Recent proposals obtained by CBC suggest cutting references to residential schools and equity in Alberta’s school curriculums. This not only reflects the unjust pushing of a political agenda but is a disservice to children.
Like it or not, residential schools and other violence against Indigenous peoples is part of Canada’s history. Instead of teaching young children European or ancient civilization history, schools should be teaching history that really matters—Indigenous history.
The advisors of the proposal claim that residential schools are “too sad” for young children, but that’s just an excuse. Children will learn about female slaves and the killing of Julius Caesar under the new proposal; these things are horrific too, but less relevant than tragedies that occurred on Canadian soil.
While this new proposal says it’s trying to protect young children, it doesn’t—and in doing so ignores the truth of the past.
The proposal also suggests teaching Indigenous creation stories as poetry. This wrongfully treats Indigenous history as folklore and fiction, rather than true religion Indigenous peoples continue to believe in and celebrate today.
Introducing Indigenous culture in this way is inherently racist and disrespectful. It also does a disservice to children. Ignorant children become ignorant adults; if we don’t teach children about Indigenous peoples and their history—or if we do so in a disrespectful way—those children will inevitably grow up to be ignorant.
It’s also important that Indigenous history isn’t just taught in a single year, but throughout children’s school careers. Embedding Indigenous content in numerous classes, like religion and history classes, would also give our young generation a fuller picture of Indigenous peoples.
Schools can’t just address the good parts of Canadian history—they must also address the bad parts. To do that, Alberta must scrap this new curriculum proposal and elicit the help of qualified advisors to inform a new proposal. The inclusion of Indigenous peoples in these advisors is vital.
Indigenous culture isn’t something of the past. Likewise, the abuse suffered in residential schools continues to affect Indigenous peoples today. That’s a reality schools must acknowledge, rather than simply sweeping under the rug.
Canada needs to own up to its past. If it’s truly committed to Truth and Reconciliation, teaching kids about residential schools shouldn’t be up for political debate—it should be a given.
—Journal Editorial Board
Alberta, indigenous culture, Indigenous history
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