(a snippet of Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies: An Act for Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education, anticipated publishing date – September, 2022)
Many people talk about the need to improve education systems, to create system-wide shifts in values, structures, and processes to support equity. However, we often have different visions of what this means based on context(s) we are most familiar with. The focus on what is needed to improve K-12 education systems differs depending in which province, territory, or state the conversation is had.
It is helpful to remember the diversity of the education cultures that currently exist across this continent, and not assume that every education jurisdiction reflects the same level of awareness and understanding about Indigenous education and anti-racism. We need to remember to be thoughtful about how we interpret and apply ideas from other education jurisdictions. If we make pan-education generalizations across multiple education jurisdictions we might create misassumptions about what currently exists to build upon, and may miss the opportunity to respond to the very real needs of where we are. So, it is important for me to be clear about what I mean when I speak about systemic change.
It is an education system that, as a normalized aspect of the educational culture:
- celebrates and responds to the diversity of learners
- nourishes the whole learner
- has expectations that every learner can be successful
- provide necessary supports for learners to achieve
- respects and responds to the needs of Indigenous learners, families and communities
- helps learners understand their gifts, and supports them in using their strengths to grow in other areas of their learning and life
- engenders a passion for learning that learners carry with them when they leave the system
We want systems that support every learner to leave our system with “dignity, purpose, and options”. This means that all learners have the knowledge, understandings, skills, and competences to help them take their own next steps in life, whichever paths they choose. When they leave the K-12 system, not only do they still have a passion for learning, but they also recognize that they are valued for who they are. They are grounded in a strong sense of who they are and the strengths they carry in this world. We have a colonial history, where in many cases to be considered successful in the public education system, First Nations, Inuit, or Métis learners have had to suppress pride in who they were, and are, as Indigenous people. A transformed education system will reflect a value for Indigenous peoples and cultures in Canada.
Does this sound highly aspirational and slightly daunting? For some folks, yes. And that is okay. High aspirations are more than good to have; they are necessary. They help us continue to learn and to grow. It is the same thing we ask of learners in our schools.