Being curious, not judgemental

Be curious, not judgemental – Walt Whitman

I am getting ready to teach another semester of BC First Nations Studies 12. I am thinking about how I can change the way I do it. In the past, I have always started at the beginning and moved through the history chronologically. My hope was to have students slowly begin to realize the horrific impact of colonization on intact civilizations, how BC First Nations continually fought back, and how the legacy of both of those strands continues today.

This time, I think I will try to bring a variety of First Nations voices into the picture right off the bat. I am going to start with a selection of poetry, images, songs, and stories. I want students to see the depth of emotion and engage with Aboriginal authors. I am hoping this will awaken an empathy and curiosity that has been missing for some students who have had difficulty letting go of ingrained stereotypes about what ‘Native’ means. We are not going to talk very much about the history at this point. I just want the students to ask a load of questions. Then we will try to narrow these down through categorization into topic areas.

Then, we can categorize them again based on type of question. Some we can categorize as ‘right there’. For example, we would be able to find an answer to questions like, “When did residential schools close?’ Some questions will require more in-depth understanding, such as, ‘What was the impact of residential schools?’ I am also hoping we will come up with some essential questions along the lines of, ‘What are effective ways for people to fight against an unjust law?’

As we work our way through the semester, we can then refer back to these questions. We can record them on flip chart paper, or a wiki, so we can answer them together as we go.

It has some strong advantages beyond the need for essential questions. The mind loves to find answers to questions.

Maybe we’ll start with more curiosity and less judgement.