Is Anti-Racism Anti-Education?
by Collin Wynter
While the United States sees sweeping legislation through its states banning anti-racism education, Canadian grade schools are working towards implementing it.
Anti-racism has its roots in critical race theory which is a doctrine devised to explore inequities people face in the legal system due to their racial background. The concept has been popularized by Ibrim X Kendi in his book How to be an Anti-racist.
In July, it became known that the Ontario’s grade 9 math curriculum was to include an “anti-racism” and “decolonial” approach. Just days after True North covered the topic, Ontario removed some references to racism and colonization. However, the document still includes this statement:
Systemic barriers, such as racism, implicit bias, and other forms of discrimination, can result in inequitable academic and life outcomes, such as low confidence in one’s ability to learn mathematics, reduced rates of credit completion, and leaving the secondary school system prior to earning a diploma.
While Ontario only focused on math, the Seven Oakes School Division (SODS) in Winnipeg, Manitoba included anti-racism training as a general policy directive. During 2020-2021, the SOSD Anti-Racism Team engaged in “comprehensive consultation” with community stakeholders: parents, students, staff and trustees to develop the document.
The policy adopted June 14, 2021, provides definitions for racism and anti-racism, a curriculum and anti-racism resource guide, how students will be supported, how parents and community will be involved, employment procedures and an assessment process.
The policy defines racism as:
Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, intentional or unintentional, based on race, colour, cultural or ethnic origin that has the purpose of nullifying or impairing the equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights.
Anti-racism is defined as a “form of action against racism and the oppression of marginalized groups”, while also “acknowledging personal privileges, confronting acts of racial discrimination and locating racism within institutions and policy.”
Resources provided will include anti-racism literature in the library, historical education and a toolkit to support students in addressing “issues of racism, discrimination, bias, harassment, prejudice and stereotyping as observed in curriculum or through lived experience.”
Students will also have the opportunity to participate in identity based student groups, such as a Gay Straight Alliance and the Black Student Union. Parents will have the option to provide demographic data for collection. The division will be held accountable to this, while teachers will receive ongoing training.
In the hiring procedure, it states that the “division believes it is important to have a staff complement that represents the make-up of our student body and community.” It is unclear how they intend to hire persons that are representative of the community while not violating the Human Rights Code. The code explicitly states you may not discriminate against hiring someone based on their racial identity.
The aim of anti-racism training is to ensure diverse, inclusive and equitable outcomes.
However, as we have seen with the Vancouver School Board (VSB), to achieve those outcomes it may require the cancellation of programs. As reported in the Globe and Mail, the VSB cut honours programs in math and science because not all students were able to access them.
Rex Murphy, always astute, made the observation “[i]ncrease inclusivity by subtraction of what is to be offered.”
Should Canada follow the United States in banning anti-racism education in grade schools?
The outcome may be worth it.
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