Towards a history for 'unlearning racism': exploring Ontario history teacher candidates' knowledges, purposes and identities
This thesis, located in critical race theory (CRT), explores how 46 Ontario history teacher candidates were positioned to take up a history for ‘unlearning racism’ (Ladson-Billings, 2003). Through an eclectic qualitative approach that combined a ‘mapping activity’ (Seixas, 1997), a ‘timeline activity’ (Epstein, 1998; Peck, 2010), short answer questions and follow-up interviews, a rich body of data was gathered that revealed teacher candidates’ knowledges, views on the purpose of teaching and their role as history teachers, as well as the ways that they negotiated their racial and intersecting identities’ influence. The study found that a majority of participants did not possess the knowledges, political impetus, nor a sophisticated understanding of the influence of their racial identities to take up a history for ‘unlearning racism’. Three teacher candidates, however, stood apart, displaying not only the knowledges but also an understanding of the intimately political and personal ways in which histories are produced, learned and taught. Additionally, drawing from their experiences as a result of their respective marginalized identities, they possessed a lived awareness of the intrinsic role of race and racism in Canadian history and its ongoing legacy. Their marginalized identities, while compelling them to teach a history for ‘unlearning racism’ also worked to inhibit them from doing so, their already tenuous membership in the teaching profession further at risk if they opted to ‘teach against the grain’. I recommend, on the one hand, that there needs to be a radical change in the selection of history teacher candidates and the focus of the history methods course. On the other, the three participants’ experiences in their placements point to the vital role played by associate teachers and hence, recommendations are made regarding their selection. It is hoped that this research will help move all teacher candidates toward a history ‘for unlearning racism’ and ensure that those ‘already there’ are supported in doing so.