All changes come with a price. No doubt, they also include benefits.
I grew up in a European farming community learning about a time when there was neither electricity or running water. Tuberculosis was rampant and a simple infection could be fatal. But one thing had happened that brought by change — free education had become mandatory. Literacy prevented stagnation.
Attending school was regarded a privilege, but conditions were harsh. Kids were taught strict discipline, obedience and hard work. The smallest offence led to cruel punishment, what nowadays would be called abuse. The intention was not cruel, but based on a belief that without punishment children would not turn into good citizens. For us students, no price was too high for a good education.
Settlers on the new continent in the west often came from this kind of community. They brought beliefs and values with them. Besides valuing education and hard work, they believed that integration of different peoples when developing new land was the best way to success. For so had history taught.
Integration had to start with education.
Unfortunately integration with the Native population did not become a reality. The harsh treatment of school children became more of an issue than the fact that a whole generation was given free education, health care and a chance to participate in the building of a democratic society with the same rights and obligation and the same opportunities for everybody.
By mistake, things were overseen — a high price to pay. But the benefits of free ride into modern time founded on centuries of accumulated knowledge should also be considered. Who would like to live without electricity, running water, TV, cars and all the rest?
Abandoning integration was a big mistake. But abandoning the victim role would be a step in the right direction.
Marianne Pfister, Sechelt