Living a Curriculum of Hyph-e-nations: Diversity, Equity, and Social Media

Living a Curriculum of Hyph-e-nations: Diversity, Equity, and Social Media

Living a Curriculum of Hyph-e-nations: Diversity, Equity, and Social Media

The movement of peoples across national boundaries is as old as the nation-state itself. However, never before in the history of the world has the movement of diverse racial, cultural, ethnic, religious, and language groups within and across nation-states been as numerous and rapid or raised such complex and difficult questions about citizenship, human rights, democracy, and education.

(Banks, 2009, p. 1)

We have been clear, as a government, that we need all Ontarians to be at their best. We have invested in publicly funded education heavily and we will continue to do so because we know that a strong, publicly funded education system is the foundation of our province’s future prosperity. Our schools need to help students develop into highly skilled, knowledgeable, and caring citizens who can contribute to both a strong economy and a cohesive society.

(Ontario Ministry of Education, 2009)

[Slide 1] Before beginning, I would like to take a moment to thank moment to the conference organizers, president Cha Yun Kyung, and Kim Young Chun for their generosity and inviting me to share some of the research I am currently doing within the field of Canadian curriculum studies on concepts like hyph-e-nations, diversity, and equity in relation to marginalized immigrant students utilizing digital web 2.0 technologies like social networking. As many of you might already know in 1971, Canada sought to confirm its place in the world as a cosmopolitan society by establishing multicultural policies into federal legislation (Roshee & Sinfield, 2010). In fact, in 1975 we immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom and Guyana because of the multicultural policies and respective educational and economic opportunities they potentially provided for my father and our family at the time (Ng-A-Fook, 2009). Since then, our national government has since built upon this first policy by integrating its initial tenants into the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977), the Charter of Rights of Freedoms (1982), and the Multicultural Act (1988). In fact Canada was one of the first countries, as Ghosh and Abdi (2004) remind us, if not the first, to create and implement a multicultural policy at the federal level of government. And yet, our national and provincial policies have not come without both their curricular and pedagogical possibilities and limitations.

It is not surprising then, that during 1990s curriculum scholars like Ted Aoki told us then,

I am supportive of the understanding of Canada as a multiplicity of cultures, particularly as a counterpoint whenever the dominant majority cultures become indifferent to Canada’s minorities. I suppose I reflect a minority voice that asks that minorities not be erased.  (268)

And yet during this talk, drawing on the work of Deleuze, Aoki provokes minority scholars to ask more of our theorizing in relation to concepts like multiculturalism. He invites us to stretch our understandings of multiculturalism beyond the striated linearity of its conceptualizations as a noun—as a curriculum of historical dates to remember and celebration of their respective multicultural festivities. Instead he asks us to reconsider multiculturalism as a polyphony of lines of movement that grow in the abundance of conjunctive middles, the “betweens,” or what we might call today during this paper presentation the “hyph-e-nations” that some immigrant youth experience within the contexts of public schooling in a provincial jurisdiction like Ontario.

[Slide 2] In 2008, I received a grant from the Ministry of Education to design and facilitate a joint community service-learning project between the Council of Ontario Directors of Education, the Centre for Global and Community Engagement Learning Project and the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, as well as a local vocational high school. But, before I get into the details of the specific social action experimental research project that took place at a vocational high school with marginalized youth, let be briefly outline the larger Ontario provincial ministry of education policies and the current educational priorities that informed the various ways in which we are currently attempting to take up concepts like equity, diversity, and excellence.

[Slide 3] That same year, the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat published a policy document outlining its character development initiatives. The document outlined some of the following priority areas:

  • Respect for diversity must be at the heart of our policies, programs, practices and interactions;
  • Learning cultures and school communities must be respectful, caring, safe and inclusive;
  • Character development must be integrated into the curricular experiences of students and embedded into the culture of the school and classroom in an explicit and intentional manner;
  • Character development is not a standalone initiative; it has linkages with learning and academic achievement, respect for diversity, citizenship development and parent and community partnerships. (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, p. 7)

Although this document stresses respect for diversity, inclusion, citizenship development and academic achievement, as Roshee and Sinfield (2010) stress, its discussions on identity and equity continue to be framed through a discourse of social cohesion and economic accountability (the discourse of finding common ground, as one example, for the sake of economic prosperity). For example we can find passages in the document like:

Our citizens are our province’s best asset. They contribute to nation building and to the continued development of a civil society. When schools address the qualities that contribute to the health and well-being of our society, they are, indeed, contributing to the improvement of the world that our students will inherit. (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, p. 9)

Consequently, for the particular social action research project I will discuss today, we attempted to develop and experiment with our curriculum designs in order to both target and challenge the specific Character Development goals set by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Education:

• Improving students’ attendance;

• Fostering a sense of community and safety;

• Creating spaces with students for their voices to be heard;

• Validating multiple representations of students’ literacies; and

• Becoming politically engaged citizens.

