Reproducing Canada's colonial legacy: a critical analysis of Aboriginal issues in Ontario high school curriculum

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Watters, Jordan Austin
Sociology of education , Hegemony , Instrumental rationality , Apple , Gramsci , Freire , Neo-Marxist theory , Critical pedagogy , Aboriginal education , High school , Colonial history , Aboriginal issues , Curriculum
Canadian education has historical roots in blatantly assimilationist policies bent on the social, economic, linguistic and spiritual subjugation of Aboriginal peoples and their cultures. Today, Canadian education has moved away from overtly colonialist discourses and publicly embraced the principles of multiculturalism. This research explores how and if this ideological shift has translated into the practice of contemporary Canadian education as it is experienced by students. My research focuses on the ways Canada’s colonial history and contemporary Aboriginal issues are addressed in mandatory Ontario high school social studies curriculum. This analysis is based on interviews with twenty-five recent high school graduates about what they remember learning about Aboriginal issues and how that knowledge has influenced their understanding of colonialism and Aboriginal peoples today. My interpretive analysis of students’ responses relies on the insights provided by critical pedagogy and postcolonial theory. By drawing on Gramsci, Freire and Apple I challenge the hegemonic practices in education that continue to marginalize Aboriginal peoples and their struggles. This research contributes to scholarship in the sociology of education and postcolonial studies by providing a unique picture of the ways in which young people come to understand Canada’s colonial legacy through their formal education, as well as providing insight into new directions for curriculum development, teacher training and more effective integration of anti-racist pedagogy in Ontario’s high schools.
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