Study Questions: Chapter 16
1. What is one example of how institutional racism is self-perpetuating in the Canadian education system?
Answer: The Canadian education system teaches very little about Aboriginal people. Most Canadian teachers are ill prepared to work with an Aboriginal curriculum—they are poorly acquainted with Aboriginal history, language, and culture generally because they are products of a school system that has failed to adequately cover these subjects. The result is a self-perpetuating form of institutional racism. (pp. 434–435)
2. What are disqualified knowledges and how does this concept relate to the exclusion of Aboriginal voices in textbooks?
Answer: According to Michel Foucault, disqualified knowledges are “knowledges that have been disqualified as inadequate to their task” (Foucault 1980: 82). Foucault might have argued that Aboriginal writers were not included because they were not scientific or objective enough for the writers of sociology textbooks. Yet their viewpoints offer a legitimate alternative to standard sociology knowledge.
When sociologists began studying Aboriginal people in urban settings in the early 1970s, the Aboriginal voice was lost from sociology textbooks: the only coverage of Aboriginal people came from non-Aboriginal sociologist writers. Since then, the “disqualification” of the Aboriginal voice has been a growing, not diminishing, trend. (p. 433)
3. What does Michel Foucault say about the creation of a docile body, particularly the ways that the forms of disciplinary control he mentions have impacted your education?
Answer: In many respects, public education creates what Foucault termed the docile body, a group that has been conditioned, through a specific set of procedures and practices, to behave precisely the way administrators want it to (Foucault 1977). Docile bodies are produced through three, decisively modern forms of disciplinary control:
- hierarchical observation—people are controlled through observation and surveillance (e.g., prisons, schools, offices, malls, etc.)
- normalizing judgement— individuals are judged not on the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of their actions but on how their actions rank when compared with the performance of others (e.g., grading in schools)
- the examination—combination of hierarchical observation and normalizing judgement (e.g., visible thickness of one’s school files) (pp. 428–429)
4. How might alienation be a factor in the lives of online university instructors and online students?
Answer: Instructors can become disconnected from their intellectual property when it is used as part of an online course. With online courses, the potential for administrative monitoring and control increases. Instructors can be more closely supervised through the educational products they have supplied for the course’s website. Online courses also allow administrators to measure instructor interactions with students. Online universities are staffed with relatively few full-time instructors and many “tutors.” Professors fear that this is the face of the future: part-time and limited-time contract staff dominating over full-time teachers. The online delivery of education depends, like many exploitative systems, on getting workers to do more than they are paid for, relying on dedicated teachers who improve a bad situation with their talent and their labour. But there are also those who “work to rule,” who calculate exactly how much work they have to do to get paid and do no more. At that point, the system fails the student.
In terms of the students, these courses suffer from significant dropout rates. Students who succeed are typically highly motivated, highly disciplined people, who get through despite the flaws inherent in the method of delivery. The good marks they get represent triumphs of individuals over systems. Online education may work better for some kinds of courses. It lends itself more to instrumental education, where courses are narrowly directed to particular sets of tasks, than to critical education, which involves analysis of ideas and, ideally, classroom discussion. With online courses, as the information flow is more one-directional than in the classroom, more controlled by the curriculum than by student–teacher interaction, students have less input into how the course proceeds. Their instructors have less input as well, since they are typically part-timers, vulnerable to administrative control. (pp. 437–440)
5. What is underemployment? How has it affected post-secondary students?
Answer: Underemployment can have two meanings:
- involuntary part-time work for people seeking full-time employment
- low-wage, low-skill employment for people with valuable skills, experience, or academic credentials.
In the case of new college and university graduates, underemployment can result from a lack of practical experience, even for those who have technical training in a specific field or who are seeking employment when the job market is strong. As a result, recent graduates may be forced to work in low-paying or part-time jobs until they find work in their field. (pp. 440–441)
6. What is the difference between on-line instrumental education and in-class critical education?
Answer: In instrumental education, courses are narrowly directed to particular sets of tasks. Critical education involves analysis of ideas and, ideally, classroom discussion. (p. 440)
7. What are the three models of education discussed in the text? Briefly outline the original goals of each model.
Answer: The assimilationist model emphasizes assimilation into the dominant culture.
The multicultural model aims to conserve and promote cultural diversity while removing the barriers that denied certain groups full participation within Canadian society.
The anti-racism and anti-oppression model is meant to eliminate institutional and individual barriers to equity. The aim of this model is to change institutional policies and practices, as well as individual attitudes and behaviours that reproduce social inequality. (pp. 422–425)