations.”

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It is time to transform the way in which we educate Canadian youth so that First Nations cultures are recognized as foundational, integral, to the national identity.

Our intervention will seek to render unseen Aboriginal portion of Canadian history, and Canadian contemporary life, visible. Our intervention will seek to give unheard Aboriginal voices a contrapuntal role in Canadian education. An intervention in Canadian education must start at the elementary level to ensure that Canadian children come to understand First Nations people as living, breathing cultures, integral to the identity of Canada as a nation. Rather than sequestering Aboriginal education into one unit of history class and focusing on colonization conventions, First Nations voices and traditions should co-exist with Euro-Canadian voices within the curriculum to ensure that the future of Canadian identity be strengthened through a climate of understanding. What we teach our children about First Nations’ culture is foundational to how they will perceive First Nations’ culture as adults.

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With this blog, we intend to create a dialogue surrounding the quality and impact of the current education of Canadian youth (Ages 6-18) in the topics of First Nations, Aboriginal, and Native American culture and history. We will examine ways in which First Nations history can be taught to Canadian youth without jeopardizing the First Nations narrative. We hope to find an educational intermingling of First Nations traditions such as oral literature with current academic syllabuses. Through our dialogue we hope to discover a route for moving towards an education system that fosters the visibility and orality of First Nations people.

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Works Cited

Crey, Karrmen and Amy Perrault. “What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom.” The First Nations Studies Program, UBC. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

Ward, Kevin James. “To Break Residential Schools’ Dark Legacy, Understand Why.” The Tyee, 18 Sep. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

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