UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Divergent intersections : multicultural education and peer interactions in schools Derksen-Bergen, Tesia


For decades, Canadian multiculturalism policy has promoted a vision of integration in which all people have the right to practice and maintain their culture of origin while at the same time helping to build a diverse nation. Critics, however, argue that the policy tends to essentialize cultural identity and serves only to “manage” diversity. On a smaller scale, schools are a primary site for integration and identity negotiation for young people in Canada. In British Columbia, multicultural curricula in secondary schools aims to celebrate the contributions to society of “other” cultures, as well as acknowledge Canada’s racist past. Critical questions of privilege, power, and oppression are often left out of this discussion, and scholars have rightly asked whether multicultural education is able to address systemic racism and inequities. This research contributes to our comprehension of how and to what extent multicultural education in schools affects interactions among peers from many different ethnocultural backgrounds. I interviewed 30 students enrolled in a Grade 11 Social Studies course at a secondary school in Abbotsford, British Columbia to ask them how the process of multicultural integration materializes in their everyday lived experiences of identity formation, sense of belonging, and peer interaction. I find that students’ lived realities of multiculturalism, racialization, privilege, and oppression, both intersect with and diverge from the British Columbia Social Studies curricula. Their embodied experiences are far more complex than any simple definition or stated aim of multicultural education. These findings justify the implementation of critical multicultural education in schools, which might welcome students’ lived realities into discussions of multiculturalism and racialization, thus bringing the hidden curriculum to light.

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