MTRP presentation


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“Children have the right to receive an education that presents the human experience in all its complexities and multiplicities. This includes the ways in which the quest for meaning has expressed itself through the development of religious thought.”
(Sweet, 1997, p 11)

The necessity of providing an inclusive environment for diverse students has been a pillar amongst effective teaching strategies for decades. With increasing changes to student population, educators need to go beyond multicultural awareness, amongst other aspects of diversity, to include the discussion of religious differences as well. Used as a framework for many students to understand and navigate through the world, religious differences and the discussion of is imperative, specifically within the public school setting, based on current literature and my qualitative research findings within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Although many people assume secular environments should not include any religious aspect, the public school classroom should not be an arena void of religious discussion. By informing teachers of key religious items and ways to conduct dialogue with students and parents, a more inclusive classroom for their school community can be fostered, which in turn allows students to understand one another more, creating a safe environment for further discussion and inquiry, and be better prepared for our diverse society. Detailed strategies and the tension that arise between student-student, student-teacher, and teacher-parent are discussed in my findings.

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  • 2006 Census did not show these numbers and 2011 Census is not published yet.
  • (DON’T DISCUSS IN DETAIL. JUST TO SHOW THE CONSISTENT PERSPECTIVE.)I needed to understand more about the current perspectives to be able to frame my research questions. Chamberlain – read 3 books to his kindergarten and grade 1 students that showed the diversity amongst families, notably those with same sex parentsKempling – Nazi teachingsMultani – Sikh student dropped kirpan on school field during gym
  • Although all references agreed upon the definition of religion and indoctrination, not everyone agreed on the definition of secularism…Which is a source of why it is not discussed in classrooms. Along with teachers feeling uncomfortable with the discussion, fearful of: Being misinformed or lacking knowledgebeing called an indoctrinatorOr conflict with students, parents, and community
  • After it was confirmed that sufficient resources exist to verify the need for religious discussion in public school classrooms, I began my interviews.
  • Educators currently teaching or taught in a GTA (TDSB, PDSB, YRDSB, DDSB) based public school for 5+ years Educators teaching or taught students from diverse religious backgrounds Educators who identify with a specific belief structureA perspective differing from the previously interviewed individualsRecommended practitioners within the school
  • Conflicts arise especially about issues of homosexuality. From my interviews, it seems some students can benefit from these conversations while some are disadvantaged but the teachers all felt it was an important discussion to have in the end.
  • Very much in line with Jackson’s 3 approaches to religious discussion, but most of the people I interviewed leaned towards the dialogical approach and contextual approach.
  • She later went on to say that she doesn’t feel religious differences are the ignored diversity in Toronto but questioned if the same can be said for all religions. i.e. what about the aboriginal belief system? Bottom line, no matter where we are, if we think teaching the holistic student is important, the teacher must be the advocate for this inclusion first. We have to help students see the similarities, and not the differences.
  • MTRP presentation

    1. 1. A Place for Religious Discussion toCreate and Strengthen an Inclusive Public School Classroom Master of Teaching (CTL), Ontario Institute of Studies in Education Alice Chan
    2. 2. Why this topic? Why now?• 2001 Census: 67.85 per cent of F/T and P/T students attending Toronto school identified themselves as being religious – What about 2011? – What about the outlying cities surrounding Toronto?• Adult perspective: – Christian – Father’s passing• Student perspective - In-class bullying: – Muslim girls versus Muslim girls – Arab student versus non-Muslim students• Employee perspective: – Large corporations mask diversity
    3. 3. Past and current perspectivesPast (c. 1950s - 1970s) Current (circa 2000s)• CBC (1959): many felt that • “Tempers flare over prayer in exempting individual students schools” (CBC News, 2011) from religious reasons was an • “Persichilli: It’s time to talk inadequate means of dealing about religion in our schools” with diversity (Toronto Star, 2011) • “Part 3: Canada’s changing• CBC (1978) radio interviews at faith” (The Globe and Morningside re “Should religion Mail, 2010) be taught in schools?” • Supreme Court of Canada in – Yes: “It helps me be a better Chamberlain v. Surrey School person”; “It’s important for the District No. 36 human condition”. (2002), Kempling v. British – No: it should be for parents to Columbia College of Teacheers decide, not the schools (2004), Multani (tuteur de) c. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (2004)
    4. 4. Research Questions: How can teachers addressreligion in an inclusive public school classroom?• Is a safe and inclusive classroom environment truly possible without the sharing of students’ religious beliefs, when religion can be such a big part of students’ lives?• How does the absence of religious discussion in class affect religiously observant/practicing students?• How do our schools reflect and prepare students for their daily life, where they mingle with peers of various backgrounds and faith groups in the GTA?• What are the strategies teachers can use to include the discussion of religion in the classroom?• In what ways does a teacher’s understanding of religion affect the way they conduct their class discussion on religion?
    5. 5. Methodology• GTA – centric qualitative research based on literature review and interviews CA Indepe- EU Public Data Analysis ndent Schools Schools USA Literature review Interviews (5), Inter-faith session, Canadian Centre for Data Analysis, Discussion, and Diversity workshop Implications for Future Research
    6. 6. Current research• Evans (2008), Dean of Melbourne Law School and member of Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies – compares the information in the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights) with the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Code) – 6 different forms of secularism: unitary religious education and plural religious education are the 2 best options for whole class instruction• Jackson (2002), Prof. of Ed. At University of Warwick, Prof. of Religious Diversity and Education at the European Wergeland Centre – 3 approaches to dialogue about religious differences: 1. Dialogical approach 2. Contextual approach 3. A mix of religious education and citizenship education• Clarke (2005), Associate Prof. in Faculty of Education at University of Regina – Canadian perspective: definitions of secularism amongst religious cases, in relevance to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (1982)
    7. 7. Government and Ministry documents Federal Provincial Municipal/BoardCanadian Ontario Human TDSB: Policy P037: EquityCharter of Rights Rights Code Foundation (1999)and Freedom (1996) YRDSB: reference to Ontario’s EIES(1982), re (2009)religion in 2(a),15.1, 15.1.2 Ontario’s Equity DDSB: Guidelines and Procedures and Inclusive for the Accommodation of Education Religious Requirements Strategy (2009) Practices, and Observances (2009) PDSB: Policy #54, re Equity and Inclusive Education (2010), as well as The Future we Want (1996), and Manifesting Encouraging and Respectful Environments (1996)
    8. 8. Interviewee Criteria GTA public school basedSelf identified Taught students with a belief from diverse structure religious beliefs Educator Differing Recommended perspective practitioner from others within school
    9. 9. Christian teacher-librarian Interviewees(middle school) Sikh social sciences teacher, previously taught religious studies (high school) Gay atheist teacher Christian TDSB (middle school) educator currently seconded to OISE and a member of the TDSB Equity Roundtable (principal, and previous elementary and high school teacher) Jewish guidance counselor at an independent Jewish K-12 school; advocate for multi-faith discussion
    10. 10. Findings• Identity: – “We have students coming from a variety of backgrounds and I think faith is a big part of students’ identity. So if we’re asking them to check that at the door, there’s a whole part of them that isn’t going to be there. ” – Meagan* – Students are aware and interested, i.e. interfaith group and World Religions• Supporting documents exist, but… – Teachers who are comfortable and already knowledgeable discuss – Teachers who have students that comfortably sharing about their faith have religious discussions• Stereotypes: – Have students aware of offensive language, i.e. “Oh my God” or “God damn it”. All 3 teachers said this had to be addressed because some students were offended. – 9/11 has raised many negative Muslim stereotypes ; they need to be addressed.• GTA versus the rest of Ontario – Both TDSB and PDSB educators feel their board is raising awareness well but are not confident about rest of province• Conflicts will/have arise – Students, teachers, parents, public
    11. 11. Strategies offered from research and interviews• The importance of dialogue: – Dialogue amongst students based on their personal faiths or beliefs; allow students to be the knowledge base – Informal and formal – Lessons to include discussion should be prepared based on teacher’s understanding of student community (Kumashiro, 2000) – Northern Ireland schools, (Wessler, 2011)• Teacher education: – Open-minded teachers, based on desire to teach the holistic student, not just teach the subject – PD and Workshops on: • Religious diversity • Communication with parents – Similarities vs differences; equity vs equality
    12. 12. “Because I Had a Turban”, (Joshi, 2007)1. Know your own students. There are a lot of religions in the world. Start with the ones present in your classroom.2. Learn our ABCDs. We dont need to be theologians, but we can at least learn the: – Architecture: Know what the house of worship is called, like mandir (Hindu), masjid or mosque (Muslim), and gurdwara (Sikh). – Books: Know the name(s) of the religions holy text(s). – Cities: Know the names and locations of the religions holiest cities, like Amritsar (Sikhism), Mecca and Medina (Islam), and Varanasi/Benares (Hinduism). – Days: Know the names and meanings of the religions major holidays, like Diwali and Holi (Hinduism), Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr (Islam), and Vaisaki (Sikhism).3. Recognize religion as part of students social identities. Understand how this makes religion especially salient for some students, and how the familys religion may be important even to students who dont see themselves as "religious."4. Avoid the urge to "Christianize" religions and holidays. e.g., saying "Ramadan is like Lent" or "Janmastami is like Christmas."5. Include religion in our curricula whenever its appropriate. Discuss how different religions deal with the concept at hand.
