Diversity is the source of intelligence in any society or ecosystem. In fact, it is the diversity of perspectives and cultures in this world that saves us from acting like a mob, caught up in one big idea.
While we can all naturally gravitate toward, or be more comfortable communicating with, people who might share our ideas, conceptions of the “truth,” cultures and communication styles, it is important that we never become blind to the ever-emerging cultural and linguistic diversity of people who have different backgrounds than our own. Therefore, this edition of the Learning Team is focused on understanding the many diverse and rich traditions and cultures of Alberta’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and, in doing so, considering how we can enhance our education system for and with indigenous people.
My particular journey in life has been greatly enriched by previous experiences teaching and living in the Middle East (United Arab Emirates), Asia (Japan) and Europe (Spain) and at Red Crow College with the Blood Tribe (Kainai First Nation) in Alberta. From these many cross-cultural sojourns, I have become mindful of my own “strangeness” within a spectrum of unique and diverse cultures.
As philosopher Julia Kristeva suggests in her 1991 book Strangers to Ourselves, “the foreigner lives within us: he is the hidden face of our identity, the space that wrecks our abode, the time in which understanding and affinity founder. By recognising him within ourselves, we are spared detesting him in himself.” I therefore take counsel from Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, honorary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who so wisely states: “Let us find a way to belong to this time and place together. Our future and the well-being of all our children rest with the kind of relationships we build today.”
It is my hope that you will enjoy this edition of the Learning Team and, in your own way, contribute to the positive growth of our children and youth by helping to take this conversation (and these articles) forward in your own homes, workplaces and social gatherings.
Dr. Phil McRae is an executive staff officer with the Alberta Teachers’ Association and adjunct professor in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta.