Dr. George Dei is Royal Society of Canada fellow

Dr. George Dei is Royal Society of Canada fellow

September 23, 2017

It’s the Hall of Fame for academics in the arts, humanities and sciences.

Dr. George Dei, one of Canada’s foremost scholars on race and anti-racism studies, has joined the distinguished Royal Society of Canada (RSC).

He’s among 89 new fellows elected by their peers in recognition of their outstanding scholarly, scientific and artistic achievements. 

Currently in Ghana collecting indigenous stories for a new book, Dei said the recognition is humbling.

“It means a lot to put it simply,” he noted. “But the way I see it, such recognition is not for the individual. It is about the work we do as anti-racists, social justice advocates and the continuing struggles about decolonization.”

Dei shares the honour with those he has learned from and shared joy, pain and sorrow.

“This is what we mean by community who have been there and supportive,” he said. “We all stand on the shoulders of a collective, especially those who have gone before us. The least we can do is to continue the good work already done that makes it possible for us to be recognized today. Our communities are our backbone and any scholar without community backing and spiritual support is not firmly rooted or grounded.”

Dei is a professor of humanities, social sciences and social justice education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

He considers his love for teaching as a blessing and a gift bestowed.

“In the community I grew up in, one’s knowledge is seen as meaningful only to the extent that it is shared and made reciprocal,” said Dei who was installed as a traditional chief in Ghana a decade ago. “My siblings are all teachers and I find that interesting. Teaching is about sharing knowledge and putting knowledge to oneself and community improvement. It is also about working for change. We are all teachers in a way.”

Named a Carnegie Fellow in 2015, Dei’s extensive body of work has been devoted to constructive change in education -- within and beyond the classroom -- to advance equity and diversity. Building on pioneering anti-racism educators such as Enid Lee and Barbara Thomas, he has challenged discriminatory barriers faced by marginalized youths and influenced educational policy on anti-racism, equity and inclusivity in Canadian schooling.

He has also been a major proponent and pioneering voice in the establishment of Black focused and African-centred schools and his ground-breaking work is cited by school boards and in policy documents across the country.

The 2013 Social Sciences & Humanities curriculum for grades nine to 12 in the province lists Dei’s work as a reference for teachers on equity and social justice and the Ontario Ministry of Education 2014 ‘Equity & Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development & Implementation’ references his work to promote anti-racism. His 2000 text, ‘Removing the Margins’, and the companion teacher’s guide, ‘Inclusive Schooling’, operationalized seven main domains of an inclusive schooling approach that continue to form discussions on questions of inclusive schooling in Canada.

In addition, he has contributed to major research initiatives, including ‘Multiple Literacies through Diversity: Kindergarten-Grade Six’ and to 18 research reports for organizations such as the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning and the Work and Lifelong Research Network.

Dei’s recent work on African indigenous philosophies focusses on working with student teachers and educators from Toronto elementary and secondary schools to produce resources for teaching African proverbs in Canadian schools.

While in Ghana, he’s studying African cultural stories and community sages as educative and educational potentials teaching about culture, history, traditions and life lessons.

“I am also conducting a pilot study for submission of a larger research grant on African Elders’ cultural knowledge and how they can enhance youth learning,” said Dei who is a senior fellow at Massey College and a distinguished fellow at the Philadelphia-based Molefi Kete Asante Institute. “More importantly though, mentoring young African scholars is something that is occupying my attention these days. I see this as a way to give back all that I have been privileged to have as a scholar, community worker and living soul.”

Arriving in Canada in 1979 after finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Ghana the previous year, Dei did his Master’s at McMaster University and his PhD at the University of Toronto.

Last November, he was presented with the Canadian Education Association-administered Whitworth award that recognizes scholars who have made a sustainable and substantial contribution to educational research over a period of time.

The RSC induction ceremony takes place on November 24 at the Fairmont Winnipeg Hotel in Manitoba.

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