Although one of our priorities was to integrate these overall goals into the curriculum design and implementation of our project, we also sought to disrupt the various ways in which the institution of schooling situates and defines the concept of “literacy” and in turn determines “what” and “who” counts as being literate (cultural, economic, social capital) within the institutional walls of public schooling. We might then ask the following question: how do immigrant students learn to appropriate the sociocultural multiple literacies of the (dominant/colonial) “other” when the school literacy itself works to alienate the very educative processes necessary for immigrant students to appropriate their identification with becoming a citizen of Canada? In response to such potential alienation, we recursively questioned the various ways teachers and students could collaborate to integrate students’ interests into our curricular designs during our planning and implementation of the project. But perhaps more importantly, our social action project provoked us to reconsider the curricular and pedagogical effects that integrating emergent technologies like social networking within a classroom setting might have in terms of disrupting traditional conceptions of immigrant students’ production of their subjectivities (in terms of national and cultural affiliations) and respective multiple literacies within the context of schooling.

[Slides 4] We began implementing the project in September 2008 and ended it in June of 2010. The project was comprised of the following three phases:

  1. Building a sense of community;
  2. Development and implementation of a culturally responsive media studies curriculum; and
  3. Researching and evaluating the impacts of implementing this project with marginalized youth.

Each student involved in the program was purposefully selected by a steering committee to reflect the diversity of their school community and then invited to participate within the project in order to complement the overall team dynamic. Some students had behavioural issues and were deemed at risk by the administration to the larger school community. These students were part of the school’s special behavioural unit. Some students had ADD and/or ADHD. Other students had difficulties negotiating the dominant literacies of schooling such as reading and writing within the formal English language utilized at this specific school. The organizational structure of our collaborative partnership and its flexibility in terms of the programming enabled our research team to embed the Ontario Ministry of Education character development initiatives within the Communications and Technology and English curriculum with 46 students in five Grade 10 courses over the two years of the project. The participating students’ ages ranged from 15 to 18 years old.

Our research team ulitized qualitative methodological research strategies to understand the resulting impacts and lessons learned (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000), which will be addressed at the end of this paper. The two field coordinators associated with the project (2 graduate students) recorded their teaching and learning experiences with students in daily journal entries. These journals were then coded and analyzed to understand how students were responding specifically and in general to the curriculum and classroom setting created for our program (Sanjeck, 1990). We utilized the schoolwork produced by students on our social networking site as our qualitative data. By analyzing this data, we sought to understand how the students developed their digital practices and multiple literacies in relation to their respect for diversity, sense of equity, as well as their understandings of character and citizenship development. Moreover, our research team utilized screencapture software (such as Grab on Mac) for recording the following: the students’ processes for producing knowledge and understanding; and communicating that production in their final performance tasks. The researchers also conducted focus groups and individual interviews with administration, teachers, and students about the outcomes and lessons learned of the program (Bogdan & Bilken, 1998; Creswell, 2007).

We then utilized an open coding method to evoke the emerging themes through our analysis of the field coordinators’ daily journals entries (which included screencaptures of students’ work), focus groups and individual interview transcripts (Creswell, 2007; Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995). We copied and pasted the coded sections into a table with Microsoft Word. Rereading the text in the tables and analyzing the interconnections of among the coded sections, we determined the possible situated meanings (Creswell, 2007; Hamersley & Atkinson, 1997). We utilized the Finding Common Ground document as a guiding framework in analyzing whether we were addressing the four overall character development initiatives, as well as what impact that was having on the daily lives of students. Furthermore, our team also analyzed the coding for emergent themes such as, but not limited to, the impact of digital web 2.0 technologies and as one example at least for today’s presentation on immigrant students’ online representations of their relationship to concepts like “nation” and their identifications with different reproductions of youth cultures. And as such, the consistency and evolution of the digital language students utilized to express differing identities was also analyzed.

[Slide 5] Our team created three units of study to support the overarching aim of this socio-culturally responsive media studies program, which was to create potential spaces of empowerment for marginalized youth. As such, we sought to create spaces for their unique voices to be heard by means of the program’s curriculum design and differentiated instructional strategies that worked towards fostering an open learning environment where they could engage and perform their cultural identifications and multiple literacies through different communication media (print, oral, visual, digital, etc.).  The teachers and students involved in the program were provided with the necessary space and technologies at the school (a social networking site through www.ning.com) in order to integrate such multiple literacies into their daily experiences while still addressing the provincial overall and specific curriculum expectations.

The design of the units of study provided opportunities for students to explore a number of different digital mediums in which they could represent the different dynamics of their identity while also developing the digital practices and respective multiple literacies for navigating cyberspace (Alexander, 2006; Drotner, 2008). To do so, we drew upon the principles of backward design to integrate the overall and specific character development initiatives into each unit of study (Cooper, 2006; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Our curriculum planning and assessment team also integrated pedagogical strategies for improving academic achievement and interpersonal skills, developing safe learning environments, life skills, and employability skills, and creating positive conceptions of culture, and responsible citizenship in the classroom, school, and community.

[Slides 6-7] Our first unit provided an opportunity for students to learn how to utilize different digital technologies and respective literacies while engaging the Grade 10 Communications Technology curriculum expectations and specific character development initiatives. The unit content also afforded students an opportunity to learn more about teen culture, social justice issues related to marginalized youth, personal responsibility, empathy toward others, and strategies for engaging youth activism. The students’ public service announcements (on bullying, racism, homophobia, etc.) were subsequently broadcasted to the teaching staff during one of the monthly staff meetings. By the end of this unit students realized that they had a unique opportunity to create spaces for their voices to be heard. Furthermore, students began to recognize the empowering effects of utilizing this form of media to communicate their perspectives on important social justice issues to the larger school community.

[Slide 7] Initially designed to address the bigger picture of the school, community and environment – it was quickly seen that the students wished to focus on their individual struggles in terms of how does address issues of equity within the contexts of public schooling. In attempting to give students the necessary technological skills we observed that, while many adults view today’s youth culture as the most “plugged in”, students were surprisingly unfamiliar with the digital literacies linked to Mac software used as well as consumption and production of knowledge through various digital medias (YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Ning, etc.).

[Slide 8] Students began this unit by studying the film Almost Famous. Here students sought to understand how music could act as a medium for communicating popular culture, social justice issues, and youth activism. Our team created a social network website called Engaging Youth Activism Through a Media Studies Curriculum for students to share their work on (www.youthactivism.ning.com). Students could then upload as well as respond to each other’s respective character analyses. Students were then encouraged to develop their social networking pages. Consequently, on many occasions we discussed the various character development initiatives related to creating and ethically representing their respective public cyber identities. Students continued to utilize the social network site for the remainder of the course as a medium for both communicating final assignments as well as developing the character development initiatives toward becoming civically engaged responsible cyber citizens.

[Slide 9] Across Canada and in school boards like the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, administrators are mobilizing to make their infrastructure wireless and ensure policies that support the eventual facilitation of a computer or laptop for every student enrolled within the public schooling system. Outside schools politicians are engaging the public more and more through social networking sites like Facebook. Consequently, schools must provide a space for students to engage the different competencies for becoming responsible cyber citizens. [Slide 10] However when we initially began our program sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube were censored by the school board administration. As a result, we set up our social networking site with www.ning.com. This social networking site had yet to make it presence known to the administrators of the school board network. [Slide 11] During our first year of the program, we called the site Engaging Youth Activism. And in you two, we changed the name to Digital Youth Activism. Within a few weeks of establishing the site, it became a central and integrated component of our curriculum design for future units of study with students. [Slide 12] For example, the students were asked to watch the movie Almost Famous and then complete a written character analysis, focusing on the significance of music as the medium, as well as the message. To assist in the composition of this analysis central quotes from the movie were provided along with key words. [Slide 13] We then asked students to post their analysis on the social networking site to create discussion and allow for collaborative revision of their work either with peers and/or the instructors (field coordinators).

[Slide 14] Regardless of what kind of learning task we created with and for students, we asked them to reflect on their capacities to engage youth activism as a key component of the task. Let us consider the following two examples of the ways in which immigrant students utilized the social networking site to produce different hyph-e-nated cultural representations, and then let me come back to the concept of curriculum lived as hyph-e-nations in relation to concepts like diversity, equity, and excellent.

[Slide 15] Little Moe was an 18-year-old student who chose to enroll in our program. At the time, he described his youth as somewhat “hectic” because of the continuous migrations of his family. He was originally born in Carleton Place, Canada, and attended school there until second grade. His family then moved back to Lebanon where he spent the next three years there. When he returned to Canada he three different middle schools before entering the vocational high school in grade 9. Even while Moe was in our program, his family moved houses at least one more time. When Moe returned to Lebanon, he explained that he had a lot of social and cultural capital at the schools he attended because he could speak English. His background in Canada provided him with an advantage and told us, “I aced the English classes.”[1] However, upon his return to Canada the other students in class often teased him because of his apparent accent. Nonetheless, when Moe describes his linguistic interactions with his family, he considered both English and Arabic to be “equal[2] in terms of what constituted his ‘first’ language. His struggles with performing the cultural accentuated norms of the English language within the contexts of public schooling often made him a target for bullying. During our interviews he told us:

When…what’s it called…in Grade 6 when I was first in Carleton Place, I was shorter than most of the kids in my class, so they’d make fun of my height and stuff, like oh, you don’t know how to speak English, go back to your country and stuff. So…[3].

He does not remember exactly how he reacted but his sister has recounted to him that, in response to this, he “freaked out and starting, like, running and punching kids in the head.”   These experiences of bullying changed the way he performed academically in the classroom.

Like, since that…since then, I wouldn’t talk a lot. Like, I wouldn’t be, like, like standing in front of the class and start saying the whole story and stuff. I wouldn’t say that. Like, in conversation I’d mess up a bit. Like, when I talk, I’d mess up. Like I have, like, a speech impediment…is that what you call it?[4]

Consequently, when Moe began high school he was put into an English as a Second Language stream (ESL).  During this first year he was unable to achieve any Grade 9 credits and had to redo the entire year.  When asked how he felt about this he said, “I was really upset.” And,

You know, school’s school. Like, no matter what you do, it’s still school. You’re going to have to learn. But the thing is, like, I understood why I didn’t get credits, because I, like, was really behind in class and stuff…so yeah.[5]

Moe also struggled with the Literacy Test, failing it twice prior to his Grade 12 year. He was well aware that it is a hurdle to overcome in order to graduate.  “If I don’t pass it this time I don’t graduate so I am kinda nervous.”[6] He identified the essay portion to be the hardest part of the test in that “some kids they don’t think that much, not that they don’t think that much, they don’t have enough thoughts to fill up the whole page.”[7] Moe also struggled with his language skills outside of school. When he originally took the written test for his driver’s license he failed, getting quite a few of the questions incorrect. During his second attempt he requested the help of an Arabic translator.  Not only did he pass, he did not get a single question wrong. Moe was one of the only students enrolled in our program to highlight national and cultural representations that were important to him at home on our social networking site, like the Lebanese flag.

He and other students postings of national symbols on our social networking site, flagged us as teachers and researchers involved with the program to reconsider the curricular complexities of living a cross-cultural curriculum as both immigrants and non-immigrants, native-born and foreign born within the multicultural contexts of Canada. In a sense, the social network, provided opportunities for teachers and students to call forth our capacity to imagine the unexpected cross-cultural flows and transnational mobilities. To a large extent, the narratives students offered represented autobiographical inter-subjective accounts of what Miller (2006) aptly calls elsewhere the “shifting and rapidly changing discursive and material effects of globalization” (p. 31). Moe’s story represents a lived curriculum inhabited by the hyphenated spaces between alienation and appropriation, becoming and happening, and being and not being Canadian—living a social networking curriculum of hyph-e-nations if you will.

[Slide 16] Francis was a 17-year old student enrolled in the program.  In class, he was one of the quieter students. Not until he started posting cultural representations of his family background on the social networking site did we and other students learn that he spent many of his formative years growing up in the Philippines. He created several videos that documented what it meant for him to be a Filipino student living in Canada.  Prior to his postings, there were many times both inside and outside of class when other students referred to him as “Spanish” or Chinese”.  In one instance, when the student was corrected that Francis was Filipino, the student responded “whatever, same thing.” Once we acknowledged Francis’s national and cultural identifications in class he asked us to call him by his Filipino name Kiko. Moreover he went by this name on the social networking site and in his videos, while in the institutional walls of the school he went by his given ‘English’ name of Francis. When we asked what name he preferred he claimed that he did not really care if we used either one. Out of all of the students enrolled in the program representations of his cultural background were the most prominent on the social networking site. Like Moe he posted the flag of the Philippines and featured many famous Filipino artists and athletes on his site.  Francis created a video for his Unit 2 culminating task that spoke to his experiences both in the Philippines and of leaving the Philippines. Consider the following letter that the Kiko wrote for one of his course assignments:

