Thursday, October 27, 2005

And Then There Were None

It took the BC Government several weeks - or one could fairly argue, several years - to begin their glacial and grudging movement on the accumulated grievances professional teachers have regarding working conditions that have worsened famously since the tragic election of May 2001. But if anyone dares call Minister Bond or Gord-O himself slow off the mark when it comes to really important educational issues, hold your fire!

Late last week, the B.C. "First Nations Summit" leader Ed John began issuing letters of outrage when it was brought to his attention that a grade 9 assignment had made reference to the old ditty"Ten Little Indians". It came to light that for reasons that are indeed puzzling this rather silly little rhyme was still embedded in the official curriculum of BC schools.

Well, not for long, for apparently when Eddie John and the Summit — an organization which contrary to popular belief does not speak for all First nations or Aboriginal people in BC — tells the Liberals to jump, their principal response is "how high?" Today (Thursday), less than a week after the grievance first saw light, the Education Minister has hit the delete button for the poem in the curriculum and begged for a summit with the Summit to discuss curricular design and, no doubt, cultural sensitivity.

One does wonder, of course, how this trivial verse had apparently survived generations of change and evolution in the curriculum, given that the literary merit therein is well below borderline. One also has to wonder — because the media have not been able or bothered to go to the source and speak to the teacher — about the context of this material's use. One can imagine (but that is all one can do) that just maybe there was some worthwhile pedagogic goal in exposing students to such material. Certainly there must be rather limited applications for a nursery rhyme in a grade 9 level assignment.

Now, be clear: this Grouse has no big or little qualms with flushing "Ten Little Indians" from the toilet of BC education. But as has been so often the case since 2001, concerns about public process do spring to mind. Will there be other demands generated by the cultural competence experts - or claque - for deletions from curriculum that do matter more and, if so, will there be opportunity, in the form of time and access, for others than the BC Summit to name and frame what is and is not racially degrading?