Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Neo-Colonialism in Our Schools: Representations of Indigenous Perspectives in Ontario Science Curricula/le Néocolonialisme Dans L'environnement Pédagogique: La Représentation Des Peuples Indigènes Dans Les Programmes Des Sciences En Ontario

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Neo-Colonialism in Our Schools: Representations of Indigenous Perspectives in Ontario Science Curricula/le Néocolonialisme Dans L'environnement Pédagogique: La Représentation Des Peuples Indigènes Dans Les Programmes Des Sciences En Ontario

Article excerpt

"What is Indigenous knowledge?" No short answer exists, since this is a question about comparative knowledge and no legitimate methodology exists to answer it.... It continues to be a difficult question for non-Europeans to answer because Eurocentric thought has created a mysticism around Indigenous knowledge that distances the outsider from Indigenous peoples and what they know.

(Battiste & Henderson, 2000, p. 35)

Over the past twenty years, discussions around integrating Indigenous perspectives into curriculum have become more predominant in the field of science education.1 The educational values of Indigenous knowledges and practice are increasingly recognized as they offer a more culturally relevant (responsive) curricula / pedagogies for Indigenous students (Aikenhead & Elliot, 2010). In Ontario, the province with the largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Education put forth the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework (FNMI Framework) in 2007. This framework suggested a need for "curriculum that reflects First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures and perspectives" as a way to enhance Aboriginal students' learning in Ontario's schools (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2007b, p. 7). Moreover, the province's official science curricula (grades 1-8 published in 2007, and 9-10 and 11-12 published in 2008) formally acknowledged the educational value of Indigenous knowledges in science education and emphasized that "all students in Ontario will have knowledge and appreciation of contemporary and traditional First Nation, Métis, and Inuit traditions, cultures, and perspectives" (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2007a, p. 7). Given this recognition, one might expect that the Ontario science curricula reflect Indigenous-related content, including "contemporary and traditional" knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Ontario (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2007a, p. 7). However, no published study to date has examined the prevalence or representation of Indigenous-related content in Ontario's current official science curricula. Examining the ways in which Indigenous-related content is presented within official curricula is important as it demonstrates how policymakers view Indigenous cultures and knowledges, which in turn influences the ways in which teachers and students teach and learn. However, Indigenous scholars, notably Battiste and Henderson (2000), continue to show concern about the ongoing negative impacts of academic practices that promote the cultural appropriation of intellectual property from Indigenous communities. In this paper, I explore the current status (i.e., prevalence and representation) of Indigenous-related content in the official Ontario science curricula.

LOCATING MYSELF

My point of entry is as a Korean-Canadian science educator, who has mainly been trained under the dominant Western model of science teaching. I was introduced to the knowledges and practices of Indigenous peoples during my undergraduate degree in biology as well as through community work. Through these experiences, I came to understand the importance and value of Indigenous knowledges (IK) in the field of science. As a science educator who was trained and is certified in Ontario, I tried incorporating some Indigenousrelated content in my high school science courses. However, I often found that students resisted seeing IK as a valid science. Students often perceived Indigenous-related content as relevant in history class rather than counting as scientific knowledge. In addition, Canadian science textbooks tend to highlight the cultural, traditional, and historical aspects of IK while diminishing Indigenous peoples' contemporary contributions to science and technology (Ninnes, 2000). Recognizing my students' perceptions and the textbook portrayals of IK, I questioned whether the representations of IK reflected in the official curricula of the Ministry of Education were aligned with those constructed by textbook publishers. …

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