How to teach anti-racism curriculum to schoolchildren
CBC News is asking parents and teachers about how to teach a curriculum that has been described as anti-black, anti-gay and anti-white.
The issue has been raised at several community meetings in recent weeks and a petition to the Ministry of Education has been signed by more than 4,400 people.
“We want to ensure that our children have the tools they need to be educated on the issue of racism and to build a sense of trust in our communities,” said Dr. Lora Rennie, a pediatrician and director of the National Institute for Race Relations at McMaster University.
“In particular, we want to teach our children the concept of social capital and how it can help shape the relationships they have with others.”
It’s a concept that Rennies has been working on for several years and has a team of students working on the project.
The school board says it is currently in the middle of developing the curriculum and will begin its final assessment this fall.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done on this issue,” said Mark Davenport, a member of the board.
“It is a critical piece of curriculum and we’re going to have a great deal of work to do to make sure that it’s as effective as possible.”
The school is the first in Canada to have all its students receive the course.
“The majority of students are really good at learning in their own time,” said Renniys principal, Margaret Mavri.
“I think the key to this is that the children are taught the curriculum in their time.
They have a lot of time on their hands, so it’s really important to let them spend time with each other.”
Mavris said the curriculum is based on the research from the International Centre for the Study of Racism in Canada.
“When you look at what the research says about racism and how to be more inclusive, it is important to do the research in your own time.”
In an interview with CBC News, Renniet said the school board was working closely with the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion and other community groups to get the curriculum developed.
“What we have learned is that a lot more research is needed, because racism is such a big issue,” Renniews said.
“This is a real problem that needs addressing in our schools, and we want our students to be able to learn from the people they know.”
Mavenport said the board is currently working with community members to ensure the curriculum follows the recommendations of the study and that the curriculum will be accessible to all.
“They’re working on it right now,” she said.
The research on the racial effects of anti-racist strategies was commissioned by the University of Toronto, and it found that students who were exposed to the message about social capital were more likely to take part in anti-social behaviour.
“One of the things we want is for our students and their parents to know that it doesn’t have to be this one-size-fits-all approach,” said Mavriss.
“A lot of the research that we’ve done suggests that there is a lot that can be done to build in more positive messages that can go along with it.”
The project was also a collaboration between the University, the University Health Network, the Ministry for Aboriginal Education, the Office of the Chief Actuary, and the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
In an email to CBC News last week, the ministry said it is committed to continuing to research the issue.
“These programs are critical to the educational and social development of our students,” said the email.
“While the curriculum on racism and social capital is a long-term research project, it will continue to be developed and evaluated in accordance with our mandate and the recommendations from the research.”
Mivriss said the students in the program are still learning the language of racism, but they’re getting better at speaking out and talking about what they’ve experienced.
“Every day we’re learning and growing, and I think that the next generation of students is going to benefit from what we’ve learned,” she added.
Rennioises office also said they are continuing to develop a school safety plan, and will be implementing the curriculum for a few more years.
The university says the school’s curriculum is one of the best in Canada and that it has received feedback from parents.
“As parents we are incredibly proud of what our students have achieved,” said Davenports.
“Our students have always been able to have conversations and learn from each other, and our students are showing incredible resilience in dealing with racism and anti race issues.
We are very proud of their work.”