The union representing Ontario elementary school teachers is equipping its members with a new tool to “disrupt patriarchy” in the classroom.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents teachers and some early childhood educators in the public system, has published a guide to “embedding intersectional feminism in the classroom.”
The guide, titled The Places We Meet, strives to help teachers and students “work together to understand and respond to an ever-changing and unpredictable world in which the outcomes, opportunities, and rights of girls and women continue to be challenged because of systemic oppression.”
The document is not publicly available, but a copy was shared with True North by an ETFO member unhappy with the document.
“(It’s) basically a guide on how to put an activist twist on everything you teach, regardless of the actual curriculum,” the teacher said.
Intersectional feminism attempts to address gender-based concerns alongside grievances related to race, sexual orientation, and other social identities.
The ETFO guide highlights the “lived experiences of women and girls” to illustrate the “oppression and roadblocks” they face.
“As educators, it is our hope that these experiences will help you disrupt patriarchy and explore opportunities for embedding concepts of intersectional feminism within your daily classroom practice,” the guide says.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce did not respond to a request for comment.
The guide instructs teachers to “use their knowledge, skills, and expertise to tailor the lessons to the specific groups of learners in their classrooms.”
While the guide does recommend different approaches depending on grade level, it insists that anti-oppression training should start as early as kindergarten.
“Early learners are never too young to learn about activism and social justice,” the guide says. “However, we need to introduce this work naturally, to weave it throughout our interactions and conversations, responding to learners’ needs and to ensure that our instruction is developmentally appropriate.”
Lesson themes range from identity broadly to racially specific topics.
Black women face discrimination “as a result of anti-Black racism rooted in the history of enslavement, racial segregation, and marginalization,” the guide says in the “Black Women’s Lives” section.
“Canada’s history of cultural genocide against Indigenous Peoples carries a legacy of oppression and erasure that continues to reverberate across generations,” it says under “Indigenous Women and Children.”
The guide urges teachers to familiarize themselves with equity issues as “teaching these lessons unprepared can easily cause harm, especially to learners from underserved communities.”
ETFO’s manual concedes it is limited in effect if those who use it are not fully committed to the anti-oppression cause.
“The lessons are powerful, but won’t do the work for us,” the guide says. “A lesson is only as anti-oppressive as the educator leading it.”