This week was the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Among the Aboriginals, it was also Orange Shirt Day, in memory of the thousands of children who were interned in residential schools or who studied there. Some died there.
No reconciliation without education
We know that the concept of systemic racism is currently under debate, both in the public sphere and in political life, as well as among academics and intellectuals.
I do not enter here into these often complex controversies, but I maintain that no one (or almost …) will deny that, when it comes to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, we are indeed in the presence of what must be called a systemic racism. This one, which leaves you speechless, was notably embodied in educational institutions and was nourished by them.
The fact remains that the solution to this systemic racism and its appalling consequences will necessarily go through education. In fact, there will be no real reconciliation without it.
It will take a lot of effort, work, listening and goodwill.
For example, everything must be done to ensure that young Aboriginals are educated, and so that they are welcomed in a school, a CEGEP or a university that ensures them optimal living and learning conditions. It’s a big job, which I gladly leave to those who are more knowledgeable than myself.
It will also be necessary to defeat these innumerable prejudices which unfortunately still circulate in the opinion and which are as many obstacles to a true reconciliation. On all this, I once again leave the floor and the decisions to those who are more knowledgeable than me.
We will have to come back to the curriculum we taught. One will see horrors there, of which a recent article published in the section Indigenous Spaces of Radio-Canada provides an overview.
Finally, it will be necessary to design the curriculum to be taught. This time, on this question of curriculum, I think I have something important to say concerning the university.
No education without truth
The worldviews that indigenous traditions have constructed, their understanding and knowledge of nature, animals, plants and their uses, all of this and much more are undoubtedly worth knowing and teaching. Sometimes we will even learn unexpected things there. We will also see embodied there what for lack of a better I call a spirituality, which also has important and inspiring things to tell us.
I fear, however, that, in this welcome and even necessary movement of openness and recognition, a terrible and distressing movement, at work in the intellectual and academic world for too long already, will lead to a relativism which denies the specificity of science, its nature, its importance, and do not confuse this spirituality with scientific knowledge. You should know that this relativist and obscurantist movement, largely stemming from postmodernism, has caused immense damage to many academic fields, including sociology and philosophy, not to mention education.
In any case, reason, science, truth, objectivity are given as arbitrary social constructs in the service of the dominant, usually white western men.
These beliefs have not caused great damage only to intellectual life: they have also had often distressing practical consequences, among other things by reducing the place that must be given in action and in practice to facts and data. probative. They have also fueled an unfounded and distressing skepticism of knowledge and even fueled conspiracy.
Among many other examples, in this family of ideas professed at the university (I insist …) and which opens the door wide to pseudosciences, we have, as a Swedish philosopher called Sven Ove Hansson has long documented, promoted as true of the claims of the followers of the paranormal; questioned the scientific consensus on AIDS, its causes and treatment; promoted the creationist “theory” of intelligent design against that of evolution; disputed the reality of global warming; and so on.
Am I worried about anything? I hope so. But here’s what we read on the page of an ongoing research project on Indigenous (Decolonizing Light) that I invite you to visit: “Even more than the other sciences, physics is a field dominated by white men, and therefore a mirror of colonial patterns and social inequalities. Despite this fact, physics is considered a “hard” science, disconnected from social life and geopolitical history. This narrative constitutes and reproduces inequalities, which is reflected in the under-representation of women, racialized people, and Indigenous peoples in physics. “
My opinion is that in rethinking the curriculum, we must be very careful not to substitute for an erroneous narrative which conformed to the ideology of one era for another, also dangerously erroneous, which would conform to the ideology and to the political correctness of ours.