Models for Change: Antiracist Education for Universities and Colleges

Article excerpt

This paper examines five experiential educational strategies for the prevention of discrimination and harassment in higher education, developed by a project team from six Ontario colleges and universities. The project, Models for Change: Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Education for Colleges and Universities, was funded by PAHDPCC/CCPHDPP (Post-Secondary Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Project Coordinating Committee/Comite coordonnateur du projet du harcelement et de la discrimination au palier postsecondaire) in 1994 as a government initiative to combat harassment and discrimination in the postsecondary educational sector in Ontario.

Recognizing that opportunities for education and training are disproportionately denied to particular categories of people, federal and provincial governments have targetted certain groups for equity initiatives - persons with disabilities, women, aboriginal people, racial/visible minorities and Francophones - for the application of special initiatives such as employment equity, pay equity, and human rights legislation. These initiatives may have improved the socioeconomic status of women and some racial minority groups but for others, such as aboriginal people, there has been little progress (Statistics Canada, 1995a, 1995b). There are other groups not targetted by affirmative action programmes - elderly and poor people, many ethnic/cultural/linguistic and religious group members - who face obstacles in academe and the workplace as a result of socially determined statuses.

The province of Ontario has acknowledged that some groups have been denied essential training and educational opportunities to maximize their economic potential (Council of Regents, 1991) and initiated some compensatory programmes such as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). At the same time, members of the academic community have demanded change (hooks, 1989, 1992, 1994; Dei, 1993; James and Busia, 1993; James and Shadd, 1994; Kaye-Kantrowitz, 1992; Moodley, 1992; Rahim, 1990; and others) to the structure and power imbalance, and to the biases and restrictions of traditional instructional methods and materials. These members are exploring alternative, more equitable curricula and delivery systems (Arnold et al., 1991; Dei, 1995; Herberg, 1993; hooks, 1994). Students, too, are confronting traditional pedagogy and academic philosophies that tout the professor as an all-knowing god who deposits wisdom in thankful students' cognitive accounts (Freire, 1993).

Mindful of these concerns, Models for Change incorporates integrative antiracist theory and pedagogy (Dei, 1995) and critically examines racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression. Recognizing the structural basis of racism and discrimination, the training subjects are people in positions of power. Cognizant of the impact of individuals' values and attitudes learned from their participation in a particular cultural group, trainers encourage participants to identify and analyse the effect of their own cultural and personal experiences on their values, attitudes and behaviour and how these become entrenched in institutions of higher learning and other societal structures.

The models incorporate issues of multiple oppressions and explore the intersections among race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and social class within the context of power relations in the tradition of Brewer (1993), Collins (1990), Dei (1995), Kandal (1995), Regnier (1995), Ng, Staton and Scane (1995); Roscoe (1988) and others. The framework probes various forms of oppression, looking at people's experiences as whole persons, as people who may be oppressed as a consequence of their placement in multiple social categories. Although the interaction of race, class and gender has been recognized in some antiracist literature, analysis is often restricted to a linear examination of variables rather than being based on the development of a comprehensive theoretical model or an empirical examination of the interaction of these variables in everyday life experiences (Rezai-Rashti, 1995). …