The Novice and the Newcomer: Student Teachers' Perspectives on Multiculturalism and Education


83 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919581-05-6




Edited by George W. Bancroft
Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


“It was up to the immigrant to adjust to our system, they argued, not vice versa.” That representative opinion, presented to Mr. Bancroft by some high school students, gets to the core of one of Canada’s still unresolved problems: how to deal with multiculturalism.

This collection of essays by student teachers, based on their experience, gives some invaluable pointers to people concerned with newcomers to Canada. The contributors seem to come from both “old” and “new” Canadian backgrounds, and they are keen to teach us the lessons that they’ve learned at the sharp end of experience, in front of a high school class, for instance:

What “right” had I, with my conservative, white, middle-class background, to take away a part of that student’s identity? I state, in answer, that I believe it is my duty in the classroom to enforce the rules of Canadian society as I know them, and to help ethnic students to adjust to these cultural changes. To be blunt, if I felt obliged to compromise my own cultural values in my own country every time I was confronted by an ethnic student who challenged them, I think I would lose my mind.

There is a freshness, almost a grace, to many of these essays. As the editor says in his introduction, they share their thoughts with us, and because the writers are novices in their profession, they “have not yet acquired the hard shine of sociological jargon and platitude.”

One problem of the book is that when people talk of their experience in Canadian schools, this seems to be based entirely on Toronto schools. This inevitably colours many of the recommendations and observations made. One student begins his essay, for instance, saying “To be relevant, education in Canada must be multicultural.” Well and good, perhaps, but that little phrase “education in Canada” needs to be expanded and examined, just a little bit.

Yet there is much of value and interest here. There are a number of unusual perspectives. Over and above obvious ones, which nevertheless bear repeating — “Canadian children are extremely lucky to have such well-equipped schools” — there are some different remarks such as that by one West Indian parent, “People don’t cry in this country.”

Anyone interested in diversity in Canada or how the Canadian idea of multiculturalism is taking root in Canada’s largest metropolitan area will find this book rewarding.


“The Novice and the Newcomer: Student Teachers' Perspectives on Multiculturalism and Education,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,