Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

BC's first aboriginal public school planned in Prince George

I was happy to see that Prince George trustees had agreed to support plans for BC's first aboriginal school, which will emphasize aboriginal culture and customs. Better if aboriginal history, culture and customs had finally been respectfully integrated into the provincial curriculum.

That's probably too much to ask. Or not enough.

In an ideal world, representatives of post-colonial culture would be seeking to integrate their cultures and customs into the older and more diverse aboriginal vision of the region.

But BC's new school is not meant to solve all the problems--just one. Fifty percent of aboriginal children in BC drop out of school before they graduate. In Prince George, it's sixty percent.

The larger issue of justice for aboriginal people cannot be solved by a single decision or stroke of the pen.

The school won't solve the larger problem of extremely high aboriginal suicide rates either, but it might help.

BC already has aboriginal schools located on reserves and run by band councils.

In BC, none are part of the public school system. Aboriginal public schools do exist in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. (Atkinson Globe and Mail Feb 28 08)

Historically, the idea of "aboriginal culture" is an oversimplification. When Europeans and indigenous peoples first made contact in the 16th century, the North American continent was home to many cultures, languages and races.

It still is.

Under neoliberal globalization, the general devaluing of government's social responsibilities has meant that universal health care, public schooling, legal aid, and protection of the planet turn out to be a lifeboat that is at best full of leaks. But we can hope.

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