Teaching national values in an era of reconciliation: a critical examination of B.C.'s draft high school Social Studies curriculum, 2015-2018




Dubensky, Kate

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Canadian public life is currently informed by what can be broadly considered an era of reconciliation. While definitions abound, the aim of reconciliation is just relations between Canada and Indigenous nations. Efforts on the parts of federal and provincial governments to apologize and atone for the discriminatory treatment of racialized immigrant groups has also been characterized under the broad banner of reconciliatory politics. While official positions indicate that there is to be a role for schooling in reconciliation efforts, what this means – both in terms of remedies and the nature of the problem they aim to address – remains unclear. At the same time, a new curriculum in British Columbia has been said to contribute toward reconciliation. This dissertation engages contemporary discussion about reconciliation in Canada through a critical examination of the most recent B.C. curriculum, 2015-2018, and asks how dominant national values are making space, or not, for robust and meaningful inclusions of previously marginalized and excluded histories and perspectives. Specifically, in this dissertation I am interested in how the production of national values and priorities in curricula are accommodating of the goals of reconciliation, and revealing of its limits. To do this I compare the national values present in this most recent curriculum to those reported to be present during the late 18th and early 19th centuries in secondary historical literature. Employing a settler colonial theoretical perspective, I assess the ways in which the values produced in the new curriculum continue to center the nation-state and dominant culture values. While nation states like Canada tout progressive mechanisms, such as multicultural policies and multicultural education, to reconcile challenges to state authority, such mechanisms employ and enforce cultural terms that are compatible with Canadian multiculturalism, without attending to less congruent aspects of Indigenous-Canadian relations, like those of land and resources. My findings indicate that while progressive curricular inclusions contribute to increased plurality in educational spaces, there are limits to their efficacy. This is the case primarily because these inclusions are produced through and operate within liberal frameworks that re-center the Canadian nation state. This dissertation contributes to literature that examines the condition of settler colonialism in educational settings in countries like Canada. My conclusions suggest that the efficacy of curricular inclusions that pursue reconciliation will be limited unless teacher education – both pre- and in-service – includes a critical self-analysis of settler colonial privilege and conditionality, and the nation state.



education, schooling, national values, settler colonialism, British Columbia, Canada, dominant values, reconciliation, social studies, curriculum