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Brave New Schools: 2008 R.W.B. Jackson Lecture explores theme of identity and power in Canadian education

November 19, 2008

More than 200 people attended this year's R.W.B. Jackson Lecture at the George Ignatieff Theatre, which featured guest speaker and OISE professor Jim Cummins.  

Download the lecture  

Cummins drew on data from a 5-year research program entitled From Literacy to Multiliteracies to stimulate re-examination of the foundational principles of Canadian education in an era of increasing diversity and urgent global challenges.

Influenced by international agencies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), educational policy-makers in many countries have adopted an increasingly technocratic approach to the promotion of literacy and numeracy. The focus has been on the identification and implementation of evidence-based "best practices." However, the frame of reference within which these “best practices” have been generated typically consigns issues related to societal power relations and teacher-student identity negotiation to the margins of consideration.

This lecture called for a radically different approach to educational policy-making. The constructs of teacher-student identity negotiation and societal power relations were proposed as empirically validated influences on academic achievement and as fundamental to the development of effective educational policy and practice.

Recent OECD research and policy recommendations on the education of immigrant students were analyzed to show that the marginalization of issues related to power and identity in educational policy-making is an ideological process that is far from "evidence-based." A very different set of policy options and pedagogical opportunities for Canadian education emerges when the empirical and theoretical frame of reference is broadened to acknowledge the centrality of the multiple forms of diversity that increasingly characterize schools both in Canada and internationally. 

About the R.W.B. Jackson Lecture Series

The R.W.B. Jackson Lecture series was established as a tribute to the founding director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, R.W.B. Jackson, who served as the Institute's director from 1965-1975. This annual lecture presents outstanding educational leaders speaking on major social and educational issues. The series is funded by donations from friends, colleagues, alumni, and educational and charitable institutions.

Past lecturers include Rosemary Tannock, Kenneth Leithwood, Michael Fullan, David Livingstone, Keith Stanovich, Marlene Scardamalia, Dan Keating, Michal Skolnik, The Hon. Monique Begin and The Hon. William G. Davis.