Teaching in an Era of Flux: Canada may be a critical global actor, but other perspectives remain important

Six Canadian academics reflect on the challenges of teaching in a world of fast-paced news and distrust of sources.

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April 29, 2019

For me, teaching about Canada and the world pertains to the role and impact of Canada and Canadians in promoting equality, opportunity and justice in relation to issues of international development.

One course I offer (a fourth-year course on global studies, citizenship and development) focuses on the role of Canadian youth abroad and the impact of their experiential learning, internships, and volunteer placements as forms of diplomacy and civic engagement. Students consider the impacts and contributions of international aid workers/volunteers to international development outcomes, drawing heavily on critical scholarship outlining privilege and inequality of opportunity as well as literature from the perspective of receiving organizations in the Global South. Subaltern perspectives — those from marginalized individuals or groups — are essential for moving the conversations from ‘Canadians reflecting on what Canadians do’ to hearing from those with whom Canadians are interacting to learn what value and contributions are made through Canada’s international efforts.

Through this course, students consider the distinctive challenges and opportunities for working with communities in situations of vulnerability. Our focus on a world in flux is at the heart of this analysis because Canadian responses to international crises require immediate, humanitarian interventions as well as long-term, sustainable and preventative development strategies.

Canadians have an important role to play in these responses but we face many challenges, including Canada’s low aid spending allocations relative to other

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, shifting priorities and changing countries of focus, and the growing number of international crises, disasters and conflicts.

Also in the series

How to teach international affairs in an era of flux:

Six Canadian academics reflect on the challenges of teaching in a world of fast-paced news and distrust of sources.