Story and stereotype : aboriginal literature as anti-racist education

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Gill, Isabel
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 2004
Textbooks newly approved for use in secondary schools in Alberta reflect the belief that not only does literature have the power to change and shape our thinking, but also that the non-White voices of our culture need to be heard if Canada is to become a country which truly welcomes and values cultural diversity. The realization that many high school students in the Crowsnest Pass area of Southern Alberta hold negative stereotypes about Canadian Aboriginal people prompted this study which measured how effective studying literature written mainly by Canadian Aboriginal people is as a means of anti-racist education. Forty-three students in grade 10, 11, and 12, 22 females and 21 males, participated in the study. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. Quantitative data, collected from responses on a gender-specific, six-item social scenarios scale, measured the extent to which students were prejudiced against Aboriginal people as pre- and post-tests. Written responses, field notes, journal entries, and interviews provided qualitative data. Though the quantitative evidence is not statistically significant, students in grades 10 and 12 showed decreased post-test scores, while those in grade 11 increased. Within each grade, individual students showed significant attitude changes. In all grades, female students had significantly lower scores than males, both pre- and post-test, evidence that there are perhaps different stages of moral development in females, as suggested by Belenky, clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarula (1986) and Gilligan (1982), than the male stages identified by Kohlberg (1969, 1981). Qualitative data revealed an increased understanding of Aboriginal issues and student attempts to view the world from a non-White perspective. Central to the study are my efforts to come to terms with my own Whiteness as well as help students understand their own positions of White privilege. This process was an emotional and disturbing experience for us all, yet one that brought growth and engendered important learning. I remain firmly committed to the need to adopt a strong anti-racist stance (rather than a multicultural one) and address racism directly in the classroom. Though difficult, it is perhaps the most important work that I, or any other teacher, may do.
xviii, 163 leaves ; 28 cm.
Discrimination in education -- Alberta -- Crowsnest Pass , Racism -- Study and teaching , Indigenous literature -- Study and teaching , Indigenous peoples -- Alberta -- Crowsnest Pass -- Public opinion , High school students -- Alberta -- Crowsnest Pass -- Attitudes , Dissertations, Academic