Leaving the Philippines, kinda hard cos thats where we all grew up at and so much memories fading from back then i really miss the long days of summer all year round, the beautiful beaches and the home cooked meals sutch as Tinola, Sinigang na hipon, Champorado [chocolaate rice], Nilaga but the best parts of the foods were the frech grown vegitabals and/or fruits, they are really diffrent from the fruits and vegitabls here, becuse in the Philippines its more tropical so the fruits are moree juicyer and there are alot more variets to choes from i could go on but it would take forever and i’ll make my self hungery. Another awsome place is where all the mountains are, tropical water falls with unbeleavobly clean n’ fresh water and the people are very nice even if they are living on the streets they always find a way to find happyness and make money, by making bags, hats, cooking food they are jsut reallf friendly people. Ghetto houses in the Philippines are huge compared to the houses here the called a project homes but they all still sell for a lot of money. they builed them big because usally there are more then 5 children in the family my grandmother had 13 kids so they had to have a big house to fit them all in, but alog time ago it wasnt really like that you would have to build your own home witch was really tiny and catch your own meals its gotten a bit better now but im still hoping to go back to the Pomis Land again someday.”[8]

After his family immigrated to Canada, like many other immigrant families they moved around a lot seeking employment opportunities.  One of his grade 8 teachers recommended that he attend vocational school because of his academic struggles with math and English. Francis mentioned on several occasions that he did not find the work at the school challenging and often expressed that certain teachers underestimated the capacities of the student body in general.  During an interview, when asked what he thought students or teachers could learn from his experiences Francis responded:

They could learn how to treat the students better, respectful.  And, like, change the work, ‘cause, we need a challenge.” He goes on to say “I think I am getting stupider.  No it’s true.” and then “When I was back in grade school the work there was much harder than here.”[9]

During our program, at least academically, things did begin to turn around for Francis near the end of the year.  He was more open during conversations in the class, he openly shared his ideas more, and he became more comfortable in front of the video camera. Moreover, he expressed excitement about the different projects he was able to create and develop over the course of our program.

[Slide 17] Kress (2003) asks us to rethink how computer-mediated communication mediums such as social network sites and the Internet writ large have provided our students and society with a means to access and produce cultural and epistemological capital. Furthermore, access to the World Wide Web of information on the Internet and digital connections via social networking forums provide students civic opportunities to engage with what matters to them. The notion of authority and institutional legitimacy of who has the power to validate knowledge production (cultural, epistemic, social, etc.) is in a constant state of flux. Students, however, often access information outside the classroom in fundamentally different ways from how they are asked to “learn” within the institutional structures of a classroom. “For perhaps the first time in human history,” Lankshear and Knobel (2008) make clear, “new technologies have amplified the capacities and skills of the young to such an extent that many conventional assumptions about curriculum seem to have become inappropriate” (p. 8). Therefore, the research component of our project also sought to understand the curricular and pedagogical effects that integrating technologies into a classroom setting had in terms of disrupting traditional conceptions of students’ production of literacies within the context of public schooling (Alexander, 2006; McPherson, 2008).

Here the works of Wang (2009) and Yu (2009) have also helped me to re/conceptualize the thoughtful and playful spaces between cross-cultural hyph-e-nations, of curricular doublings, taking place within the intellectual theorizing of our research on multicultural education within the contexts of curriculum studies (and social networking). Lingering within the poetics of the hyph-e-nated spaces of social networking as one example is where the hyphens among nation, culture and subject, both binds and divides (Wah, 2000). But even when it is notated like through the symbolic representation of a flag, a song, or popular culture, as Wah (2004) reminds us, the hyphen “is often silent and transparent” (p. 73) within the contexts of public school. Therefore, in our work within such cross-cultural hyph-e-nations, as teachers and educational researchers we must attune ourselves toward alternative curricular possibilities that break through such silences toward understanding curriculum, or multicultural education within the context of public schooling even in Canada or Ontario, in what Aoki has called elsewhere a “curriculum in a new key”. Much like the poetic bio-texts of Canadian poet Fred Wah (2000, 2004), our curriculum theorizing, designs, implementation and evaluation, can make the interstices at the margins of the hyphen more audible and their cross-cultural pigmentations more visible. Here the transparency of the hyphen thus becomes a thorn—an aporia, a perpetual deferral of signs, signifiers, and signified—in the side of what we might call “predetermined” colonial configurations (Aoki, 1996/2005; Hall, 1997; Stanley, 2009; Wah, 2000). And within this hybrid borderland of infinite discursive and symbolic representational possibilities we in turn can then create alternative conceptual interpretations of concepts like diversity, equity, and excellence within the contexts of public schooling.

