Whose Story Matters?

My upbringing and schooling has influenced how I “read the world” and the biases that are a part of my perspective and view. The majority of the books and textbooks that I read in school were based on people who look like me, speak like me, and act like me. Even our history text books spoke of the history of the white people who came to Canada and described the Indigenous people of Canada as others or as different. The books we read in English; the scientists and other role-models we studied; and even the teachers we had were predominately white. The books I read at home had characters that resembled me, that I could relate to. If I wanted to read books that I could see myself in, wouldn’t other students too? In Kumashiro’s, Against Common Sense, he discusses the importance of using reading material that does not just pertain to those privileged in our society, but moves towards a “wider range of experiences and perspectives” encouraging alternatives to the ‘norm’ and commonsense ideals and allows all students to see themselves within the text (p. 17). It was easy for me to find books that were like me that reaffirmed my identity but is isn’t as easy for students who are not white and cis-gender. My upbringing has completely shaped how I “read the world” as white ways and traditions were the only ways I had seen. It had given me a flawed perception of the world. Being ‘white’ is far from the only way to be. There are so many different cultures, traditions, histories, backgrounds, and languages that describe the diversity of our country and world. This upbringing has encouraged biases that I will need to actively work to keep out of my classroom ad teaching practices. An example of these biases includes seeing the ‘white’ way and culture as the only way. I know that the community I grew up in had a mindset about as small as the town itself. There were some people that were considered a positive addition to our community for the most part and others that negative attitudes were directed at. Growing up in a community with low numbers of Indigenous people and high levels of racist attitudes impacted my thoughts and perceptions. This is a difficult point for me to admit, but I know it is true. Although this bias exists, I can and have been taking action to eliminate it. I have already begun the process of unlearning these biases through education and experiences. It is 18 years of unlearning that needs to occur. It is learning to recognize my thoughts and actively working to not let them impact my actions and words. Additionally, it is also taking a stand and educating others who hold biases and allow those biases to influence their actions and words. I feel like I spend a good part of every time I visit home educating others and helping them recognize how their stereotypes are just that, stereotypes and not fact; how their actions and words continue to oppress marginalized populations; and how “it’s just a joke” does not make it funny or less hurtful and harmful. Although I am not perfect and I will always have more to learn, I am working towards unlearning my biases and learning how to prevent them from hurting how I view and treat others. As an educator, I can also support my students in challenging ‘commonsense’ views and developing and understanding of various perspectives by providing them with resources other than the ‘white’ perspective. With this, Kumashiro suggests that it is important to assess the material to ensure it is not promoting stereotypes or glossing over complexities. We need to provide them with texts that challenge them and encourage them to ask questions.

As I had mentioned, the single-story present in my schooling experience was that of white people. This story promoted the brave white settlers who settled the land to give us this wonderful country of Canada. We learned little about the history of Canada from the perspective of Indigenous people nor did we experience an education that shared the history and various perspectives of people other than white Canadians. The truth that mattered was the truth that represented me, the white truth.

~Taylor Block

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