UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Why study the traumatic past? The educational legacy of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) : exploring the rationales for the inclusion of the history of Indian residential schools in the curriculum Davis, Brenda


Why study the traumatic past? This research question was a response to the CMEC commitment (July 2014) to require study of Indian residential school history in Canadian schools. Educators would need to justify engaging with difficult knowledge in the classroom, so in support of their efforts I set out to explore justifications for studying our traumatic past. First, I identified six groupings of justifications (rationale) based on literature from curriculum studies, Holocaust education literature and from the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Reports, Indigenous writing, contemporary political, social and artistic commentary, case law and legal analysis. Six Rationale or "Lens" Were Identified: 1) Historical Understanding; 2) Citizenship Education; 3) Existential Study; 4) Remembrance and Hearing the Voices of Survivors; 5) Call to Witness and Bearing Witness to the Traumatic Past; 6) Taking Steps Toward Reconciliation. Rationales #3-#6 were based on the TRC approach to historical trauma, grounded in Indigenous legal protocols and Indigenous wisdom traditions, requiring listening, bearing witness and only then moving toward reconciliation. The first two rationales (#1-#2) fit within existing curriculum parameters of historical consciousness and citizenship education. However, the third rationale, existential understanding, is not typically a justification for educational endeavours, although arguably it is essential when studying the traumatic past. The purpose in exploring these rationales is to enable educators to make better choices in response to this mandated curriculum and to further education discourse. My research approach is founded upon the concept of curriculum as a complicated conversation (Pinar, 2019) and the query: What might this national mandate to include the history of Indian residential schools mean in the complicated conversation that is Canadian curriculum studies? To this end, I explored each rationale using a research frame of verticality (historical antecedents of concepts and events) and horizontality (contemporary context) as connected to the CMEC commitment. A praxis of métissage was used to weave the threads of diverse voices into this curriculum conversation. Thus, both the research approach and content are a unique contribution to education with the hope educators make informed choices in addressing the CMEC mandate and further reconciliatory efforts in Canada.

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