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Roger Simon.
London, ON: Althouse Press, 1988.
110pp., paper, $10.95.
ISBN 0-920354-21-1. Distributed by Althouse Press. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Discrimination-Canada-Study and teaching (Secondary).
Racism-Canada-Study and teaching (Secondary).
Canada-Race relations-Study and teaching (Secondary).


Reviewed by Janet Tomkins.

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Decoding Discrimination is a unit of study that uses film to examine the basis of social discrimination in Canadian society. The eighteen lesson plans that comprise the unit focus on four specific films: Ravinder, about a Sikh high school student who experiences various forms of discrimination; Reflections, which presents the stories of black, German, Greek, and Korean immigrants to Canada; Enemy Alien, which explores the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II; and Maria, which portrays a young Italian Canadian who tries to organize a union in her garment factory.

The use of film is deliberate, as the authors anticipate that students will observe "that through such techniques as the choice of narration, dialogue, casting of actors, editing of scenes, and camera angles used to photograph the story, each film maker has created a particular version of the nature and origins of social inequality."

But although opportunities to consider the characteristics and possibilities of film as a medium are provided throughout the lessons, the emphasis is on what each film says, rather than on how it says it. In fact, many of the questions applied to the films could equally well be applied to books and other media covering similar topics.

Although the language is occasionally convoluted and vague, the activities, readings and questions in Decoding Discrimination are thoughtful, interesting and certain to challenge students and teachers alike. Detailed descriptions of the films instead of brief annotations might have been useful, and the book began to fall apart after only a few readings. Nonetheless, this title is recommended for professional collections, particularly in areas with strong multicultural / anti-racist education programs.

Janet Tomkins, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
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