Such conceptual navigations and assemblages of such alternative concepts of multicultural education as an assemblage of curricular hyph-e-nations might then play with what Wah (2000) calls the contradictions, paradoxes, and theoretical assumptions active at the edges of the hyphen. “This constant pressure that the hyphen brings to bear against the master narratives of duality, multiculturalism, and apartheid,” Wah (2000) tells us, “creates a volatile space that is inhabited by a wide range of voices” (p. 74). Here our curriculum theorizing and its respective curricular designs would then involve the geopolitical, cultural, and psychic play with the “poetics of the “trans,” methods of translation, transference, transposition, or poetics that speaks of the awareness and use of any means of occupying” the diverse narrative locations students choose to produce and occupy either within our classrooms or on social networking sites like www.ning.com (p. 90). It is at the crossroads of these narrative locations, their lived hyph-e-nated locations, that we as teachers and educational researchers can then perform the aesthetic dynamics of recursively questioning concepts like equity, diversity, and academic excellence in relation to the narrative character of the present and future (often) marginalized (immigrant) students who occupy our classrooms.

References:

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Aoki, T. (1991) 2005. “Taiko Drums and Sushi, Perogies and Sauerkraut: Mirroring a Half-Life in Multicultural Education.” In Curriculum in a New Key, edited by William F. Pinar and Rita Irwin, 377-387. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Aoki, T. (1980) 2005. “Toward Curriculum in a New Key.” In Curriculum in a New Key, edited by William F. Pinar and Rita Irwin, 89-110. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Aoki, T. (1996/2005). Imaginaries of “East and West”: Slippery Curricular Signifiers in Education. In William F. Pinar & Rita Irwin (Eds.), Curriculum in a New Key, pp. 313-319. Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bogdan, R., and Bilken, S. (1998). Qualitative research in education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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Cooper, D. (2006). Talk about assessment. Toronto: Nelson.

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Miller, J. (2006). Curriculum studies and transnational flows and mobilities: feminist autobiographical perspectives. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 3 (2), pp. 31-50.

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Appendix A: Excerpts from Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2009)

DIVERSITY: The presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within a group, organization, or society. The dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

EQUITY: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.

INCLUSIVE EDUCATION: Education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion of all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected. (p. 4)

The document identifies three core priorities:

1. High levels of student achievement

2. Reduced gaps in student achievement

3. Increased public confidence in publicly funded education

An equitable, inclusive education system is fundamental to achieving these priorities, and is recognized internationally as critical to delivering a high-quality education for all learners (UNESCO, 2008). (p. 5)

Education directly influences students’ life chances – and life outcomes. Today’s global, knowledge-based economy makes the ongoing work in our schools critical to our students’ success in life and to Ontario’s economic future. As an agent of change and social cohesion, our education system supports and reflects the democratic values of fairness, equity, and respect for all. (p. 6)

Homophobia has risen to the forefront of discussion. Cyberbullying and hate propaganda on the Internet were not issues ten years ago but now are major concerns for parents1 and students. In recent years, there has been a documented increase in reported incidents of anti-Black racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia in Canada. (P.7)

Revised curriculum documents now contain a section on antidiscrimination education and examples that help teachers better connect with the reality of students’ lives. Schools must also be safe, respectful places for students and staff. Our Safe Schools strategy will help ensure that issues such as gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behaviour are discussed and addressed in our schools and classrooms. (p. 15)

…Work with faculties of education and the Ontario College of Teachers to incorporate content pertaining to equity and inclusive education in pre-service and in-service teacher education programs and to increase access for members of underrepresented groups; (p. 20)


[1] Interview with student

[2] Interview with student

[3] Interview with student

[4] Interview with student

[5] Interview with student.

[6] Week 8 SGC News

[7] Week 8 SGC News

[8] Unit 2 – Leaving letter

[9] Unit 1 – Public service announcement