UBC Reports
November 14, 1996

Fighting school racism scholar's timely topic

Are teachers succeeding in the struggle against racial intolerance in Canadian classrooms?

"Racism is not always visible to educators, except in cases of overt hostilities between individuals at which time it's simply the tip of the iceberg," says Kogila Adam-Moodley, holder of UBC's David Lam Chair of Multicultural Education.

"Teachers try to cope in a variety of ways, from ignoring it and assuming it will go away, to treating all children equally. Often, they are constrained in what they can do by increasing demands for varied and differentiated education in a climate of dwindling resources and inadequate preparation."

Adam-Moodley will present these and other views on the implications of new immigration for educators, and education's role in fighting racism Nov. 19 as part of the Faculty of Education's lecture series on important educational issues.

Adam-Moodley, a widely published scholar on race and ethnic relations, says that studies exist which suggest that teachers may contribute to the problem of racism in the classroom and, although it has long been considered a tool to combat the problem, education may subtly reinforce cultural and racial hierarchies.

"Some research reports how teachers make assumptions about students' capabilities based on their ethnicity and class background," she explains. "Others assume that minority children enter school as an empty slate with little to offer or maintain that is distinctive and, therefore, proceed with a curriculum that seeks to assimilate them into dominant society traditions."

She believes that education today is heavily influenced by corporate ideology, where concepts of community, co-operation and equity are being replaced by an emphasis on choice, competition and excellence.

"In this climate, schools are wedged between contending forces in the delivery of an appropriate education," Adam-Moodley says. "Hence, the previous emphasis on compassionate solidarity and the benefits of diversity now sound old-fashioned, yet schools continue to struggle with everyday racism."

She defines everyday racism as the numerous ways in which people who `look different' are constantly regarded as `strangers' and never belonging.

"Collectively, they are considered violators of limited local resources, disrespectful of the ecology and are said to hold illiberal values."

Entitled The School's Struggle With Everyday Racism, the free public lecture starts at 7 p.m. in conference room two of the Robson Square Conference Centre. For more information, call 822-6239.