As every day passes and we see the Coronavirus Pandemic spreading further, we know that it’s getting harder every day to manage to keep our kids busy while we try to do our jobs (or look for new jobs). If you’re a “glass half full” kind of person (which, admittedly, I’m not), the positive silver lining here is that as parents, we can also gain a bit more control over what our kids are learning. The good news for a lot of us is that we have more visibility into what our schools are teaching, and this means that we can add more diversity to supplement the “online” learning process because we need to keep our kids busy. For this reason, I’m presenting some resources I’m using to “decolonize” my kid’s education.
What Does “Decolonize” Mean?
The first step to decolonization is understanding what colonization means and how it impacts our current educational system. Google search defines colonization as:
- the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
- the action of appropriating a place or domain for one’s own use.
Basically, colonization is what most Western countries have done for hundreds or thousands of years. They find a new place that has resources, establish settlements, and take over.
For many people of color, decolonization acts as a reclamation of their history and culture. When we talk about “decolonizing the curriculum,” a Guardian article from 2019 explains:
Many advocates of decolonisation don’t want to abolish the canon; they want to interrogate its assumptions and broaden our intellectual vision to include a wider range of perspectives. While decolonising the curriculum can mean different things, it includes a fundamental reconsideration of who is teaching, what the subject matter is and how it’s being taught.
As parents looking to give our kids something to do that doesn’t annoy us, we currently have an opportunity to look at what they’re learning, find resources from marginalized voices that supplement the schools’ curriculums, and get our kids to question how it’s being taught.
But that means work. And right now, we don’t have a lot of actual time. So, since I decided that this was something I could do to push my kid’s learning further, I figured, why not share? Sharing is caring, after all.
The Institute for American Indian Studies
Full transparency: I only know about the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS) because I have a friend whose cousin works there. However, the cool thing is that it gave me a starting point for finding cool resources.
Right now, IAIS has teachers from all over the Americas and from various tribes doing online lessons. The lessons contain everything from language to history to beading.
The teachers are awesome, and so far, my kid seems to like them.
The National Council of Teachers of English
In an effort to provide teachers with decolonization resources, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has a whole page about what it means to decolonize the curriculum. At the bottom, it has a series of links that teachers (or in our case, parents) can use to find more resources.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk gives students a great way to understand the value of hearing more than one story and more than one voice.
The National History Center
The National History Center published the Teaching Decolonization Resource Collection in 2018. It offers educational resources, sources by theme, and sources by region.
The fairly cool thing about this particular site is that it incorporates gender and sexuality as a theme and includes information related to North Africa and the Middle East. The breadth of information means that regardless of what your kid is learning in school or what level of school your kid is, you can probably find something that helps provide additional voices often left out of traditional school curriculum.
Decolonizing the Music Room
Not all education is events. Turning to the arts is another great way to give our kids something at home that they might not get in school. In fact, few schools have a way to continue their arts education remotely, which leaves out the artistic or musical kids who thrive in those environments.
Second Life: AbTeC Island
Second Life, itself, isn’t really a learning tool. It’s more of a Sims-style video game. However, doing research into decolonizing education brought me the AbTec Island module.
According to author/teacher Amber Hickey in a guide to “Decolonial Strategies for the Art History Classroom”:
In summer 2018, I taught a course on Indigenous Art & Activism. When I had taught the course before, I noticed that students had a hard time imagining what a decolonized world might look like. … I decided to offer them an extra credit opportunity that would allow them to visit AbTeC Island, a decolonial territory in cyberspace…
In addition to experiencing what a decolonial world might look like, some students noted that their previous understanding of Indigenous visual culture was challenged.
At the very least, challenging our students in a videogame gives us a way to start important conversations.
Decolonizing to Make a Better World
At the end of the day, we’re parents raising the next generation that will have to be the change we need in the world. Right now, everything feels like it’s on pause, but that won’t last forever. So, if we have the time to prepare and do better today, maybe we can fill our glass halfway with new voices and raise them up.