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And I Ask Myself, What is Going On? : Decolonizing Education Voices 

And I Ask Myself, What is Going On? : Decolonizing Education

I was born in Mexico City. When I was several months old, I moved to Vancouver, Canada where I developed a passion for reading. My mom would take me to the library every week and take out many books for me. She would pull our load in a cart from the library to home.  I lived there for 12 years. That was until I moved to Mexico because of economic circumstances.

I received part of my education in Mexico. During my first days of school, after a school tour, the kids in the secondary school are clearly surprised when I happily walk over to the school’s library for a casual read. Even the librarian is surprised. Even the teachers and the superintendents, when they are informed, are pleasantly surprised.

There doesn’t seem to be an interest in reading in general from town people in Mexico. The books in the library are old and yellow, their pages barely touched. Some are new, and their spine cracks when I open them, like any new book would when it is opened for the first time. The one school book that was part of the school curriculum in 11th grade featured short stories about how real people’s lives in the education system are negatively depicted with depreciative language describing their lives.

And I ask myself, what is going on?

I learn about the monarch butterfly, the seven climate zones of Mexico, and the abundance of biodiversity in all of Mexico. I learn of authors like Carlos Fuentes and Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish Shakespeare, whose works I believe should be read by university students and not by secondary students. Their works are considered important by the teacher, despite having written so long ago.

After a few months of living in Mexico, I obtained information that I wanted to know about my country, after living so far away from it. The information that I was interested in was not handled positively by my teachers. Or the students. Or the textbooks. Basic information about Spanish conquistadors in the 1500’s, the Indigenous groups of Mexico, of which there are more than 50, but only five were mentioned, and one was really looked upon. Even then, the information is minimal.

And I ask myself, what is going on?

I come to Canada expecting to have my country treated equally in classes. It isn’t, except in Anthropology – to a certain extent. Some of the teachers indirectly talk about how backwards my country is. For example, the history textbooks are about Europe, and the movements that occur there, their battles in Sumar, and their inventions, and their victories and losses etc. A negative depiction of the conquered is used as a starting point for general education.


All of the problems that Mexico is facing now have been faced by past civilizations, but that doesn’t mean that the problems no longer exist. I want to say, “People in my country are going through that right now!”

But I can’t. Because then, I look bad because I am from that country. I and my country and the people who come looking for opportunities will look backwards. And think, well, “Now people will think I am stupid”.

And I ask myself, what is going on?

The shame that my country’s culture puts on anything considered typically Mexican, in addition to similar ideas from my classes in Canada about the past, should not happen. But how do I explain this to a teacher, who is doing their job? How do I handle my experiences? More importantly, how can I make a difference? Why are there so many similarities between the historical education of two countries who are fundamentally different in many ways including their education, economy, political climate, food, scenery, housing, beloved sports and entertainment, lifestyle and cultural ideas?

And I ask myself, what is going on?

I found out what is going on. And I am not the only one with this concern. The problem of decolonizing education is widespread globally. We must look for a balance in education perspectives, within the limits of time and knowledge a human can retain.


Written by: Sara Rebeca Palacios

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