The pandemic blurs time, but looking back on the Arts and Education stories we published this year helps punctuate 2021.

In Education, some popular stories covered how the pandemic is affecting short-term decisions and policy — and what’s at stake for future generations. Around Ottawa’s early learning and child care 2021 announcement, authors wrote about what high-quality early childhood education looks like, and why the outdoors must be part of it.

Equally important (and widely read) as headline-parsing stories were those illuminating vital but marginalized historical insights. Authors examined how the growth of public schooling was connected to the rise of the Indian Residential School (IRS) system, designed to destroy collective Indigenous identity and assimilate Indigenous children, and how and anti-Black racism in Ontario schools is connected to a history of segregation

After the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops IRS, authors examined refusals and denialism in confronting the residential school legacy, and what to do about it — an urgent question in light of generations of Indigenous advocacy and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation 2015 report. 

In Arts, authors highlighted how structural barriers and inequities affect funding for artists and creative practitioners and how artists imagine new futures. They explained meanings that might otherwise slide under the radar in popular media, visual culture, fashion and political language. As Canada’s Juno Awards celebrated 50 years, seven academics took time to consider how they remember hit Canadian singles, something that still makes me smile. 

I’m grateful for the tenacity, generosity and patience of authors and colleagues at The Conversation Canada in working collaboratively to generate ideas and develop and fine-tune stories. In particular, Arts and Education coverage has been shaped for the better by the work of Vinita Srivastava and the Don’t Call Me Resilient podcast team, who have produced stories resonating with all editorial desks that inspire and challenge closer listening and reading related to race and critical perspectives — so important for our shared futures.

Please keep in touch with your story ideas.

Susannah Schmidt

Education + Arts Editor

Year in Review: Education + Arts

Why the outdoors should be an integral part of every early learning and child-care program

Christine Alden, University of Toronto

Planning outdoor early learning and child care has implications for training and recruiting educators as well as for planning, developing and funding physical spaces.

Ontario’s ‘choice’ of fully online school would gamble on children for profit

Lana Parker, University of Windsor

A policy of “choice” for full-time online schooling would weaken public education, erode funding for in-classroom supports and drive those who can afford it to private education.

Egerton Ryerson: Racist philosophy of residential schools also shaped public education

Hunter Knight, University of Toronto

Let’s not ignore how the racist philosophy behind residential schools shaped mainstream education. Ryerson foresaw Canada’s continuing evolution into a “civilized,” white, culturally British nation.

Black History: How racism in Ontario schools today is connected to a history of segregation

Funké Aladejebi, University of Toronto

An 1850 act permitted the creation of separate schools for Protestants, Catholics and for any five Black families. Some white people used the act to force Black students into separate institutions.

Truth before reconciliation: 8 ways to identify and confront Residential School denialism

Daniel Heath Justice, University of British Columbia; Sean Carleton, University of Manitoba

Residential school denialism is the rejection or misrepresentation of basic facts about residential schools to undermine truth and reconciliation efforts.

Musical communities and improvisation: ‘Finding a way out of no way’ in this year of precarious living

Daniel Fischlin, University of Guelph; Jesse Stewart, Carleton University; Laura Risk, University of Toronto

Meditations on improvisation in a year of both COVID-19 and what some called ‘the other pandemic’ of racism push us to go deeper to find ways to sustain healthy public common life.

Politicians have ‘washed their hands’ and blamed others since Jesus’s crucifixion

Tony Keddie, University of British Columbia

The expression to “wash one’s hands of responsibility” comes from Christian scripture and has been part of a toxic legacy of blaming Jews for Jesus’s death.

Junos 50th anniversary: How we remember these award-winning hit singles

Robbie MacKay, Queen's University, Ontario; Armand Garnet Ruffo, Queen's University, Ontario; Kip Pegley, Queen's University, Ontario; Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw, Queen's University, Ontario; Robert Morrison, Queen's University, Ontario; Tamar Faber, York University, Canada; Vershawn Ashanti Young, University of Waterloo

Known variously in Juno history as ‘Best Single,’ or ‘Best-Selling Single,’ and now ‘Single of the Year’ this award always garners attention. Reflections on select singles since 1979.

How women in India reclaimed the protest power of ripped jeans

Deepali Dewan, University of Toronto

After an Indian politician disparaged a woman for her lack of morals because she was wearing ripped jeans, an online protest erupted, reviving the original protest-culture of the ripped jean.

Nicki Minaj’s COVID-19 vaccine tweet about swollen testicles signals the dangers of celebrity misinformation and fandom

Sarah R. Olutola, Lakehead University

Nicki Minaj’s international anti-vaccine fiasco reveals the life-and-death stakes at the heart of normalizing a culture of fandom tribalism.