A research project to identify racism in primary schools

MONTREAL — A collaborative study launched this month will document the experiences of anti-black racism among primary school students in Quebec, a phenomenon more prevalent than one might think, according to the project’s director, the professor of education and specialized training. Gina Lafortune.

“I’ve done some research in the past that was more focused on understanding the experience of young people in high school and college, and it came back every time,” explains the professor from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Not only young people, but also many teachers and community workers told about situations that had occurred in primary school.

“It’s part of what young people go through. They will say ‘a friend said something like that to me about the color, an insult, refused to play with me because I was black or didn’t want to sit next to me’ (… ) we also sometimes hear comments from teachers who said things about certain students or made comments to them about their skin color, or skills, skills that they don’t have.

To identify these types of situations, the researchers will begin by observing class progress in participating schools. Then they interact with the children through age-appropriate activities and have conversations with the parents and school staff.

They attend about five to six voluntary schools over a period of one and a half to two years.

The research will be carried out in collaboration with a dozen partner organisations, including the Ministère de l’Education and several school service centres. The Canadian Government’s Research Council for Social Sciences and Humanities and the Observatory of Black Communities in Quebec funded the initiative, amounting to 335,000 and 108,000 respectively.

Invisible Consequences

In addition to direct attacks, anti-black racism can also take more insidious forms, says Pre Lafortune, who is also interested in what the textbooks say children should read. “How are the groups presented in textbooks, in children’s literature, who is there, who is not, in what role, in what status?” she wondered.

According to her, the racism that a child experiences in primary school can very well follow him throughout his life: “At some point we feel that our expectations are different, that we have this idea that we are “destined to fail” , so it plays on self-esteem” and creates a “sense of injustice” and of “sickness”.

Elle s’interroge aussi sur «les processus d’orientation des élèves dans des classes de troubles d’apprentissage, de trouble de comportement», comme «c’est quand même assez bien documenté qu’il ya des biais dans ces façons de doen .”

These choices can affect the child’s entire life, she argued, while “if I am led very quickly on my trajectory in a class with learning disabilities or conduct disorders, it has been documented that it will have a very clear impact on the future, on the success rate.” from high school and is certain to perpetuate a cycle of poverty in certain communities.”

In addition, the overlap between “racism and deprivation” is also an issue under his magnifying glass: “For example, in certain environments where there are many students from immigrant backgrounds who belong to minorities, they have all the necessary resources compared to other schools ?”

Find solutions

Pre Lafortune insisted that the aim of her approach was not to point the finger at the guilty, but to find solutions.

“It’s not blaming or saying the teacher is racist, we’re not there, it’s much more of a system, it’s entrenched, it’s something historical that’s perpetuated,” she argued, saying she wanted to partner with volunteer schools to identify problems and develop new ways of doing things.

She said she was aware of the “turmoil” surrounding these issues. “We’re in a kind of denial (…), but I think we’ve started talking about it, we’ve come to tell ourselves that we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.”

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