Purpose Within the Origins of Education in Vancouver

Origins of Education in Vancouver  

Living in Vancouver, I have access to many things: education, literature, people from different social circles, and histories of the place in which I live. I’m revelling in my ability to access and read critical pieces of work like Journeys of Hope,

I ask family, friends and colleagues, read some more and continue the journey of curiosity with a purpose to find out more in order to act in a more informed way. 

The feeling of being able to ask questions about consultative processes and speak about anti-racism is one that I never thought I could access. During the election campaign, I was asked some good questions and I am happy to refer back to my values. With that, the December 17th 2018 unanimous passing of the statement acknowledging anti-black racism in our district was a powerful reminder of our individual ability to build a Vancouver we can all be safe and belong in. After all, as the BC Public Schools Act of 1872 states, “all public schools would be officially non-sectarian, distinguishing British Columbia from all other Canadian provinces; and that education would be free. The purpose of public education was clearly expressed in the Act as being ‘to give every child in the Province such knowledge as will fit him to become a useful and intelligent citizen in after years….” (Vancouver Schools, 2007)

As we come to learn more about education, we understand it’s role in harming and helping children, our communities and our country: “Settlers of ‘northern European’ origin brought with them the belief that ‘their culture and their institutions were superior to all others.’ This idea of superiority was used to exclude ‘foreigners’ – which included southern Europeans and Asians – from power and opportunity. Asians, in particular, were denied political rights. Schooling, seen by those in power as a tool of assimilation (and, ironically, the cultivation of citizens), was open to the children of this group, although the segregation of Chinese students was seriously considered and opportunities for Asian graduates, including citizens, were severely limited. First Nations were not educated in public schools; until the late 1940s, they were required to attend separate federally funded day and residential schools” (Vancouver Schools, 2007)

Advancing these sentiments, in 1914 a motion (thankfully unsuccessful) was made to remove Chinese and Japanese children from school. This reminds me of two things, a) how divisive even the thought of this may have felt for young children and families in Vancouver and Canada and b) how powerful elected officials can be (Journeys of Hope)

I continue reading and learning about how Vivian Jung, with the help of her peers and instructor accessed the “City’s only public swimming pool where non-whites were not allowed in the water” (Journeys of Hope). I see her photo, read her story, and feel energized - she became the first teacher of Chinese heritage in our Vancouver Schools. So here is to another year, of raising the bar, asking hard questions, getting comfortable with discomfort, socially locating oneself, and finding purpose within that. 

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