Canada’s History of Education

Canada’s history of education is one that often gets told in tiny pieces with its faults sugar coated and the effects present in today’s society ignored. For this week I was given a wide array of resources that pieced together Canada’s entire educational history. These resources opened my eyes to the true history of Canada’s education system.

The first thing I learned was from the Schooling in Saskatchewan document. I had always wondered how English and French immersion schools came about, and this article covered the entire evolution of such schools. I had not known that twenty short years after Manitoba joined confederation that they had abolished separate denominational schools and French as an official language. I also learned that it took the implementation of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms for Saskatchewan to create a Francophone School board.

Next I read the truly heart-wrenching stories from Shattering the Silence: History of Residential Schools in Saskatchewan which was written by Shuana Niessen. There were three stories written that depicted the lives of a parent who was left behind as their child was carted away to attend an Indian Residential School, then of the child in question and their experiences at these schools, and lastly, an intergenerational trauma survivor. For myself throughout my education I was typically exposed to the stories of the student. These stories were the easiest to comprehend and connect to. This was my first time considering the parents of the students. The story managed to encompass more than the separation and anxiety that crippled the parents of these children. It included

Teepee in the middle of a modern street
Fibonacci Blue Flickr via Compfight cc

the pressures that came along with providing for their community in a new world where challenges such as colonization were never experienced. The final story brought me to the present where I read of the deep cut that colonization and residential schools inflicted in First Nation, Metis, and Inuit family lineage. I learned of the intergenerational violence that the survivors become entrapped in and of the challenges that the survivors and their families are currently facing because of residential schools.

After taking all of this new knowledge in, I am left with many questions. Where do we go from here? Is it right to keep expecting students to succeed in such a flawed system? How do we, as educators, incorporate the vastly changing needs of our students into a curriculum that hasn’t been updated. Most importantly, how do we deal with the flaws of our education system and provide adequate education for the twenty-first century student?

The above question leads my train of thought to analyse how far schools have come. On the surface it is easy to point out that we no longer remove children from the influence of their families and communities, but we are not fostering that experience appropriately in the classroom. We no longer use physical punishment and tolerate sexual abuse, but our expectations of children are oftentimes unattainable (hence the use of prescription drugs to alter their behaviour).

Canada’s history of education bleeds into the present and well into the future. We cannot continue to ignore the impacts of our past mistakes as it impacts of society today.

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