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EDMONTON—The superintendent of a school division northeast of Edmonton has apologized for a test question that quizzed students on the “positive effects” of residential schools.

The St. Paul Alternate Education Centre, located in St. Paul, Alta., allows students to direct their own learning using provided packages of course material. A recent questionnaire, approved by the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) and given to students at the St. Paul school, asked students to select “a positive effect of residential schools” from a list of provided options. Indigenous children are seen inside a classroom of St. Joseph’s Residential School in Cross Lake, Man., in this 1951 photo. Residential schools in Canada were a network of institutions that began in the 1800s, with the last school closing in 1996. Over that period an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in the schools, where they were often forbidden to speak their own languages and abused. The four possible answers were; children were away from home, children learned to read, children were taught manners and children became civilized.

A picture of the questionnaire started making rounds on social media late Wednesday night and appeared to originate from a student’s family.

Glen Brodziak, division superintendent for the school division, confirmed to StarMetro Thursday the test was real, but a mistake.

“I take responsibility for what happened here and we are wrong,” he said during an interview.

“We will be reaching out to our four Nations and we will also be putting a message out explaining how this occurred, but also acknowledging our part in it and I am sorry for this.”

Residential schools in Canada were a network of institutions that began in the 1800s, with the last school closing in 1996. Over that period an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in the schools, where they were often forbidden to speak their own languages and abused. Brodziak said there are students in his schools who are second, third and fourth generation survivors of residential schools and he said it’s their story to tell, not the school’s. The division Brodziak covers is about a 45-minute radius in all directions from St. Paul and has students from four surrounding First Nations.

“We take responsibility for it, that we should be checking out our resources and checking out what’s in front of our students,” said Brodziak.

Because students direct their own learning, Brodziak said he didn’t know how many students would have seen the test. The course material for Social Studies 20-4 course includes the questionnaire, but Brodziak couldn’t say how long the course has been used in the school or how many students may have taken, or are currently taking, the course.

Grades nine through 12 students attend the school and have access to the ADLC-approved course material, although Brodziak said sometimes they take younger students. He said teachers are in the classrooms to help students navigate the self-directed course material if they need it.

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ADLC has yet to respond to StarMetro after requests for comment. Brodziak said they’ve been partners for a long time and said the distance learning centre has been “a good partner” overall.

According to the centre’s website, the course focuses on “Canada’s development as a nation and our role in the global community. Topics include Canada’s First Nations, the development of modern-day Canada, and Canada’s cultural diversity.”

Brodziak was notified late Wednesday night and saw posts on social media with the photo of the questionnaire. The posts on Facebook and […]

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