Hiddencurricula in schools play a significant role in molding children intoadults and shaping their development. A hidden curriculum is oftenconveyed indirectly and usually deals with attitudes, values, beliefsand behaviors. While a formal curriculum consists of courses,lessons, learning activities, skills and knowledge imparted byteachers, the informal or hidden curriculum consists of unspokenacademic, cultural, and social messages communicated to studentswhile at school by various elements, activities, and events(Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2009). In other words, the manner in which aschool is organized to offer formal education sends other messagesidentified as hidden curriculum that affects the development, values,beliefs, and behaviors of children. Several authors have discussedthis issue of hidden curricula in Canadian residential schools in the19thcentury. Contenta (1993) notes that residential schools adopted afactory approach where students were put on a production line andfitted with new knowledge, religion, and culture and graduated asfinished products to function in a new society. The hidden curriculacontained in this system however, communicated other issues. The film‘Childhood Lost,’ provides actual evidence of the effects ofhidden curricula in 19thcentury residential schools on natives. There are several authors whoalso agree with this view that native residential schools offeredmore than education and acculturation but instead destroyed theiridentity and self-image through the hidden curricula.
Theformal education system introduced by whites in Canada was guided bya formal curriculum. According to Contenta (1993), this curriculumwas well intended but was frequently misused by teachers, who hadpowerful roles of enforcing discipline and moral behavior amonglearners. Specifically, “teachers were required to ‘maintain aproper order and discipline’” and emphasize on strict adherenceto morals (Contenta, 1993, p. 17). Teachers were expected to teachmorals and good conduct by setting good examples for students. Thiswould also be achieved through hidden curriculum used in variousresidential schools. It was expected that children would learn fromthe teachers and adopt good behavior. However, the “duty to respectsuperiors, and obedience to all persons placed in authority overthem” (ibid) implied that students would even obey unacceptablerules and accept irresponsible behavior from teachers communicated tothem through hidden curricula. According to the native Canadians whoschooled under this education system and featured in the ‘ChildhoodLost’ film, several teachers abused students physically,emotionally and sexually. Titley (1992) agrees with Contenta that theeducation system did not achieve its intended objectives because of anegative hidden curriculum common in many residential schools. Mostgraduates from these schools returned to the reserves and having losttheir cultural identity and having lost on generational education.They could not function properly or utilize formal skills gained fromschool.
Infact, their experiences in residential schools under the watchfuleyes of white teachers impacted their view of life and self-image. Inthe film ‘Childhood Lost’, one woman narrates that at oneparticular school, girls aged 7-9 years were subjected to sexualmolestation and physical abuse by teachers. Another girl was forcedto scrub floors with her toothbrush, which she would later use tobrush her teeth. The idea in itself seems absurd that children can beexposed to such cruel behavior in the pretense of promoting hygiene.Titley (1992) thus agrees with Contenta that the hidden curricula inresidential schools in Canada was the undoing of the nativepopulation. Through this curricula, they came to realize that theirlives were less meaningful compared to the white. Consequently, someended up in prostitution as they did not value their sexualityanymore while other others turned to alcoholism.
Suchbehavior from teachers can be explained by the education policy thatwas a product of the wider national attitude towards nativesperpetuated by whites. Again, the settlers perceived the Indian wayof life such as buffalo hunting as primitive and some practices endedup being prohibited (Gresko, 1979). The native education system thatinvolved passing down knowledge from one generation to the orally wasdeemed ineffective and inferior by the settlers. They blamed thisinferior culture on the resistance that they faced as they claimedIndian lands for farming. Apparently, ‘civilizing’ the Indianswas the best option to address the rebellion. Sir George Murray,Governor of Canada, had theorized that natives “could hope tosurvive only by becoming Europeans” through assimilation (Wilson,1986, p. 65). Levaque (1990) believes that the Oblate residentialschools played a critical role in educating and civilizing thenatives. However, he disagrees that residential schools are solelyresponsible for the plight of the natives. He argues that residentialschools were part and parcel of an already segregated social andpolitical system. This means that schools only communicated throughhidden curricula what was already out there in the larger society.
Onthe contrary, those who experienced the residential schools believethat the schools are entirely responsible for messing them up. Thenotion that natives had to be “gradually reclaimed” gave teachersauthority to employ undeclared methods to achieve this objective.Some of the tactics used by some Christian residential schoolsinvolved condemning some of the natives’ cultural practices. Thiscreated tension between the natives’ culture and civilization aspresented by formal education and religion. Consequently, instead ofweakening some cultural practices such as dances, residential schoolsincreased these practices as a form of rebellion as reported byGresko (1979).
Itthus clear that the claims made by Contante and the ‘ChildhoodLost’ film about Canadian residential schools are true as supportedby Gresko (1979), Levaque (1990), Titley (1992), and Wilson (1986).The teaching approach employed by these schools sought to achieveuniformity with “military precision” (Contante, 1993, p. 19) thatwould allegedly make the students function better in a civilizedsociety. However, what the hidden curriculum offered virtuallydestroyed the lives of these students as narrated in the film andtexts. Many suffered negative self-images and self-loathing thatpractically incapacitated their ability to function in a civilizedsociety.
Q2.Access to common schooling
Thepush to increase access to common schools, regardless of religion,social class, sex, and skin color among Canadians in the 19thcentury produced mixed reactions and results. For a federalgovernment dominated by whites, the desire to have ‘barbaric’ and‘uncivilized’ Indians engaged more in the mainstream society wasfundamental in having a civilized society that included Indians. Thiswas to be achieved by reforms that increased access to education forall. However, this goal was never met due to a number ofinstitutional, structural, and social issues facing schools at thattime.
