Time for Educators to be Idle No More
On Saturday, February 2, 2013 I sent an email to my Superintendent, the District Aboriginal Education Coordinator and my local Teachers' Association and informed them of my desire to hold an Idle No More rally/ teach-in during the school district's upcoming professional development day on February 15, which is ostensibly focused on Aboriginal Education. This is an important opportunity to teach what the message of Idle No More is to the educators in my school district, but also to share with them the hard truth of Aboriginal Education in British Columbia: that we, as teachers are failing our youth; that we are complicit in creating the environment that allows for their continued oppression and for the tensions and racism we see out in the "real world" and online.
Teachers, Administrators, Ministry and Trustee people, as a whole need to understand the relationship between our curriculum and the systemic attitudes we are witnessing right now. Stereotypes exist not because there is truth there, they exist because educators have modeled it is okay to think that way. The stereotype that First Nations people don't care for education and don't like to work is built because educators don't challenge it, allowing people to trot it out when they see Native people protesting the unfair way we are treated in this country or to protect our rights. Stereotypes that there is a difference between "Taxpayers" and "Indians" exist because our curriculum teaches the Canadian myth of the benevolent society, that Canada saved First Nations from themselves and the elements. It is hidden in the context of our curriculum and it is odious. That we do not challenge it, as educators, call it out and say this is not the reality, serves to reinforce it, whether intentionally or not.
We are telling our kids they have to give who they are to succeed.
How do we decolonize the education system? Not by offering, half-heartedly, First Nation focused courses or holding cultural events to "celebrate" a local nation or culture. We decolonize be changing the way we think about teaching our youth. We change the way we look at the curriculum, seeking out the hidden contexts and challenging them. We decolonize by not letting the status quo stand just because we are comfortable with it. We change by recognizing what is unacceptable and challenging it. We need to teach that is is NOT OKAY TO THINK THAT WAY. We need to recognize that Aboriginal Education needs to be for all students so that going into the "real" world, our kids will not be subject to that kind of thinking any longer.
I have strived to teach my students to resist by succeeding, to show they can live in two worlds without having to give up any part of themselves. Our education system has always demanded Aboriginal students walk in one world, while claiming otherwise. It is time for us to stop living that ideology and embrace the idea of two worlds epistemologies. Only then will we see some sort of equality, some sort of equity.
We, as educators, are the ones who have been idle far too long and it is our kids that lose out because of it.