Aboriginals in Residential School Systems Essay

Adam Migchels Migchels 1 Sociology 101 Barry McClinchey November 7, 2012 Aboriginals In Residential Schools In today’s society, the residential school system is a place where young children are not only taught math and science, but also about equality and discrimination. However, a lot has changed since the residential school system was first introduced in Canada. It was once a place where teachers treated students differently depending upon their gender, and what their background was; in particular, Aboriginals were treated very poorly (Marcuse et al. 1993). Sociologists have many views on the topic of Aboriginal treatment in schools, and throughout this essay, the ideas of gender assumptions, socialization agents, and social inequality will be discussed. Along with these ideas, the conflict theory will be proven to be an approach that explains the topic of Aboriginal treatment in residential schools. To begin, sociologists who use the conflict theory assume that society is grounded on inequality and competition over resources, which results in conflicts that cause society to change (McClinchey, 2012).

Conflict theorists believe that power controls social relationships, and the powerful use social values and dominant ideology to diminish the weak (McClinchey, 2012). This theory strongly represents how the Aboriginals were treated because the people with the power and money – Caucasian people – saw these people as weak and unworthy of many things. Rousseau’s idea of moral or political inequality is also greatly shown through the Aboriginals. Moral or political inequality is Migchels 2 the human classification of valuable things (McClinchey, 2012).

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Ethnocentrism, or the tendency to see your own culture as being better than all the others, was strongly expressed by Caucasian people over the Aboriginals as well (McClinchey 2012). From the video, Aboriginals were forced to speak English and cut off their hair, which shows the lack of power that they had (Marcuse et al. , 1993). It is the idea that the Aboriginals had no power, which proves that conflict theory best represents this topic. Within the conflict theory, and all the other theoretical perspectives, there are many concepts that sociologists focus on.

Many of these concepts pertain to the topic of residential school systems. One of these concepts is gender stereotyping. Gender stereotyping refers to the assignment of roles and jobs in society based on gender (McClinchey 2012). It was thought that men, and therefore boys, were more important than girls, and teachers would act based on that statement. Teachers treated boys with more respect, for example, teachers would give boys more praise than girls when they had completed a task (McClinchey, 2012).

A specific example of gender stereotyping from the video was that the priests in these schools would rape the girls. (Marcuse et al. , 1993). This specific example showed that males were the dominant sex and that it was all right for women to be treated in such a fashion. As we can see, the conflict theory is shown very strongly here in that males had the power over the females. Migchels 3 In addition, the socialization agents of these young Aboriginals play a large role in making them the people they will become.

Socialization agents are known as individuals, groups, and social institutions that together form people to become productive members of society (McClinchey, 2012). These agents include family, peers, education, and mass media. In particular, the Aboriginal children would see that their family would treat them differently based on their treatment during education. The video showed that in the schools, the children were taught that their culture was wrong and if they did not obey the rules, they would be punished (Marcuse et al. , 1993).

So therefore, the socialization agent education would force these children out of their culture, which would largely affect another socialization agent, family. The influence these children got from their education was so controversial to the influence from their family because they were being taught two different ways of life (Marcuse et al. , 1993). Once again, the conflict theory is demonstrated because the power that the Caucasians have is shown by the way they force their ways on the Aboriginals. Finally, the Aboriginals were treated with vast amounts of social inequality.

In particular, the idea of social stratification is largely visible when it comes to looking at how the Aboriginals were treated in the school system. Social inequality occurs when a person’s attributes affect their access to socially valued resources (McClinchey 2012). Social stratification is a hierarchy that exists among social classes of people (McClinchey, 2012). Obviously the background that the Aboriginals have is the reason for them being discriminated against by the Caucasian people, and the Caucasian Migchels 4 eople’s reasoning comes from their knowledge of the social stratification. In particular, from the movie, it was shown that the entire culture of the Aboriginals was trying to be destroyed (Marcuse et al. , 1993). They were only taught English, and when the first residential school system was implemented; one of the main purposes was to get rid of the Indian culture (Marcuse et al. , 1993). As always, the conflict theory is shown here since we can see the competition between classes. The strong and wealthy Caucasians against the weak and poor Aboriginals.

Conclusively, the residential school system has treated Aboriginals very poorly in the past. Through the use of the conflict theory, it is easy to see that the competition for power plays a major role in the way these people were treated. Through gender stereotyping, socialization agents, and social inequality, the Aboriginal children were discriminated against and taught to live different lives (Marcuse et al. , 1993). The Aboriginals that were interviewed in the video said that they wished it had not happened, but at the same time, it gave them a different outlook on life (Marcuse et al. 1993). All in all, the past is the past, and nowadays it is good to see our residential school system work towards the idea of cultural relativism, which is the idea that all cultures have intrinsic worth and should be appreciated (McClinchey, 2012). Migchels 5 References Bob, Geraldine and Gary Marcuse. (Directors). 1993. “Education As We See It. ” In First Nations: The Circle Unbroken – Disk 4. [Film]. National Film Board of Canada. McClinchey, B. (2012). Exploring sociology. (2nd ed. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.