Opening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity

“…Sexual [and gender] minority youth are at a much higher risk of experiencing harassment, victimization and physical or sexual violence, both in school and in the community. …Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and young adults are also more likely to commit suicide (PHAC, 2011, pp. i, 2).” (Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity 7)

Why is this considered to be okay? Why do we continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many?

It’s because we don’t want to talk about it. Sex and sexuality are sensitive subjects, but only because we made them that way. They are very personal, which makes them hard to talk about. But it’s more than that – we are taught to avoid it from a young age. It makes people uncomfortable, so we ignore it. But often the things that people need to talk about are going to make someone uncomfortable, and we see their discomfort as more important than the lives of the people this affects. We don’t stop to consider who this is silencing, and the discomfort that they feel in day-to-day life because of our continued silence on this issue.

We often see protests and parades on TV, with adults of a certain community championing for their rights. What we don’t often see or even consider is the child in our class that is struggling with the same sense of hopelessness. They are constantly picked on by their peers. They feel isolated, alone, and scared. They feel like no one could possibly love them. Maybe they decide not to put up with it anymore and take a final action that will end their suffering, an occurrence that is far too common in ostracized communities.

And its our fault.

That little boy or girl is suffering because we didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, when the entirety of their existence was filled with discomfort. Discomfort that was caused by people’s uneducated, scathing, hurtful comments. We don’t want to step on someone’s toes by opening the discussion, even if it may save lives.

This is because we have an innate need to categorize. We like things to be neat and ordered, and as such we put people into boxes to gain some control over both our lives and theirs.

“You’re smart, you’re not. You’re athletic and fit, you’re not.”

This limits people’s potential by telling them “this is who you are, this is what you can do…” and it doesn’t allow anyone to step outside of their assigned box. We simplify issues we struggle with because we refuse to acknowledge that everything is not black and white. Additionally, it allows us to put ourselves in a higher position over others. This makes equality, accepting diversity, and empathy impossible, because we only see what we expect to see. We can’t empathize because we see them as the “other,” and ask ourselves “how could someone so different have anything in common with me?” Forming relationships becomes impossible, because it is impossible to see others outside of how you categorize them, so you cannot be equals.

Now, when looking at the classroom, this makes it impossible for a child’s peers to accept them for who they are, because they are taught from a young age to categorize people. It makes it impossible for you to empathize with that child’s situation because you have already judged them, fairly or not. It makes it impossible for that child to feel loved and accepted. We cannot continue to ignore the effects our society’s views have on our students. As teachers, it is our responsibility to ensure that every child feels safe. To begin to make this a reality, we need to be willing to open discussions both with our co-workers and our students, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. What people need to realize is that even if you don’t agree with or completely understand where someone is coming from, you still need to show them love and respect. That is how relationships are formed and how change is made.

S. (2015). Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1252238/mod_resource/content/3/Deepening%20the%20Discussion.pdf

Walton, G. (n.d.). TV Bullies: How Glee and anti-bullying programs miss the mark. Rethinking Popular Culture and Media,216-222. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1252240/mod_resource/content/1/Glee%20Article.pdf.

Oh, Canada: bridges and barriers to inclusion in Canadian schools – Reflection

Inclusion.png

“Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighbourhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school” (Inclusive Education Canada, n.d.).

While inclusive education is a great ideal and something we should strive for, we are still far from it. Students are still separated from their peers into “special” classes, making them feel isolated. Teachers, unsure of how to teach those who need extra help, simply give them work that is below their grade level so that they don’t need help. Or, they might have a EA for that child, so that the rest of the students aren’t “held back.”

While some of these might be necessary in certain situations, they should not be the norm. Children, regardless of their differences, need to be with others of their own age. Separating them only harms both the child and their peers. The child is not able to develop socially because they have no one to interact with. Their peers aren’t able to learn that even though some people are different, they are still unique individuals that are just as capable of accomplishing anything. Giving them work that is below their grade level or what they are capable of harms their academic development. Additionally, while having an EA may be helpful at times for both the teacher and student, it sets the student apart from their classmates.

However, if we integrate children with various disabilities into the classroom environment with as few restraints as possible, it has actually been proved to include not only their development, but the development of their peers as well. If the child is struggling, other students who do understand the concept can help them to understand it as well. This helps promote positive social interaction, while also improving the academic performance of all children involved. The child receiving the help feels included, which helps them to learn, while also seeing the same concept from multiple perspectives (because everyone explains it slightly differently), maximizing their learning. The children that are helping also benefit, because when you teach a concept to someone else, your own understanding and retention increases dramatically. Furthermore, teachers can differentiate content (what to teach, degree of mastery you want students to have), process (How you teach, physical arrangement, etc.), and product (how students will demonstrate their learning) to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn.