Oneof the key issues that hindered access to education for all was aracist society. With the colonial settlers having employed politicaland social policies that portrayed the white race as superior, theeducation sector remained subject to this view. It was thereforepractically impossible to suddenly transform segregated schools intointegrated schools in order to offer uniform education. For someblack parents, it was almost impossible to enroll their children inwhite-dominated schools in Ontario. It took the intervention of theprovincial government to have black children admitted in some publicschools in Ontario. However, in Toronto, all races studied side byside (Walker, 1980). This marked the beginning of the challenge ofensuring that common schools provided access to education for all.
Therewere no legal and institutional frameworks to support equality ineducation. Cases of some black-dominated schools rejecting to admitwhites and vice versa were frequent. Although provincialadministrations were often informed about these issues throughvarious petitions, there was no legal action taken against schoolboards that insisted on admitting a particular race only. Legalaction against defaulters of this rule would have discouraged othersfrom such practices. Due to this lapse, some religious institutionsdeveloped education curricula based on their beliefs that technicallycreated an imbalance in access to education (Manly, 2002).
Again,there lacked a definite policy on the language of instruction inpublic schools. Different church-owned schools used native languagesfrom their home countries. French missionaries insisted on usingFrench in their schools while British missionaries insisted on usingEnglish in their schools. The Common Schools Act did not offerguidance on this requirement. This led to confusion among learnersand its effect expanded as more and more immigrants arrived in thecountry. The federal government later adopted the duality policy thatallowed use of either English or French as the language ofinstruction. For immigrants, proficiency in any of the two languageof instruction determined which school to attend and thus influencedthe concept of equal access to all for those not proficient the saidlanguages (Morton 1998).
Otherthan language, several social issues hampered the push for anintegrated education for all. After a prolonged period of racism andinequality in the education sector, there were social issues uniqueto each race or ethnic group that affected their pursuit ofeducation. Walker (1980) notes that for many black children who hadbeen born into slavery and had not started school at the recommendedage of 4-6 years, attending classes with relatively younger childrenproved very difficult as they felt out of place and were oftentimesmocked. Such children only felt comfortable in schools dominated byblacks since majority of the people would understand their situationsas opposed to white-dominated schools. For other immigrantcommunities, colonization issues from their country of originsheavily influenced their place in the French-English duality policy.
Furthermore,there were inadequate institutional structures to promote equalaccess to education for all. There were no policies or institutionalstructures to support diversity in the education sector. While theeducation system aimed at imparting knowledge only to a level neededto civilize the natives, the case of girls was different. They wereoffered a biased education with the intention of preparing them formarriage. The system did not interrogate such social trends and theirimpact in education. Where the equal access was supposed to bepromoted, there was need to develop strong institutional structuresthat would protect vulnerable students. In this case, there were noinstitutional structures that would have supported girls to push forequal access to education same as boys (Sheehan, 1995).
Onthe contrary, Christian based schools promoted equal access toeducation strongly. Various missionary groups through the corepurpose of evangelism sought to spread education for all regardlessof gender and race. Religious education was offered alongside formaleducation. However, the key motive for providing formal educationsuch as writing and reading skills was to further religious causes aslearners would read and understand the Bible better on their own. TheBible played a critical role in evangelical missions and education asit enabled the evangelists to achieve their primary goal of preachingsalvation to converts and also teaching reading skills (Purdy 1995).However, rivalry between Catholics and Protestants affected thecontent of education thus hampered its consistency. On the otherhand, this competitiveness created more schools and facilitateduniversal access to education in Canada (Choquette 1995).
Thedifferences in ideologies present in churches at that time soonspread to the education sector. There were numerous churchesestablished mainly Catholic or Protestant. For most of thesechurches, they had a school in their compound meant to serve thelocal community. Soon there arose churches that were dominated byunique ethnic communities usually located in neighborhoods dominatedby a particular ethnic group (Axelord, 1997). Indians, blacks, andwhites had their individual churches. Soon, several churchesestablished schools to cater to their members (Burns, 2000). Forinstance, the Anglican Church opened and funded schools targeting theblack community. The Presbyterian Church also began schools in Buxtonwhile the Baptists missionaries opened several schools in Ontario.These schools were meant for charity and were free to promoteuniversal access. For the whites who chose to attend such schools,they were charged minimal fees. So successful was the initiative thatin Halifax, it was estimated that more poor black kids attendedschool than poor whites (Walker 1980).
Thepolicies adopted by the policy makers were detrimental in promotingeducation for all. Sexism and sexual discrimination were rife duringthe reign of Egerton Ryerson as the superintendent of schools inOntario. Ryerson, alongside a grammar school inspector named GeorgeYoung, announced that starting from1865, girls were prohibited fromstudying grammar and Latin on the grounds that “it would affect thecharacter and sensibility the girls, but, more importantly, thatgirls would distract the boys from their studies” (Sheehan 1995, p.323). Gendered discrimination was not only present among studentsabut also among educators. Sheehan also notes that a female teacherwas offered a salary of $25 compared to a male teacher with the samequalification teaching at the same level who was paid $60. Such anenormous disparity would naturally discourage the few girls in schoolfrom taking teaching as a profession due to low wages.
Therefore,from the discussion above, it is apparent that differences inreligious affiliation, social issues, and inadequate institutionalstructures inhibited equal access to education. Furthermore, lack ofcultural capital, domination by whites, and oppression of the firstpeoples of Canada affected the inclusiveness of the minority in theeducation system in an equal footing as whites (Burns, 2000). Theidea of assimilation denied the different groups of people access toan education system relevant to their needs, culture, and identity asa people. Nonetheless, it is clear that creation of a commonschooling policy in 19thcentury Canada did not guarantee equal access for all regardless ofrace, gender, ethnicity and religion.
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