Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the Faculty of Law’s Centre for Feminist Legal Studies as part of the Marlee Kline Lecture in Social Justice. Bonnie Sherr Klein is a documentary filmmaker and long-time activist in the feminist and disability movements. In this lecture she shares her lived experience of disability as documented in her journal entries and film. She points out that disability inevitably touches us all, and proposes that human rights for people living with disabilities is not `merely’ a justice issue but an opportunity for all of us to be our most human.

This lecture honours the memory of Marlee Gayle Kline, a member of the Faculty of Law from 1989. Professor Kline died in 2001 after a lengthy and determined struggle with leukemia. Her work on feminist legal theory and critical race theory, child welfare law and policy, law’s continued colonialism, and restructuring of the social welfare state is internationally acclaimed. This lectureship not only recognizes Marlee’s rich contribution to the law school community but also reflects her belief in the central role social justice concerns must play in legal education and law.

Social justice, diversity and aboriginal perspectives will be dominant themes in all courses offered by the University of B.C. education faculty starting next fall as a result of a program overhaul that’s been in the works for several years.

The subjects won’t be taught as separate courses but will be infused throughout the curriculum, Associate Dean Rita Irwin said in an interview this week. “The program will have a very different look and feel,” she noted.

There will also be greater emphasis on research and inquiry, along with a requirement for student teachers to complete an alternative practicum in a non-school setting — such as a community centre, a museum, or even a senior-citizens’ home. That’s intended to open students’ eyes to a variety of work opportunities beyond the often-tight job market for generalist teachers in Metro schools.

“It will help our graduates understand what they can do with their Bachelor of Education degree,” Irwin explained.

The exceptional emphasis on diversity will better prepare teachers for work in classrooms that include students with special needs and behavioural challenges. A special focus on aboriginal perspectives will help teachers encourage success among aboriginal students while also teaching all children to appreciate aboriginal culture, Irwin said.

While these studies are not new at UBC, they will no longer be confined to a separate course with lessons to be learned and set aside. Rather, they will be embedded throughout the program, which represents a change for both students and faculty, she added.

Asked what new students are likely to find most surprising upon entering the education faculty, Irwin said it is the ever-growing emphasis on professionalism and the message that once they become teachers, their actions — and their relationships with students in particular — will be under constant review.

“That’s an eye-opener for many of them,” Irwin said.

Last year, approximately 2,700 new teachers were certified in B.C. but only 1,500 new teaching positions were available, the university says. Nevertheless, Irwin says, there are still plenty of opportunities for graduates, including jobs teaching abroad.

BY JANET STEFFENHAGEN, VANCOUVER SUN

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