Who’s voices matter in our Canadian Society? Who’s voices matter in education systems?
The image you have of First Nations, Metis, & Inuit peoples has been impacted by many forms of media, government, society. If you truly consider someone to be an equal, then you cannot think of them as inferior and yourself as superior, or vice versa. So therefore, to think negatively about FNMI people, is really to think of yourself as ‘better’. If we think ourselves better, then we are less likely to be open to hearing any voices other than our own. This has dire effects in education, and perhaps no other education system in Canada has demonstrated this as the Residential School systems. However, First Nations, Metis, Inuit student and family voices are still not being heard or treated equally within our classrooms, curriculum, and pedagogy.
Distorted stereotypes and images of all Aboriginal people are damaging to ALL people (Doxtator, 1992). Most FNMI stereotypes foster extreme forms of thinking including:
a) FNMI culture as ‘Savage’, wild and uncontrollable: where Aboriginal people have no self-control and are wild or brutal.
b) FNMI culture as perfection: where we assume that FNMI people have the answers to everything;
c) ‘Disney’-ifying views: where anything in costume is immediately ‘game’ for photographers. Therefore, ‘Indians’ in ‘costume’ are comparable to ‘Mickey Mouse’ at Disney, or one of ‘Santa’s Elves’, or another storybook character at the local mall, and
d) Reverse stereotyping, when Aboriginal peoples use stereotypes against each other to deem who is more traditional and ‘real’, and who has sufficient ‘blood’ to be real enough to be considered ‘Indian’.
e) You do not ‘LOOK’ First Nations, Metis, or Inuit, therefore you are NOT! I do not have to include you in my curriculum or pedagogy. No ‘special treatment‘ for you.
There are many more that can be added to this list.
All forms of stereotypes are equally destructive.
Most of our generation has been raised with the story that Christopher Columbus ‘found’ North America in 1492, and that is when ‘civilization’ began. This ‘Story’ was never really about FNMI peoples, because in this ‘Story’, Aboriginal people were just ‘there’, but in negative ways. This ‘story’ still functions today. Especially to the extent that whenever our Country finds itself in competition with FNMI people over resources and land, the images portrayed by the media are always negative, and work to create feelings of hate and anger.
Our school systems suffer from these stereotypes. In the school system, from day one, children are organized and ranked in a hierarchy according to academic performance, athletic abilities, and creative skills. Standardization is still highly valued. FNMI stereotypes do not successfully ‘fit’ with these schemas. To be at the top of the hierarchy, means that someone always has to be at the bottom. Someone needs to be superior, and someone needs to be inferior. Someone’s voice matters more than another. This cannot foster equality.
Whether we are looking at the school system, or conflicts over land and resources, negative stereotypes are continually being perpetuated through our standardized school systems, and media portrayals, thus ignoring the fact that we are all just human beings who deserve to be equal.
© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Doxtator, Deborah (1992). Fluff and Feathers. Woodland Cultural Center; Brantford Ontario.