Free «Residential Schools and Survivors: Comparing and Contrasting Viewpoints» Essay Sample


Residential schools remain one of the most painful pages in the history of Canada. Since the end of the 19th century, thousands of Aboriginal children had been forcibly taken from their families and scattered randomly across more than 130 residential schools to forget their cultural and ethnic origins (Taylor 146). In their essays, Madeleine Dion Stout and Drew Hayden Taylor speak about the cultural, educational, and social legacy of residential schools and the intergenerational impacts of cultural violence on aboriginal people’s resilience. The authors reveal the hidden impacts of residential schools on the aboriginal populations, although their perceptions of resilience and force differ considerably. Stout and Taylor agree that residential schools were one of the greatest mistakes made by Canadian authorities in their relations with the aboriginal people. However, while Stout perceives her residential school experience as the beginning of healing, Taylor cannot conceal the pain and contempt he feels about the past.  It is possible to assume that, unlike Taylor, Stout was able to forgive her country everything she had experienced during her residential school life, and her knowledge can teach future generations a good lesson of tolerance and resilience in the face of the major cultural hardships. 



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The fact that residential schools were one of the most negative and painful moments in the history of Canada cannot be denied, and both Taylor and Stout agree that residential schools had left a deep scar on the moral and cultural face of the aboriginal people. Taylor provides compelling statistics: since the end of the 19th century, more than 150,000 aboriginal children had been taken away from their families and randomly assigned to over 130 residential schools scattered across two territories and seven provinces (146). Residential schools became one of the chief instruments of cultural violence against aboriginal people in Canada. In residential schools, children were robbed of their language, culture, self-respect, and dignity (Taylor 146). Stout supports these claims by saying that, for all aboriginal children, residential school experiences were necessarily associated with pain and resilience (47). “If we truly believe the pain of the residential school legacy has had an intergenerational impact, then it necessarily follows that there will be intergenerational Survivors too” (Stout 48). Stout confesses that, while in residential school, she was deprived of love (49). Her teacher’s indifference and preoccupation with private affairs became one of the most memorable experiences in residential school.

Despite certain similarities, Stout’s and Taylor’s essays differ in several fundamental ways. To begin with, while Stout discusses her childhood experiences and looks at the legacy of residential schools from within, Taylor provides a more distant picture of the cultural discrimination against the aboriginal people in Canada. Taylor relies on dry statistics and his parents’ experiences, while Stout tries to create a vivid picture of loneliness and cultural anguish she felt in residential school. As a result, Taylor’s vision of the problem is more official and less private (146). Meanwhile, Stout keeps talking about the second-hand love she had to learn in order to avoid loneliness and spiritual deprivation in the classroom (48).

Unlike Taylor, whose perceptions of residential schools are strongly negative, Stout tries to reevaluate her residential school experiences in a more positive light. Taylor cannot conceal his contempt of the government’s decision to force aboriginal children into residential schools (147). He is equally negative about the official apology issued by the Canadian government in light of the new pro-aboriginal ideology: “Perhaps, it is my working-class origins and artsy nature, but I do find it odd that it was the Conservative government who found the balls to issue the assbwehyehnmigziwin” (Taylor 147). Taylor still feels that the official apology simply supports the Conservatives’ political and economic agenda (147). By contrast, Stout is focused on her feelings and the lessons she had learnt in residential school. Stout speaks about resilience, healing, and second-hand love, which gave her strength and spirit to pursue freedom. Love cannot erase her negative feelings about residential schools, but it can shape the basis for a healing journey, away from colonization and violence. For Stout, having a heart full of love was an act of resilience, and she finally learned to live the moment while keeping her residential school experiences as monuments for future generations (49).

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It is possible to assume that, unlike Taylor, Stout was able to forgive her country everything she had experienced in residential school. She eventually came to use her tragic experience as the source of valuable knowledge for future generations. While Taylor keeps speaking about the collateral damage from the residential schools era (151), Stout describes the transformative value of resilience and colonization (50). It is a unique gift to see the light in the darkest place, and Stout uses her knowledge to give future generations a good lesson of tolerance and resilience in the face of the major cultural hardship. 


Canadian residential schools remain one of the most painful moments in the lives of many aboriginal people. Stout and Taylor generally agree that residential schools had serious negative impacts on the culture and wellbeing of the aboriginal populations in Canada. However, where Taylor speaks about the collateral damage of the residential schools era, Stout focuses on the individual perceptions of love and resilience while being in residential school. Consequently, it is possible to say that, unlike Taylor, Stout was able to forgive her country for the tragic mistake. Now, she can use her knowledge to teach future generations the resilience and power against the major cultural hardships.


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