White nationalism and racism have had an awakening in Canada this summer.
From racist rants caught on video to horrific and violent posts on social media and the emergence and greater prominence of groups like the Proud Boys, there is a clear and present frequency of these incidents and their audaciousness.
I would argue that education has been, and should be, the place and space where we resist these forces. Education, properly conceived, can offer a dialogical and democratic arena where skills and mindsets are nurtured to identify, call out and quash extreme nationalism and fascism.
Recently in Winnipeg, the Belgian Club hosted a gathering of the Canadian Nationalist Party and is now licking its wounds following the booking and subsequent remarks by a staff person.
We have an opportunity in Manitoba, particularly as our government is set to “modernize” the kindergarten to Grade 12 system, to refocus our efforts on developing a citizenry that has the critical analysis, historical thinking and media literacy skills to combat these vile forces of extreme nationalism, fascism, and contempt.
We have an opportunity to ignite a grade-school system that is fundamentally based on obliterating the lies of those who would profess “fake news.”
As Ted Dintersmith has written in his books Most Likely to Succeed and What School Could Be, the skills and mindsets needed for an automated world, which is quickly approaching, are very different from those of the current education system, which was created in the 1800s.
Learners now need to be equipped with the human skills that go beyond routine, computation, and regurgitation. (Even the RBC Financial Group argued this in its report Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth can Thrive in the Age of Disruption.)
If we are looking for a citizenry that can develop meaningful solutions to combating the challenges of this century, including fascism, there needs to be a greater emphasis on these human skills.
School, however, can often be reduced to credential acquirement, particularly at the high school level. When we hear learners ask, “Will this be on the test?” we know that we are not allowing students to develop the analytical, communication and thinking skills required to shut down the rise of fascism or prepare them for a world that will require significant cognitive and human skills.
Learners need to learn how to think like historians, how to inquire like anthropologists, how to investigate like journalists and how to ask deep questions like scientists. We live in a time when worksheets, multiple choice tests and purely theoretical environments are leaving our learners ill-equipped and potentially giving voice to the very things we stand against.
Deep thinkers use their imaginations. They use their imaginations to explore research problems, to develop empathy for other people and species, and to contribute authentic solutions to critical problems.
These are not skills that we are born with, but rather are skills that need to be developed, nurtured and challenged.
In a modernized school system, we need to create opportunities for our learners to gain these deep thinking skills, to develop their imagination and to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts.
As educators, we need to design learning experiences for our students through the lens of history. We need to design educational experiences that ask our learners to examine the shared human experience throughout time and have them make critical arguments about the present. During this very critical time of social change, we need to ask ourselves and our learners what individual and systemic actions we’ve taken to either support or defend against neofascism.
To do otherwise is to perpetuate and further cultivate a society that is simply not able to act in time against the very real forces of hate and violence that are waiting for their moment.
Published at Sun, 12 Aug 2018 07:00:02 -0400