by Annette Henry
Annette Henry is a professor of Education at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
On May 11, 2010, Michelle Pidgeon, assistant professor of Higher Education at Simon Fraser University spoke with my education class at University of Washington Tacoma via a 90-minute video conference, giving a talk entitled “Indigenous Perspectives on Success, Responsibility, and Accountability in Higher Education.”
Dr. Pidgeon shared findings from her research that shed light on how universities and colleges can become more successful places for Indigenous peoples. She gave examples from Indigenous research and practice that reframe the conversation to focus on institutional transformation through Indigenous understandings of success, responsibility, and accountability. Her presentation was welcomed by these educators, many of whom work with various marginalized populations in school settings. It allowed them to ask questions and make connections with their own practice. It also provided a broader, comparative and international context for understanding educational success, institutional transformation for Aboriginal youth in Canada.
On May 25th, Özlem Sensoy, also an assistant professor of Social Studies and Multicultural Education from Simon Fraser University, came to the UWT campus and spoke with the same class regarding The Breadwinner, a popular young adult novel about a Muslim girl in Taliban-run Afghanistan, a book embraced by Canadian and U.S. teachers and schools especially since 9/11.
Her talk, entitled “Saving Muslim Girls: The Curricular Construction of a Deficit Discourse,” helped teachers examine how novels like The Breadwinner are best understood in a contemporary sociopolitical context in which Muslim girls in developing nations are constructed as the objects of Western interventions on a range of military, economic, humanitarian and educational fronts, and how this construction simultaneously and unproblematically positions Western girlhood as empowered, feminist, and liberated.
Both speakers helped us gain a better understanding of Canadian, North American, and international issues. Both Dr. Sensoy and Dr. Pidgeon helped us examine the ideological underpinnings of marginalized, racialized, and gendered groups and encouraged us as educators to reflect upon our assumptions about curriculum and pedagogy.
This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Title VI grant, US Department of Education, Office of International Education Programs Service.