I’m on the record as supporting the idea of the Aboriginal Choice School in the Vancouver School District. I am in the process of trying to convince the AEAC and the BCTF of the merits of the project. I need to stress at this point that I don’t know what the project will look like and I do not know what sort of work the VSB is planning to do in the planning of this project if they choose to go forward with it. I am trusting that they will consult with the Aboriginal people in the area, that they will ensure that it is inclusive and open to everyone, that it does not become a dumping ground for the “unwanted” students, that it makes a case for transformation by teaching anyone and everyone about the Aboriginal experience in Canada, and that the perspective of the Indigenous worldviews are integrated in such a way as to ensure that the students learn in respectful ways and to the best of their abilities. Our children deserve that opportunity and the idea that this should not be tried because it sounds like segregation, or residential schools or racism is false.
This is a choice school.
There are concerns that have to be addressed, of course. Those three have to be put to rest. As well, how will the students be taught? How will the teachers be taught? We have approximately three hundred Aboriginal teachers in the public school system in British Columbia and not a lot of them are in Vancouver, so it is more than likely that non-Aboriginal teachers will be trying to teach an Indigenous perspective. I have struggled with this idea for a long time. If you refer to my previous post, you will see some of the concerns raised. Another scholar I have studied, Eigenbrod, argues that it can be done respectfully and honestly, and while I resisted her for a long time, I did finally figure out what she meant (that will have to be another post). How will the multitude of Indigenous backgrounds be fairly integrated? Plus a whole host of others.
The AEAC has not made a definite decision yet, as they have raised a number of questions they want answered before they support the idea, which is fair. While I suspect that a number of questions cannot be answered until the VSB gets past proposing the idea, I think that it is okay for all of us to ask questions and get the dialogue going. Even those of us in favour of the proposal need to be willing to ask questions.
Some of the things I have read about the school in Prince George has been that it has been a bit of a rough year. I don’t think judgments can be made because of that. It is the first year and they will all be going through some growing pains. I am always a little amused and a little saddened when I hear that people are disappointed with the results of something without giving it time to take root. I will be visiting the school this week to tour the place and I am really excited about it.
Christine Stewart is a teacher out of Vancouver and one of the first teachers of Aboriginal ancestry I met when I was starting out in this teaching thing. I was scared and feeling very alone (still do sometimes) in facing the challenges in my district and in the province. Below is a video of her speaking about the choice school at a forum in Vancouver. She is in favour of it.