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The Perpetuation Of Subordination Challenges To Aboriginal Employment Opportunities

1815 words - 7 pages

The discussion of a hidden curriculum (Eisner, 1985; Jackson 1968) wherein students learn more in the public school system than what the direct or written curriculum intends - or intentionally leaves out - is oddly appropriate in the context of looking at the experience of the Aboriginal working-age populations in Canada. Bowles and Gintis (1976) suggest that schools maintain the dominant capitalist system of mainstream society due to particular social relations taking place in school communities. If public education in Canada is not correcting historical and social biases, it perpetuates prejudice and the placing of Aboriginal peoples at a lower social standing in Canada. How then are they expected to be successful in avenues like the employment market? Jean B. Miller’s discussion of the dominant/subordinate issue between men and women (1995) is an excellent template to analyze the plight of Aboriginals and employment obstacles in Canada. Aboriginals have been subordinate to the colonizing powers for centuries. Morrison (1995) outlines many barriers to diversity in the workplace, but “the single most frequently mentioned barrier is prejudice” (235). It is no surprise then that despite recent gains in education-level completion, Canada’s Aboriginal populations are not seeing corresponding gains in employment.
The last four centuries of Canadian history have seen many dark periods for the experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Topics such as treaty disputes, the residential school system, armed stand-offs over territories, or disease, substance abuse, and the situation on reserves dominate provincially recommended textbooks. These discussions of their past, however, contain little to no Aboriginal perspective. They are told from the colonizer’s perspective, where Aboriginals are often relegated (sometimes unconsciously) to the role of subordinate - or to those deserving pity or needing assistance. If “prejudice is…the tendency to view people who are different from some reference group …as being deficient (Morrison, 1995, 235), then public education’s treatment of Canada’s Aboriginals does nothing to end that prejudice. This situation is unlikely to change because, as John Ralston Saul quips, “our real history is not part of how we describe ourselves, we live in denial of our reality” (Saul, 2008, 21). The reality he alludes to is that Canada has failed “to normalize…the First Nations as the senior founding pillar of our civilization” (Saul, 2008, 21). Until the First Nations are regarded as equals in Canadian society, and until public education shifts away from Eurocentric teachings - colonial teachings - of the past, prejudice will remain a stumbling block.
Miller (1995) speaks of dominant/subordinate relationships in terms of ascription. During the twentieth century, Aboriginals have generally been ascribed as unequal by the dominant society in Canada. It is not a “temporary,” but rather what Miller would describe a...

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