Posted on February 14, 2024

Concordia University ‘Decolonizes’ Engineering

Lawrence M. Krauss, Quillette, February 6, 2024

“This five-year strategic plan will put Concordia on the map. We’re telling the world this is what we’re doing, and this is how we’re doing it.”

This was part of a recent statement by Donna Kahérakwas Goodleaf, the Director of Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy at Concordia University’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. She was talking about the university’s new five-year strategic plan to decolonize and indigenize its entire curriculum and pedagogy. The university’s provost, Anne Whitelaw, agreed: “This strategic plan … will change the ways in which we teach at Concordia.”

Goodleaf and Whitelaw are correct. This initiative will put Concordia on the map and change teaching practices at the university — but not in a positive way. The probable effect will be that Concordia becomes known for leading the charge backwards, away from reality and towards something more irrational. {snip}

According to Goodleaf, the new university plan draws upon the “principles embodied in the Two Row Wampum Belt … an ethical framework for how colonial-settler governments are to conduct themselves while living in the land of the Rotinonhsión:ni — more commonly known as the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy.”


Goodleaf is quite clear about the intent of the new curriculum. It “creates a path where everyone is equal and no worldview is superior.” {snip}


Concordia’s Vice-Provost of Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Sandra Gabriele, offers the following explanation in defence of the new program: “To truly decolonize demands a willingness from all of our community members to think about how systems have been in place for centuries to support a particular worldview, and how those injustices and that discrimination became embedded in the ways we think and work.”


The damage this initiative could cause to the global reputation of the university — and to the opportunities it offers its graduates — is exemplified by developments within the School of Engineering. If talk of a new initiative in engineering leads you to expect exciting new technological developments in robotics, material structures, aeronautical improvements, or computational tools, you will be sadly disappointed. Instead, this involves showcasing something called the “EDI Lab.” Led by an engineering faculty member who holds a “Concordia University Research Chair in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Science,” the project is not about studying engineering per se, but about studying Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM disciplines. A serious research program that focused on these issues would surely be better suited to the social sciences than to the engineering curriculum.

And this is not the only concern it raises. The program does not appear to be designed to promote open questioning and research into even these questions — research that might, for example, find that systemic racism is not endemic to engineering — but rather to promote standard postmodern critical race theory jargon and tropes. Consider the engineering course, ENCS691-G, in which,

“(S)tudents learn about the history of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the relation of social power and inequity, such as the marginalization of women, Black people, People of Color and Indigenous people in STEM. Students learn about intersectionality, gender and diversity in the context of STEM and you will acquire skills to identify and address inequity, marginalization and ‘othering’… Students get to know approaches to decolonize STEM.”