Mandatory Indigenous lit class expanding to more schools
Reading list inspired by Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be in half of OCDSB's high schools by fall
Ottawa's English public school board has introduced a mandatory Grade 11 English course with an all-Indigenous reading list, and it's expanding to classrooms across the city.
The class was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which seeks to undo the damage caused by the country's residential school system.
"It provides different perspectives for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students," said Jane Alexander, who oversees the secondary school curriculum for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).
"It's an opportunity for them to look at contemporary Canadian themes and literature that maybe they have not been able to do before."
Alexander said the board's Indigenous community partners helped curate the list, and are also helping guide non-Indigenous teachers in discussing Indigenous issues with their students.
"We're all treaty people, we're all responsible for teaching our students about our shared culture and history," she said.
"With non-Indigenous teachers, we're careful to say that you don't teach culture; you would invite a community partner in to speak to that."
The course has now expanded to nine of the OCDSB's 30 high schools this year, and the board is hoping to see in half its schools by the fall.
Still room for the classics
Alexander said there's still plenty of room to teach the classics.
"While Shakespeare is important, I would suggest we don't live in Elizabethan England and neither do our students," she said.
"I think it's important for them to understand our current modern identity."
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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action include mandatory age-appropriate curriculum on Indigenous history and residential schools from kindergarten to Grade 12.
It also calls for the creation of a senior-level position in provincial and territorial governments dedicated to Indigenous content in education.
With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning