Supporting a culturally diverse campus is essential

The flags of various culture clubs on campus

When it comes to teaching students about other cultures, the way schools go about teaching them is vital.

Orientalism continues to pervade Western curriculum. Instead of taking a nuanced approach to giving students a clear understanding of different nations, Western society too often lumps people into broad groups.

The world is more diverse than what Western education constructs, failing to dive in-depth into nations beyond our borders. Understanding the vast number of cultures across the globe is essential in encouraging society to be more understanding and aware of those around us, starting from a young age.

In school, the curriculum too frequently looks down on non-Westernized countries. Canada is put on a pedestal, while second and third-world countries are viewed as lesser. This attitude moves beyond just the classroom, ingraining notions of Western superiority in children.

Instead of teaching Canadian values as the default, educators should introduce other cultures and nations as our equals. Including material written about different cultures by the people of those cultures is essential.

On campus, Queen’s also fails to properly teach its students about different cultures, although some professors are already doing the work to create equitable curricula.

While there are courses that focus specifically on different cultures—for instance, Indigenous literature courses or Bollywood film courses—it’s important that all courses don’t strictly focus on white Western ideas and creators. Taking a more diverse approach to the content we teach will give students a broader and more accurate understanding of the world at large.

Supporting campus cultural clubs is also important.

Queen’s has a fair number of cultural clubs, but it should be open to provide support for more. As it begins reconstruction on the JDUC, the University should also work with students to ensure it allots space to its cultural and equity groups.

While some students might struggle to fit into cultural groups, for others they provide a sense of community. It’s important students from all backgrounds have a group they can join, if desired.

That said, the University can’t solely rely on equity and cultural groups to educate others in the community. Queen’s, like any educational institution, has a responsibility to facilitate conversation between all groups of people. Equity and cultural groups should have the space to teach others about their cultures, but the burden to do so shouldn’t fall on these groups.

Actively incorporating diverse materials in a broad range of classes, advertising the events of cultural groups, and prioritizing culturally authoritative voices in the Queen’s community should be the University’s responsibility.

Overall, schools like Queen’s must make education about other cultures a priority. Celebrating students from all backgrounds is a step to not only making everyone feel included, but equal.

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