students first

Ensuring Indigenous Student Success: A Response to Toulouse (2013)

Toulouse’s article begins with a discussion explaining that traumas experienced by previous generations of Indigenous Canadian peoples are casting shadows over modern Indigenous peoples; she states that some examples of these shadows are racism, Residential Schools, poverty, and stereotypes. In order to change systemic racism, Toulouse argues that a change must occur in education where students are not only taught the facts of colonialism, but also its devastating consequences for Indigenous populations, and how those consequences permeate society today. Schools must teach students to think critically about systemic racism, and to create new solutions that respect the lives of Indigenous peoples. Toulouse also states that for Indigenous students to be successful, the education system needs to be reflective and respectful of their people and practices, citing environmental education and cultural diversity.

Toulouse then discusses teaching social justice, and utilizing inquiry-based activity projects that allow students to enact real change through the building of relationships and by developing diverse perspectives on an issue. By supporting students through these types of projects, they becoming invested in enacting social change, and that benefits everyone. Toulouse also states the importance of valuing Indigenous contributions to society, and debunking the myths and stereotypes surrounding Indigenous people and culture. Especially in the school system, it is important to demonstrate equality and foster a welcoming climate for Indigenous students.

Toulouse emphasizes the importance of teacher knowledge and willingness to incorporate Indigenous culture and knowledge into their classroom. Teachers must also be allies, according to Toulouse, who recognize Indigenous people as their equals and are committed to action-oriented change. Toulouse outlines a variety of resources that are available to assist teachers in Indigenous instruction, and she argues that Indigenous education is Canadian education.

 

Reflection

I agree with Toulouse that systemic racism can only be combatted by drastic societal change, and I think that that change needs to start within the public education system. Still today so little is taught in public schools regarding the consequences that colonialism imposed on Indigenous people, and how devastating and long-lasting these consequences are. The lack of discussion is one of the principal reasons that systemic racism exists today, and why such negative stereotypes regarding Indigenous people continue to permeate our culture.

Teachers are responsible for demonstrating the value of equality in society, and teaching their students to do the same. Racism is learned through socialization, and it must be combatted with formal education. Respect is a vital element to social cohesion, and I think that it is severely lacking in our relationship with Canadian Indigenous peoples.

The benefits of incorporating Indigenous teachings into classroom instruction are immeasurable. Indigenous education is hands-on and inquiry-based, and it incorporates diverse learning styles such as auditory, kinesthetic, and musical. Indigenous education also values the environment, and can help to instill the value of environmental stewardship in students and it helps foster their connection with nature.

Lastly, in response to Toulouse I value above all else the importance of teaching a culture of care; teaching students to care about one another regardless of all circumstances is invaluable and necessary if a free society is going to continue. Understanding and valuing our differences is important, but caring about and accepting one another despite those differences is the true goal.

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