Addressing the Marginalization of School-Aged Youth by Using a Responsive Curriculum by Md Mohsin Ali for EDU 5101 Educational Perspectives

Addressing the Marginalization of School-Aged Youth by Using a Responsive  Curriculum by Md Mohsin Ali for EDU 5101 Educational Perspectives

Ng-A-Fook, Radford, & Ausman (2012) explained how youth are marginalized in schools. They identify immigrant students as marginalized youth with hyphenated identities—Lebanese-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, and the like. Marginalization also finds eloquent expression in Tupper (2014), who argued that the legacies of colonialism position “First Nations, Métis, and Inuit as lesser citizens” (p. 87). Their position is similar to that of Caliban who was categorized as a “sub-human” by the coloniser Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1623). Ng-A-Fook, Radford, & Ausman’s (2012) study further unfolded the predicament of school-aged youths who have hyphenated identities. These young people live in a liminal space from which they can neither fully accept the mainstream culture nor deny their ancestral cultures in which they are born and brought up. Also, the school culture neither provides opportunity for these youths to represent nor does it accept their cultural representations. As a result, these youths are marginalized in three cultures:  (a) their own culture, (b) mainstream culture, and (c) school culture. Ng-A-Fook, Radford, Yazdanian, & Norris (2013) added that the marginalized youth in the study are all from lower socioeconomic families that often have access to the certain resources that could in turn help their children with school activities. These families often move in search of jobs. As a result, their children change schools frequently, which results in the absence of a sense of belonging to a school. In new schools, the newly arrived youths are often bullied, and in turn they also tend to bully. Being bullied and a bully can affect academic performance. Poverty and continual migration are, therefore, identified as key factors that contribute to youth marginalization in schools.

The marginalization of school-aged youth, I feel, is socially manufactured. Despite being a multicultural country, Canada’s school curriculum is not fully culturally inclusive: it does not embrace all cultures, and it does not reflect minority cultures. Yet young people from these minority cultures are required to learn the curriculum that is based on mainstream cultures, and they must be both bilingual and bicultural to participate successfully in the education system. Surprisingly, teachers who teach these students need not possess these characteristics; they remain monolingual and monocultural (Alptekin & Alptekin, 1987). However, it is also unjust to require that teachers to be multilingual and multicultural. Recruiting teachers with varied cultural backgrounds is a viable way to address the issue. However, there is no such universal provision in the Canadian education system, and youth from minority cultures suffer from the stress of compulsory bilingualism and biculturalism. They sometimes cannot keep up with students from mainstream cultures. They lag behind and are gradually marginalized.

Further, the policies and programs adopted in Canadian schools often encourage the process of marginalizing students from minority cultures. Ng-A-Fook et al. (2013) showed that a student is required to take a series of special tests to determine his or her eligibility for a special school program. Such assessments are agonizing and demoralizing for a student. The authors also state that the programs for marginalized youths at vocational high schools lack academic courses, which preclude their future access to post-secondary education at universities. Such institutional marginalization within a school program further marginalizes the marginalized. To remedy this situation, the authors initiated a social action curriculum project (SACP) for marginalized young people, which provided an opportunity for teachers, learners, and administrators to learn more about the complex lives of marginalized youth.

For this project, the authors designed a culturally responsive curriculum (CRC) that provided marginalized youth 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” (Ng-A-Fook et al, 2013, p. 44). As part of the CRC, participants watched films and analysed them. The authors created a social network site: Engaging Youth Activism through a Media Studies Curriculum that received spontaneous responses from students, who proved to be responsible cyber citizens. They shared their views and wrote poems and lyrics to their girlfriends and boyfriends about their feelings of loss. They developed certain literacies that gave them knowledge and power, and they grew aware of their rights and duties. Moe—a student of the SACP—reacted when he was denied to right to vote in a national election by creating a public service announcement “Vote for Right.” His reaction and resistance remind us of the Foucauldian concept: where a human creates and provides the conditions under which knowledge is acquired (Foucault, 1970).

The CRC succeeded in creating confidence in marginalized young people. The curriculum was designed to suit the needs of the marginalized youth. The curriculum and the strategies devised by the authors to implement it gave the participants a poetic power, awakened their creative faculties, and enriched their civic sense. Students who had been expelled from school and labelled by teachers as having ADD or ADHD proved to be attentive, creative, and cooperative under the SACP. This affirms the weakness of Ontario’s school curriculum and the strength of the SACP. Thus, the SACP was successful in empowering these marginalized youths, and the initiators and implementers of this project deserve credit. I conclude by sharing two questions with my classmates:

(a)   As Canada is a multicultural and immigrant country, its schools are peopled with learners from varied cultures. To make the curriculum culturally inclusive, schools need to provide a multicultural curriculum based on the cultures of learners. Is it possible to design a curriculum involving diverse cultures? If yes, how? If not, why clamour for an inclusive curriculum?

(b)  How can teachers maintain respect for all cultures when teaching a class of learners with diverse cultural backgrounds?


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Ng-A-Fook, N., Radford, L., & Ausman, T. (2012). Living a curriculum of hyph-e-nations: Diversity, equity, and social media. Multicultural Educational Review, 4 (2), 91-128.

Ng-A-Fook, N., Radford, L., Norris, T., & Yazdanian, S. (2013). Empowering marginalized youth: Curriculum, digital media, and character development. Canadian Journal of Action Research, 14(1), 38-50.

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Tupper, J. (2014). Social media and the Idle No More movement: Citizenship, activism and dissent in Canada. Journal of Social Science Education, 13(4), 87–94.