“Despite their general support for inclusion in principle, without adequate resources – including teacher training – teachers are less supportive of inclusion. Mittler (2003) found that the most significant barrier to inclusion is negative attitudes in teachers, parents and administrators.” (49)

We need to move away from these negative attitudes if we want to truly impact the lives of our students. How can we say that we want everyone to learn, but then only agree to teach those who are academically gifted? How can we include some children while excluding those who need us the most? Differences in our students need to be normalized so that children do not feel ostracized and alone. Inclusive education is something the needs to become a priority for all teachers, as it is fundamental to the development of the next generation.

Sokal, L., & Katz, J. (n.d.). Oh, Canada: bridges and barriers to inclusion in Canadian schools. SFL. Inclusive Education in Canada. Retrieved from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1259202/mod_resource/content/1/Oh%20Canada-Bridges%20and%20Barriers%20to%20Inclusion%20-%20Sokal%20%20Katz%20%282015%29.pdf.

Students as Masters

Teachers are often portrayed as masters of their subject, knowing nearly everything there is to know. They are up to date on all recent discoveries of that area, as well as the history. No one could teach it better than they can, except perhaps another master.

But what if they are not truly the “masters” of their subject? What if being a master of a subject is more than simply being able to list off a string of facts, explaining as you go along, as you were taught the subject? What if being a master of a subject is going through the highs and lows, learning to see for yourself what truly matters? What if it means teaching yourself a subject, learning it from the ground up, making mistakes, remedying those mistakes, and learning both from what you understand right away and what you don’t?

As a society, we tend to see things as black and white. They are educated in History; therefore, they are masters of History. You don’t know anything about History; therefore, you are a student, not a master. Perhaps this is true. But say you do know a lot about History, you just did not receive a formal education in it, nor did you get a degree. Are you considered a master? No. Do you know any more or less than someone with a degree? Maybe, maybe not. We compartmentalize learning as something that must be done in a classroom with a teacher; structure must exist in order for learning to occur. But what if this is not the case?

In “The Ignorant Schoolmaster” by Jacques Rancière, they discuss how children learn their mother tongue long before a master is able to teach them. They pick it up by listening, watching, trying, failing, and succeeding. No one explicitly tells them to, or gives them a step by step program that tells them how much they should be able to say and understand by a certain time or age. They simply learn as they go along, and the words that they learn in this timeframe will be better understood by them than anything a master could teach them.

Even so, we still picture education as a teacher standing in front of their class, lecturing on what the students read, suggesting they could not have possibly understood it on their own.

“All people are equally intelligent. This is Jacotot’s startling (or naïve?) presupposition, his lesson in intellectual emancipation. And from this starting point (the result of an accidental discovery occasioned by the peculiar circumstances of exile), Jacotot came to realize that knowledge is not necessary to teaching, nor explication necessary to learning. ‘Explication,’ he writes, ‘is the myth of pedagogy.’ Rather than eliminating in­ capacity, explication, in fact, creates it. It does this in part by establishing the temporal structure of delay (‘a little further along,’ ‘a little later,’ ‘a few more explanations and you’ll see the light’) that, writ large, would become the whole nineteenth-century myth of Progress … The pedagogical myth divides the world into two: the knowing and the ignorant, the mature and the unformed, the capable and the incapable.” (Translator’s Introduction, xix-xx)

Jacotot discovered that students were able to teach themselves French by reading a text both in their own language, and in French. These students were then able to pick up on complexities in French grammar without being taught, and were able to write their thoughts on what the text was saying – in French. This suggests that having a teacher explain what they are reading or learning is arbitrary, and actually causes more harm than good. By saying that they won’t be able to understand a topic without it being explained to them causes students to not try, or feel they cannot do it even if they do try. Then, if the explanation given does not make sense to the student, they are unable to teach themselves, because they were told they couldn’t.

If we adopt the pedagogy of universal teaching (assuming everyone has equal intelligence), education becomes more inclusive and allows all children to learn in a way that works for them. Additionally, Rancière states: “The very act of storytelling, an act that presumes in its interlocutor an equality of intelligence rather than an inequality of knowledge, posits equality, just as the act of explication posits inequality” (xxii). If we look back to the two worldviews that we previously discussed, the Aboriginal worldview emphasized learning through stories as well, suggesting they approached education with a universal teaching method. Assuming everyone has equal intelligence puts everyone on equal ground, not raising one individual above the rest, reflecting Indigenous societies. Everyone was equal, and chiefs were there to serve the group, not to rule. The fact that they also treated children as equals, not as inferior, would greatly affect how the children learned.

If we were to adopt this teaching method into our schools, students would be able to learn about what matters to them, and in a way that makes sense to them. This ideology is reflected in the Genius Hour Projects the class I am placed in. Students choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. There is little direction from the teacher, other than a few pointers on how to find reliable resources. The students research and learn everything on their own, without the teacher explaining their topic to them in class. Instead, they are able to teach the class about their topic at the end of the project. This not only allows for a wide range of interests; it also increases overall learning in the classroom. They are not only learning about their chosen topics: they are learning how to find information, read it, then process and analyze it, in addition to learning how to teach themselves something new.

If we adopted this teaching method and worldview throughout our school systems, students would learn to be more independent, a skill that is useful throughout life. In addition, individual’s needs would be taken care of, and students would have a desire to learn. Rather than being forced to sit in a classroom for several hours a day, they could learn to teach themselves what they need to know, and be able to specialize in the field they want to enter when they are older. By adopting a universal teaching method, we would be increasing the educational standards, and thus increasing the overall abundance of knowledge within our society.

Rescuing the Hearts of Teachers

A major theme among the readings this week was opening your heart to your students. Rather than simply teaching them the facts they need to know to pass the test, you need to add a piece of yourself into every lesson. By doing this, students are able to see the value of the course’s content and apply it to the real world, allowing them to take their learning beyond the classroom. Parker Palmer’s “The Heart of a Teacher” accurately captures this idea:

“We need to open a new frontier in our exploration of good teaching: the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. To chart that landscape fully, three important paths must be taken—intellectual, emotional, and spiritual—and none can be ignored. Reduce teaching to intellect and it becomes a cold abstraction; reduce it to emotions and it becomes narcissistic; reduce it to the spiritual and it loses its anchor to the world. Intellect, emotion, and spirit depend on each other for wholeness. They are interwoven in the human self and in education at its best, and we need to interweave them in our pedagogical discourse as well” (2).

In order to reach an educational standard that is “whole,” we need to move beyond subjects and facts, to broaden our educational view that only focuses on the intellectual side of things. We need to add emotion, and we need to stop being afraid of adding a spiritual side to lesson. Often, when one begins to mention spirituality or how their own personal beliefs affect how they perceive knowledge, they are shut down either from internal fears or external forces. I have often felt this pressure when talking about my own beliefs, especially since coming to university. Christians have often been on the bad side of Canadian history, usually because those claiming to be “Christian” are using God as an excuse to achieve their own ends. However, despite their actions not reflecting the larger, true faith of Christians, they have given all Christians a bad reputation, a common occurrence in every religion. This, in turn, makes discussing topics around faith hard, as everyone has a different stance on it.

When it comes to teaching subjects such as history and ethics, completely removing the religious side of such topics often eliminates large portions of our history or moral codes that we still carry today. This is why many still discuss the role of Christians in colonizing Canada, yet they do so from an outside point of view. This still only gives one side of history, which then colors other’s perspective towards related issues today. It allows people to simplify an issue by saying “these people were/are good and those people were/are bad,” rather than acknowledging the complexity of the situation.

Not all Christians are good, and not all are bad, just like how not all doctors are good or bad. If we share both sides of history, it allows children to better understand the situation, while also allowing them to form their own understandings based on a broader worldview. Were the “Christians” who ran residential schools in the wrong? Absolutely! They hurt thousands of innocent children. Additionally, they directly violated everything Christianity stands for, and in doing so made a mockery of God. However, they do not represent all Christians, just like how one person cannot speak for their entire race, culture, or country.

Because my faith is a large part of who I am, I know that it will seep into everything I do as a teacher, and may cause some of my opinions to seem biased. But I cannot teach without acknowledging that side of myself, because it is through my faith that I find my identity and make sense of the world around me. This will color how I present information, and as such, it will cause my students to see the world the way I do. In order to allow them to form their own opinions, I can have people of other beliefs and backgrounds come in to present on the same topic.

For example, when I teach about residential schools, I can have Aboriginal leaders come in to share their experiences, in addition to teaching my own lesson. This will allow the students to see the schools from multiple perspectives and formulate their thoughts based on a wider range of knowledge than I can provide on my own. However, getting people to see that such different worldviews are both the truth is extremely hard, and it puts teachers in a tough situation. While they are expected to educate their students to the best of their ability, and provide as many perspectives as possible, they are also responsible to ensure certain outcomes are met each year. This generally does not allow the necessary time to fully engage with the material and explore the varying levels of it.

In “‘Currere’ to the rescue?” by Yatta Kanu and Mark Glor, they assert that teachers must become “amateur intellectuals.”  They describe how:

“Teachers, as…intellectuals in a complex and fast‐ changing knowledge society, must learn to teach in ways they were not taught, commit to continuous learning and reflection, and work and learn both alone and in professional teams where they can raise moral questions about practice and access knowledge from the collective intelligence of the team” (103).

This means that I need to learn to look beyond my own worldview and how I was taught, to what the students of today need. Each generation is becoming increasingly different from my own, and as such I need to reflect those differences in my teaching. We are no longer a society where “one size fits all” when it comes to learning, beliefs, and culture. Our education system needs to reflect these differences in order to maximize the next generation’s potential. When we teach from the heart, and thus allow our beliefs to show, students will learn more than basic facts and dates; they will develop morals, compassion, critical thinking, and valuable life lessons that cannot be taught through a book.

“Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart.” (Howard G. Hendricks)

Two Opposing Worldviews

What we value in education shows what we value as a society. Currently, our education system is extremely Eurocentric, meaning we tend to focus on linear, objective, and logical knowledge. We strive to find definite conclusions to questions, rather than acknowledging that a conclusion may be relative to who is observing the system. Everyone experiences the same scenario a different way, and as such will draw a different understanding from it.

In the same way, children learn in different ways. Something that seems straight forward to one child is gibberish to another. The Aboriginal worldview reflects these differences by emphasizing wholeness, reciprocity, spirituality, and both subjective and objective knowledge. Knowledge is adaptable to different situations and times, while still maintaining its original meaning and truth. This allows for the same knowledge to be taught in different ways or contexts that better suit the individual learning them.

When applying these to the classroom, I believe it is necessary to employ a mixture of the two worldviews to accommodate for the differences between students. Some may learn better in an environment where the knowledge is taught in a linear progression (as they are in the Eurocentric worldview), whereas others would benefit from the more open teaching progression of the Aboriginal worldview. Teaching with both of these worldviews would also allow students to develop different learning techniques and ways of knowing, which would allow for deeper understandings in the future.

Additionally, incorporating the Aboriginal worldview into our classrooms would allow children to grow in new ways, while also providing new classroom management techniques. “If individuals are appropriately and immediately given recognition for upholding strength, honesty, and kindness, then a ‘good’ order will be maintained, and the good of the group will continue to be the goal of all members of society” (Leroy Little Bear, 80). Children would learn to look after the good of the group as a whole, and would learn to base their actions on how they effect others. They would learn to work together to achieve their goals, which is a necessary skill for later in life. When I was in elementary school, teachers often employed management techniques that focused on the behavior of the individual. This often led to competition, which would divide the class in a contest for who would win the most points that week. By focusing on the class working together, children are forced to control their actions because they effect not only themselves, but their friends too. Because of this, children will self-monitor and watch each other’s actions, causing them to become more independent.

Not only would it help in classroom management, it would help the students in learning as well. When they are rewarded or recognized for their achievements, they will want to keep trying hard so that they can receive acknowledgement again. Rather than being discouraged by what they can’t do, they are encouraged by what they can, and the positive influence from that will likely stretch to areas in which they struggle.

“For the most part, education and socialization are achieved through praise, reward, recognition, and renewal ceremonies and by example, actual experience, and storytelling. Children are greatly valued and are considered gifts from the Creator. From the moment of birth, children are the objects of love and kindness from a large circle of relatives and friends. They are strictly trained but in a ‘sea’ of love and kindness. As they grow, children are given praise and recognition for their achievements both by the extended family and by the group as a whole … they are sternly lectured about the implications of wrongful and unacceptable behavior” (81).

By seeing children as gifts, they become something even more precious. The “problem child” becomes more than an obstacle in the day: they become someone who needs to be loved. If children see that they are genuinely loved and cared for, they will likely be more responsive and trusting towards you as their teacher. Because of that trust, they will be able to learn more than if you are simply seen as another authority figure telling them what to do and how to think.

