Friends, Romans Countrymen Lend me Your Ears.
This was the most Unkindest Cut of all, says Antony in the famous Shakespearean classic, Julius Caesar.
In our case, the “unkindest cut” is the Toronto District School Board’s decision Wednesday evening to cut what many are calling “Eurocentric, colonial” classics from Grade 11 English and mandate a course called Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Metis and Inuit Voices.
Notice I said it will be “mandatory,” not an elective one can choose, meaning all Grade 11 students will have a school year of virtue signaling rammed down their throats.
The course is based on curriculum materials developed no doubt by former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s leftovers at the education ministry, who Premier Doug Ford and education minister Stephen Lecce didn’t get rid of as they should have at the outset of their first term.
According to TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird, there are four strands, the first of which involves explaining texts related to Indigenous cultures to better understand First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals, communities and cultures.
Two of the Indigenous authors proposed are Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Toronto Star journalist Tanya Talaga.
Simpson’s books include As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistence and Noopiming (written during the pandemic) described as a “poetic world-building journey in to the power of Anishinaabe life and traditions and colonialism.”
In 2020 Talaga published All our Relations: Indigenous Trauma in the Shadow of Colonialism.
Students who take the course will also develop oral communications skills based on these traditional stories – unless, as the curriculum states, the knowledge is “sacred” and can only be shared with permission from the knowledge holder.
Grade 11 students will also be expected to read and write interesting and original essays and improve their media skills based on subject matter related to First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures.
Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education at the TDSB, called this course an “exciting opportunity” to ensure students graduate with a “greater understanding of Indigenous cultures and history than their parents/caregivers.”
She said this course will ensure students learn the “truth about Indigenous brilliance, contributions, history…”
The nerve of her. How does she know what understanding parents and caregivers may have of the situation and who is she to determine what version of the “truth” TDSB students need to learn?
Board chairman Rachel Chernos Lin said it is important to take “meaningful steps” such as this mandatory course to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
What a pile of bunk.
The students would be far better off taking a field trip up to a reserve with no running water and in despicable conditions to learn the truth of how successive governments have let them down. But far be it from these educational activists to present anything but victimhood at the hands of whites and a romantic version of Indigenous life.
Still I’m certainly not against teaching students the history of the Indigenous in Canada. But to stretch what should be one or two units into an entire course sounds like indoctrination.
Yet again, this is the 2023 version of climate change – meaning every single student will be expected to feel guilty about what the white colonialists did to Canadian natives.
In my view, to abandon the classics — around which festivals are dedicated through North America (starting with Stratford) — for an entire year is akin to knocking down statues of our founding fathers to erase an important part of history.
I can’t imagine this will do much to improve student writing and critical thinking skills, or their literacy.
And at what cost for this virtue signaling exercise besides the blatant attempts to indoctrinate?
Bird says he doesn’t know how much it will cost to implement the new course across all Grade 11 classes along with the cost of professional development. That will come back in a June report, he said.
Meanwhile, a quote from Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing fits rather perfectly here:
“Let me be who I am and seek not to alter me.”
The TDSB would be far better off letting Grade 11 students choose whether they want to pursue such a course instead of trying to foist their collective guilt on all of them.