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Decolonize education

Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indingenize Mainstream Education
Review by Bradley Hughes

May 15, 2015

For thousands of years the Indigenous peoples of what is now the Americas lived in sustainable relationships with the world around them. This healthy relationship extended to their relationships with each other, resulting in a much more harmonious existence than anything we have ever seen under capitalism. Despite (or more likely because of) this, their languages, their philosophy, their science and their approach to physical and mental health have been excluded from mainstream education at all levels.
Four Arrows wrote this book to change that.
The book is “a curriculum to indigenize mainstream education.” This is a necessary process for many reasons. We have an obligation to end the ongoing genocide of the First Nations, their languages and culture. In Canada in the form of residential schools, the education system was used as a weapon to try to destroy the First Nations and their wealth of knowledge. To deal with this we must welcome First Nations' students and cultures into our classrooms.
At the same time, capitalism is an implacable enemy to our health and the health of our planet. Our education system is largely complicit with this assault on us and our world. “Mainstream education is largely responsible for our era of crises. Its authoritarian assumptions of superiority over other creatures, races, cultures, spiritual beliefs and Nature, along with its continual dismissal of Indigenous, nature-based values, have brought humanity to the brink of near extinction and has helped cause many other species to already become extinct.”
Every chapter in this book has given me ideas on how to change things in the college physics' classes that I teach. The chapter on Phys Ed led to me to realize that even though physics claims to be the study of the natural world (we even grandly refer to our field with its archaic description of “natural philosophy” on occasion) I have never taken a physics class, or conducted one, that went outside. This distance from nature can only contribute to the ease at which the natural sciences are used against nature. Citing other writers, Four Arrows argues for using “indigenous knowledge to counter Western science's destruction of the Earth.”
The book is written in a very holistic manner. Ignoring the connections between science, literature, economics, politics etc, is one of the ways in which capitalism tries to hide its evil ways. The book is full of general suggestions to change the way the class operates. Such as, “Make the group more important than the individual . . . in terms of both the learning process and learning goals,” “Native speakers and authors must be prioritized in learning,” "Native views are allowed to challenge the dominant worldview and values,” and “Knowledge is for the sake of decision and action.”
There is also a section of chapters relating to school subjects, like geography, language arts, mathematics and sciences. Each is a treasure trove of great ideas and references for further reading.
Educators inspired by Marxism will find that the books philosophy and curriculum suggestions easily fit into and broaden a Marxist approach to teaching. Teachers whose daily goals include showing students the need for an end to hierarchical class societies will learn lots from the philosophies of the First Nations that lived in such societies before the European conquest.


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