The Tessellate Institute
Neglected Voices is a video-based curriculum package for Ontario students from Grade 7-12. The course revolves around four videos that speak to the stories of four Muslim Canadians and their stories of being marginalized, ostracized, and/or disenfranchised in society and the Canadian education system.
Post 9-11 North America has been a fast-moving, hostile, and difficult for all, but is unquestionably tenser for those who are deemed as the collective perpetrators for the atrocity. Time has not healed the persecution and policies harboured in xenophobia, racism, and orientalist perspectives in Canada. The view that young Muslims are seen as a threat to peace and civility is an exacerbated misconception that doesn’t seem to be subduing anytime soon, and the best way to extinguish this ignorance is through knowledge, enlightenment, and education.
This program is focused on reaching ALL Ontario students aged 12-18. Not only do students get to see the unjust marginalization these other students may face, they also participate in analyzing the roots of mistreatment and take-on injustice or marginalization that may have also experienced.
The Tessellate Institute (TI) is an organization that explores the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada through academic research and the arts. In light of creating a documentary style video series that chronicles the lived-experiences of marginalized Muslim youth, TI put-out a call to anyone who was willing to share their stories. When four brave candidates stepped forward willing to share their stories, Mr. Jawad Jafry took on the challenge to produce, direct, and edit their stories, and then approached Sultan Rana as the educational consultant to see if there was any way to leverage these stories in order to bring them to the dynamic environment of a classroom. A classroom seemed to be the perfect setting for these videos, and any ideas to support the learning from it to thrive.
Making a Difference:
1) Systemic change: While 3.2% of Canada’s population is Muslim, there is a large amount of Canadian students that would not have an opportunity to meet someone who subscribes to the faith. However, the chance for them to be exposed to islamophobia and negative rhetoric is high.
2) Individual change: Neglected Voices is NOT a resource about or for Muslim youth; it is a resource that brings to light the marginalization of Canadian youth, and teaches students perseverance, determination, resiliency, and grit, along with learning how to advocate for oneself in the face of discrimination and disenfranchisement.
This resource was very recently released. We had a small launch event that occurred in June, a difficult month for all educators, so attendance could have been higher. As a free digital resource, it has been widely circulated among colleagues and educators near and far in Ontario among equity and diversity organizations in the province, and on social media. More time is required to gauge what the specific issues or difficulties are. However, the resource is good to be shared with all who would benefit from it.
Vision for the Future:
Neglected Voices was the initiative to hear the trying experiences of Muslim youth in the Canadian sphere. Thinking there would be something unique or specific to the “Muslim” voice, we soon realized after hearing the issues and difficulties these youths face, their issues mirror those of so many other Canadian youth. We would like to continue on with the video series and gather experiences of those who are from: the First Nations/ Indigenous, LGBT, African/ Caribbean, and Eastern European/ Roma Canadian communities, and many more.
In every lesson plan, there is a placeholder that indicates what “character building traits are of focus” at the very top of each unit plan. This allows for the teacher to understand, that throughout the entire learning experience, students are expected to demonstrate certain learning objectives. When the full curriculum is underway in the2016-2017 school year, we will be able to get quantitative evidence as to what impact the curriculum has had on student behaviour, advocacy, and self-efficacy.
About the Tessellate Institute:
The Tessellate Institute is an independent, non-profit research institute that explores and documents the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada.