The forgotten common culture, reflections on our faded identity

In a column entitled “Anti-Québécoise Identity”, published by Jean-François Lisée in The duty of February 24, we talk about the contempt for “Kebs” in Montreal schools. The day before, we had a discussion that revolved around the same subject between teachers. As a college teacher in a Montreal CEGEP, I also sometimes hear these kinds of comments. I notice a growing devaluation of Quebec culture, and sometimes even its denigration in my classes, as well as the self-denigration of certain Quebec students of French-Canadian origin in the face of their own culture of origin.

However, I also notice that when we speak favorably about our culture and our artists, our students change their perception and develop a positive vision of it.

The fomenting of identity tensions

What I have noticed in the college environment where I work is that our great desire to be open to diversity leads us to promote it in our teaching and in our socio-cultural activities, which is obviously desirable. However, by constantly valuing difference, we too often forget to highlight commonalities and create unity among our students. This has the effect of fueling identity tensions and favoring the coming together of students in distinct cultural groups (and sometimes opposed to each other) against the “Kebs”, then perceived as one ethnocultural group among others and which can also be victims. of stigmatization, because we are a minority in our classes.

In this respect, it is good to remember sociologist Gérard Bouchard’s definition of interculturalism, which aims to “encourage the formation of a common culture based on and beyond ethnocultural diversity”. By embarrassment, by modesty or by simple reflex, we neglect to promote the common culture and sometimes even the French language. Our weakness here therefore appears to me to be our difficulty in asserting ourselves, at least in the environments I frequent: the CEGEPs and my children’s primary school. Is this the burden of our status as a minority culture that makes it so difficult to promote our own culture? It’s possible.

That said, this gives rise to all sorts of incongruous situations. For example, it happens that our environments organize intercultural activities, where one or dozens of cultures are represented, while failing to include Quebec culture… This is a reflex of over-openness which does not go unnoticed by our students. French-Canadian origin, as a student recently pointed out to me with great resentment.

Have we lost our balance?

Still according to Gérard Bouchard, interculturalism should be focused on the search for balance, and recommend management of diversity that is respectful of the fundamental values ​​of society. However, we hold back, as institutions and teachers, from highlighting the values ​​linked to our history and Quebec culture. For example, at my children’s elementary school, calendar holidays are highlighted by the organization of activities, just like at my CEGEP. However, year after year, nothing is done to mark National Patriots Day, so neither my children nor my college students seem to have heard of it.

The mosaic of discarded cultures

Specialists in living together seem to have reached a consensus to put aside the divisive mosaic of identities and cultures in our school environments and concentrate on the creation of a “collective we”. However, not all school environments are aware of these more harmonious approaches to diversity management, and the Ministry of Education would benefit from providing them with more detailed tools.

We forget that taking into account the necessary cultural affirmation of a Quebec identity, respect for its history and its fundamental values ​​are nevertheless a premise for exchanges, openness to others, cross-breeding and creation of a common culture and an inclusive society.

Faced with this fundamental cultural problem, our educational institutions would do well to mobilize in order to work to create a common sense of belonging, to revalorize Quebec culture, its richness, its foundations and its democratic and humanist values ​​among young people. We must regain confidence and promote a modern and inclusive French-speaking Quebec culture. We must put our young people in contact with this culture, so that they can contribute to it while respecting who they are, with their own cultural background and so that they can get involved in it, mix with it and participate in it. fully, because they have a lot to contribute.

We must allow them, for example, to attend shows, discover winter sports and the history of Quebec and encourage them to express themselves on these subjects. By presenting them with parts of our culture, it also becomes theirs and they help to shape it. And we end up seeing a glimmer of light in their eyes as in ours as a society, because deep down everyone only dreams of one thing, universal: to be included.

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