Rose Couture

Aspiring teacher. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward

A History of Education by Painter (1886)


Reading the first 21 pages of Painter’s History of Education just blew my mind. And the fact that this textbook was used by Saskatchewan teachers in the early 1900’s is even crazier. Our teacher specified not to be scandalized in our lecture today, but I just could not help myself. Painter uses many racial terms in his work, “good” words about “his kind” and some other non-pretty words for anybody else that is underneath him in the racial hierarchy. Just so we are clear, I do not believe in racial hierarchy. He leaves us the impression that to him, being an anglo-saxon is just the best thing you can be. You are viewed as a noble man, you are the ideal of the human race, you are built to be the ideal of Christ. He then goes on comparing civilized people (like the anglo-saxon) to the barbarous people such as the Mongolians, the Chinese, giving us the impression that their ways are wrong compared to the western ways and that they cannot be smart/intelligent/knowledgable like the “child of the West”. The term “race” in the textbook highlights the negative differences between Westerners and Occidentals.

Why were teachers taught to think in racial terms? Mainly for assimilation. It was the government’s way of making sure that teachers would emphasize the importance of the Western ways in public schools and residential schools. Through “mandatory” texts about teaching/education that were written in racial ways, teachers believed it was “common sense” and “normal” to be teaching those views to the students in their classroom. I really hope that teachers nowadays do not unconsciously impose those biased values to the kids sitting in front of them in the class. What do you think? Are we still imposing white racialization unconsciously to our students in 2013? In what ways should we explore different cultures in class without it being seen as “racism” from the anglo-saxon?


3 thoughts on “A History of Education by Painter (1886)

  1. I do believe we are stepping in the right direction, I think that we as teachers are being educated and we can no longer blindly follow in the direction of stereotypical ideas. Regardless of the students sex, or race I think that we all know better than to look at what is on the outside. We as teachers have the knowledge to look deeper and to get to know our students on an intellectual level and not just on a first glance idea of who they are. We are all accountable for helping to stop racism and especially as teachers we need to set the stage and make an example of ourself. If we are uncomfortable with the differences within our classroom, how can we expect our class to be comfortable?

    • Just like we discussed in class today, we are all conscious about the different cultures that surround us in the classroom or just in the society. I think that as teachers it is our responsibility to touch this still “taboo” subject with our students so that they feel comfortable towards their classmates that aren’t necessarily from the same culture as they are. There are ways to introduce this in a classroom without being viewed as “racists”. It is through discussion and understanding of others and their backgrounds that we will feel more comfortable in the end.

  2. I think as teachers talking about race and racism is a great first step. Especially with young minds, it is easier to break down or avoid the notions of commonsense. However, perhaps we can do more than just talk about it. I think the activity we did in Audrey’s seminar was ideal, identifying race by profile pictures. It was a very uncomfortable activity.. but why? We subconsciously do it all the time, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. We may not categorize to the same extreme but it’s the point. We do it all the time but we don’t feel bad or uncomfortable about it because we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
    The activity made us realize exactly how we attempt to categorize people and it made us feel really guilty and uncomfortable about it. How uncomfortable must the “other” people feel when their categorized, stereotyped and even questioned based on their appearance? That can’t feel good at all, to the point where some are ashamed to identify by their own race. So why not put us in their shoes. Why not let us feel totally terrible about the situation. If every time we made a subconscious judgement we felt totally awkward and uncomfortable just as the opposite party does, would we continue to do it? We avoid awkward situations at all costs. Let’s allow students to encounter awkward situations. Comfort is “safe” but it’s also “stuck”. When we’re comfortable are we willing to change anything? I know this goes back to teachers not teaching social justice because it’s not supported by the schools but is there another way really?

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