This week’s blog post talked about Kumashiro’s work with literacy, and the difficulties that arise with reading through our own paradigm. To reflect on this reading, we were asked five questions. First we were asked, how schooling shaped our lens of how the world works? Then, what biases and lenses are present in our lives when we’re in the classroom? How can we unlearn these biases? The following question also asked us to address what “single stories” were present during my elementary education, and whose perspective was the most valued?
A) In my experience my upbringing in school shaped many facets of my how I view the world. First being my language, having learned french at a young age and through school is something that I now, truly consider to be a benefit. When I was young teachers would always pester the students (myself included) to speak french in class and on the playground. Since the majority of us were born and raised in Regina, the community that surrounded us was full of English speakers. Maybe it was because I was self-conscious or simple childish rebellion, but I did my absolute best to practice as little french as possible. Despite this, I still to this day speak it fluently and I understand why my parents and teachers were so adamant we learn it. Our school was very focused on creating individuals who would gain the advantage of speaking french in a monolingual community and fight to keep the francophone community in Saskatchewan alive. With dwindling numbers of french speakers in the province during the 2000s our school was using every tactic they could to make sure we grasped the language at a high level. This of course, worked out to many of our benefits but in doing so also missed an essential part of our education.
We were taught from a young age that the world is a cruel place and that we wouldn’t stand out from the rest of the crowd if we didn’t invest our time into the french language. Many of our classes revolved around the history and culture around Quebec and important historical figures such as Louis Riel. No doubt, important topics but our school did little to teach us about current injustices found within our current society. Reminiscing about my first year of university, I can clearly remember not being familiar with many minorities, and it was the first time that a large crowd in the halls made me feel uncomfortable. When it came to learning about; First Nations, Muslim, Sikh among others, I knew very little. My elementary school never introduced us to cultural backgrounds that differed from our own. So when I was faced by a community center like the university, it became evident to me that I would need to learn. I brought lot’s of racist lenses to the classroom. I can distinctly remember in one of my first semester being hesitant about being paired up with a First Nations classmate, because I was taught from a young age by some of my older family members that First Nations people were lazy. Another racist assumption I made was that I’d have a hard time working with someone who was wearing a hijab because their accent would be too thick and I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them properly.
I’ve learned that the best way to unlearn these kinds of biases is to learn more about the communities that you’ve unfamiliar with. This can be done in many ways, you can read about it, or attend an event orchestrated by said community or what I found to be most effective; get to know a person who belongs to that community. Learning from someone who is a part of the culture is the best source of information because their behavior, knowledge and social group will challenge your understandings of how other cultures operate.
B) In my the most evident single story was the traditional Western-European style of Education. History is written by the victor, and as such when learning about Canada’s history we learning little about the oppression that First Nations people went through. The genocide they were subject to was glossed over and made to be more of a side note, as opposed to learning about how the British turned us into the successful country we are today. The comfortable truth was what mattered, the truth that was easily palatable and didn’t make anyone question the morality of the decisions that had been made. I think that many of our teachers were hesitant to teacher something that was uncomfortable because they either knew little about the subject or were uncomfortable with the topic themselves. This kind of information is crucial for students to learn because it allows them to think critically about the justice aspect of society. It allows someone to look at the past and recognize why racism and biases can limit opportunities for minority citizens. To combat this, I think when curriculum is formed it’s important to engage people from many ethnic backgrounds so that students have to opportunity to grow with more than one perspective that guides them.