Currently, our education has a Eurocentric worldview. It prizes uniformity and encourages people to conform to society. Emphasis is placed on structure and routine, rather than the individual’s needs. I believe it is vitally necessary for the Aboriginal worldview to be incorporated into the education system. When paired with the Eurocentric worldview (for other learners’ benefit), we have an educational system that covers a wide range of ways of knowing, and allows children to develop deeper understandings of the topics they are learning. It also allows for different learning styles to thrive, while encouraging children to be who they are. They learn two ways of seeing things, which they can then apply to different situations throughout their lives, providing them with a more egalitarian worldview.

Muffins for Granny Reflection

Hearing the stories of these peoples’ lives being torn apart and the horrors they faced after is sickening. While I knew some of what occurred in residential schools, I never knew the full extent of it or how lasting the effects have been. Additionally, it added faces behind the stories, and emotions to the experiences that are not conveyed when reading a text. Seeing parents and grandparents crying 70 years after an event causes you to realize how emotionally devastating it was.

What I found especially hard to hear was how children were consistently abused in so many ways. The neglect and dehumanization they experienced, combined with the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse is heartbreaking. I didn’t know that these issues were so prevalent throughout the schools. Going forward, when we are teaching children whose families have had to attend residential schools, we need to be empathetic to their situation. Their parents may be scared to send them to school for fear of them facing the same hardships they endured as children. On top of that, intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools runs deep in our society, and we are just realizing its impacts today. “What makes the intergenerational trauma in the case of First Nations people different is that… it was a set of government policies that targeted and affected a whole generation” (Berube). Rather than targeting an individual, a whole generation was impacted. Children and parents alike were traumatized by what happened at these schools.

Additionally, the trauma of these experiences is passed on to later generations, causing them to suffer from the unresolved trauma as well. When we are able to acknowledge the past and its effects on those today, we are able to better understand where people are coming from, and why they may be resistant to certain ideas or practices. Once we realize this, we can connect more effectively, and hopefully take the first steps towards reconciliation.

What I find especially puzzling about Residential schools is that most of them were run by churches, who were supposed to be spreading God’s love. These so-called Christians then did unspeakable things to the children in their care, after ripping them from the arms of their parents. As a Christian, the sick, twisted hypocrisy of this is not lost on me. Rather than living out their faith and loving, nurturing, and taking care of the children that were in their care, they twisted the faith they claimed to have. They used Christianity as a cover for what they were doing so that the general public would go along with it, not looking closer at what was happening behind closed doors or questioning the integrity of those in charge. They used God as an excuse to achieve their own ends: the destruction of a culture and a peoples. They did this in spite of the fact it went against everything they claimed to believe.

One question that this movie brought to mind was why, when so few treaty promises are honored, would the promise of a school be the one they do follow through on? And when they did follow through, they twisted it so much that it became a threat looming over the Indigenous peoples heads rather than a promise. Their sole purpose was to wipe out the “uncivilized” culture of Indigenous peoples, leading one to wonder why the other promises that have been honored were chosen to be. Did they also pose a threat to the Indigenous way of life, just in a less obvious way than residential schools? Or was it just a matter of chance that certain promises were chosen to be honored?

Additional Sources:

Berube, K. (2017, March 25). The intergenerational trauma of First Nations still runs deep. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health-advisor/the-intergenerational-trauma-of-first-nations-still-runs-deep/article23013789/

“Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” Reflection

In “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, she discusses how we are unaware of our own privilege. Additionally, we tend to ignore our privilege when it is pointed out to us by saying things like “I worked hard for what I have.”

McIntosh describes this phenomenon very accurately when she states: “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.” Rather then seeing racism as a structure that raises one group above the others for arbitrary reasons, we tend to see it as individual acts targeted at individual people intended to tear them down. Learning to see racism as a structure was hard, as it caused me to have to admit that I am part of a racist structure. Rather than being able to disassociate myself from racism by saying “I’m not racist, I believe in equal rights for everyone,” I became part of the structure that continues to deprive others of their basic human rights.

This structure works to benefit me by ensuring I will be able to get a loan when I buy a house, that I can get a job interview and know that if I don’t get the job it wasn’t because of my skin, and so many other privileges that we take for granted. What are “daily norms” for people who are white are far away dreams for people of color, yet we continue to say that we are not privileged and that you can accomplish anything if you work hard enough, further exasperating the issue.

Something I find problematic is how we continue to address issues like this in school. One of the biggest flaws in our school system is our continual skirting around the discussion of racism. It is a topic that is rarely discussed until university, allowing misconceptions to become deeply engrained into a person’s belief system. Then, when the topic is discussed, it is often taught as individual acts of racism, rather than the structure that it is. This allows even more misconceptions to be regularly circulated and accepted into the beliefs of society, and causes the issues based on racism to continued to be ignored. Problems are not fixed, leaving us where we started.

This doesn’t just apply to white privilege either. The invisibility of privilege occurs at every intersection. Men are often unaware of their privilege as men, despite acknowledging women are disadvantaged. Upper class people can ignore their privilege, claiming they worked hard for what they have. This discredits the hard work of lower classes, while not acknowledging the head start the upper class often have in life that others don’t. These same concepts can be applied across the board. Race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, even language. All of these categories grant those in them some sort of privilege, and the owners of such privilege are often unaware. For example, when I travel, I can be pretty sure of finding someone who speaks English. It would be far less likely for me to find someone that speaks Chinese or Russian.

If we can remove the taboo on discussing race and racism, perhaps these other issues could also be addressed. It all starts in school. By educating students on these issues, they can go forward with more open minds when it comes to discussing race and privilege, eventually fixing these issues. Furthermore, when we acknowledge that all the children in our classroom are coming from different backgrounds, and thus will be at different stages in life due to societal structures, we can be better prepared to teach them. We will better know what they need our help with in order for them to succeed.

However, overcoming societal structures that are so engrained into our society will not be easy. Even if we acknowledge our privilege, there are still many people who don’t. How can you help people realize that they are privileged when it is so engrained into their minds that they aren’t? Often the older we get, the more stuck in our ways we become. So even if we can help the next generation become more aware of the structures our society is built on, how can we help the generations already here realize those same structures?

Additional Sources:

SENSOY, O. (2017). IS EVERYONE REALLY EQUAL?: an introduction to key concepts in social justice education. S.l.: TEACHERS COLLEGE PRESS.

History of Education Reflection

When reading “Education” by Ken Horsman, I was surprised by lots of the history surrounding schooling. I had no idea the struggle teachers have had to go through to get to where we are today, or how many unions it took to finally reach what we have in the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation. It gave me a greater appreciation for the education I have and continue to receive, and for the career I have chosen.

However, reading this history along with the narratives from “Shattering the Silence” put education today into sharper focus. Where we take education as something for granted, something that will help us achieve better things in life, others throughout history saw it as the death of their people. Residential schools stripped First Nations children of their heritage, making them strangers in their own families. They were forced into a strange, harsh new world, one that taught them they were of the devil. By what or who was the devil to them? Wouldn’t it be the school system itself, as they did not come in sharing the same beliefs, and this “school” raped them of their dignity, their heritage, their culture?

Reading both of these articles opened my eyes to how important it is to know our history. It gives us a sense of pride by showing us how far we’ve come, and a sense of purpose for where we should go next. Hearing about residential schools in a first-person format allowed me to see how children lost their history. They were told it wasn’t important, only white, “civilized” history was important. Through this, they lost their language and traditions, and through this they lost their connection to their past. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from?

I never knew how disconnected these children became from their family because of residential schools, even after they returned home. The loss of their language made communication nearly impossible, and they were taught to live in the “white” way rather than the traditional way, making home seem a strange and unfamiliar place. This isolation would’ve been unbearable.

However, I wonder why language is always one of the first things a colonizer will target. Is it so they can no longer communicate with others of the same culture? Is it so the colonizer can always understand what is being said? Or is it so that a deeper connection will be lost, making them more pliable to being shaped into what the colonizer considers civilized? Language has a way of connecting us to our past, showing us things we can no longer see, allowing us to feel in new ways. It is tied into everything: our past, present and future, and every language has a way of communicating that culture’s basic understanding of life. By cutting off this understanding, the colonizer can substitute in their own understandings, making a society based on their beliefs.

Looking back on our history of education, there have been many things to be proud of, but also many to be ashamed of. The destruction of a culture, the abuse of children, the dehumanization of a peoples, to name a few. But looking back on our past lets us look to the future in a different way. We can take what we are proud of and incorporate it into future projects, and we can take what we aren’t proud of and use it to ensure that something like it never happens again. Knowing our history is important, if only so we don’t make the same mistakes again.