The Examination of the Residential School System in Canada

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Education is an essential aspect in our ever-changing societies. It is used as a means of transmitting concepts, knowledge, and values, often to younger generations (Ravelli & Webber, 2010). Education and schooling differ in all societies, varying based on the methods of teaching of different cultural groups. For instance, Canadian Aboriginal people were taught based on the needs of their individual families and class. This greatly differed from the European system of education, which stressed adequate involvement with all of society. Though the Aboriginal manner of education was efficient and effective, the Europeans wanted to bring a change to their previous practices. As seen in the film, Education As We See It, European missionaries established a form of formal education for Aboriginal children, which was to be governed at residential schools. However, this tradition did not last long due to rising conflicts.

European missionaries believed Aboriginal children were in need of assistance to become more civilized, and wanted them to be integrated into their European culture (Ravelli & Webber, 2010). Once sent to residential schools, the children were prevented from seeing and speaking to their families, aside from very short periods during the year. They were also subject to harsh treatment, and on some occasions, physical and sexual abuse. Residential schools were later deemed immoral, and unethical, and are completely non-existent today. Nonetheless, sociologists still study the effects and methods used by residential schools, often through common theoretical perspectives and basic sociological concepts.

One theoretical perspective that can be associated with residential schools is the conflict theory. In the eyes of confli...

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Through an understanding of theoretical perspectives, and basic sociological concepts, the residential school system can be understood. The conflict theory correctly describes the residential education system, and it presents an accurate understanding of the destruction of Aboriginal culture. Socialization, culture, social inequality, and modern social theories all further explain the residential school system, and the effects it has on both the Europeans and the Aboriginals. Recognized now as a mistake, the use and removal of residential schools will forever be noted as a changing point in the struggle faced by the Aboriginal people of Canada.


Ravelli, B., & Webber, M. (2010). Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: Pearson.

Geraldine, B. (Director). (1993). Education As We See It [Documentary]. National Film Board of Canada.

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