    13. 13. Implications for the future “… the more you see the connections, you see thesimilarities because without knowledge you only see the differences because those are the ones that are highlighted by the media. But the more knowledge you have the more you understand the similarities.” - Myriam* “…growing up in a small town I would say that when youcome away from a city centre, I don’t think that it’s taught as well. So, I think it depends where you are because welive in a Metropolis that’s very multicultural so you have to talk about it but I also think that’s because parents advocate and stuff. If we don’t have so many people advocating then would they say anything? I don’t know.” - Laiba*
    14. 14. • “Children have the right to receive an education that presents the human experience in all its complexities and multiplicities. This includes the ways in which the quest for meaning has expressed itself through the development of religious thought.” (Sweet, 1997, p 11)• “The relationship between the education system and religion is difficult. Religion should stay out of schools, but when the school system becomes a repository for all the tensions in our society, the two have to survive together.” (Persichilli, 2011).• “Ignorance is a root cause of intolerance, contributing to religious prejudice and discrimination, including persistent anti-Semitism and growing Islamophobia.” (Haynes, 2011, p 51)
    15. 15. ReferencesAmericans United for Separation of Church and State. "Teachers have no right to push religion in classroom, AU tells court." Church & State 63.8 (2010):18+. General OneFile. Web. 25 May 2011.Aronowitz, Stanley and Henry A. Giroux. (1991). Postmodern education: politics, culture, and social criticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: PART I OF THE CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982.“Canadians debate role of religion in the classroom.” (Feb 27, 1959). CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation., Paul. (2005). “Religion, publics education and the Charter: Where do we go now?” McGill Journal of Education. Vol. 40, No. 3.“Classroom environment: Religion.” (2011). Citizenship and Immigration Canada. on the Rights of the Child. (1989). UNICEF. District School Board. (2010). Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices, and Observances.“Education about Religion in Ontario Public Elementary Schools”. (1994). Ontario Ministry of Education.“Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation.” (2009). Ministry of Education., Carolyn. (2008). “Religious Education in Public School: An International Human Rights Perspective.” Human Rights Law Review, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 449-473.Friesen, Joe and Sandra Martin. (October 2010). “Part 3: Canada’s changing faith.” The Globe and Mail. (Last accessed October 29, 2011).
    16. 16. Haynes, Charles C. (2011). “Putting a Face to Faith.” Educational Leadership. Vol. 69. No. 1. ASCD.Jackson, Robert. (2002). “How School Education in Religion Can Facilitate the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination with Regard to Freedom ofReligion or Belief”, Report from the Preparatory Seminar on Teaching for Tolerance and Freedom of Religion or Belief, Oslo., Khyati Y. (Fall 2007). “Because I Had a Turban.” Teaching Tolerance, no. 32, pp. 46-49.Kumashiro, Kevin K. (2000). “Toward a Theory of Anti-Oppressive Education”. Review of Educational Research. Vol. 70, No. I, pp. 25-53.Lewy, Southey and Stanford Betty. (2007). “How to Expose Fourth and Fifth Graders to Religion and Spirituality in a Public School Classroom.” InternationalJournal of Childrens Spirituality, vol.12, no. 3, pp 325-330.Moule, Jean. (2010) “Nana Jean: Teaching Faith in the Public Schools.” Skipping Stones [Eugene], vol. 22, no. 5.Ministry of Education. (1990). Education Act. R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 298. of Education. (2009). Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. Human Rights Code: Religious Rights. (1996). District School Board. (2009). Annual Report 2009. District School Board. (2000). Manifesting Encouraging and Respectful Environments. Mississauga, ON: Peel District School Board.Peel District School Board. (revised 2010). Policy #54: Equity and Inclusive Education. District School Board. (2000). The Future We Want: building an inclusive curriculum. Mississauga, ON: Peel District School Board.Persichilli, Anthony. (July 2011). “Persichilli: It’s time to talk about religion in our schools”. The Toronto Star. (Last accessed October29, 2011).
    17. 17. “Selected Educational Characteristics (29), Selected Religions (35A), Age Groups (5A) and Sex (3) for Population 15 Years and Over, forCanada, Provinces, Territories and Census Metropolitan Areas 1 , 2001 Census - 20% Sample Data”. (2001). Census. Statistics Canada. (Last accessed October 7, 2011).“Should religion be taught in schools?” (April 5, 1978). CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation., L. (1997). God in the classroom: The controversial issue of religion in Canadas schools. Toronto: McCelland & Stewart.“Tempers flare over prayer in schools.” (September 18, 2011). CBC News. (Last accessed October 29, 2011).Toronto District School Board. (2010). Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices, and Observances. District School Board. (1999). Policy P.037 CUR: Equity Foundation., Stephen. (2011). “Confronting Racial and Religious Tensions.” Educational Leadership. Vol. 69. No. 1. ASCD.