Please see the below link for Daylia Martin and myself’s video summarizing our experiences and learnings in ECS 210.
Category: ECS 210
In response to Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense chapter “Examples from English Literature” (p. 71-79) , we were asked to write a response to the readings about the lens from which we were taught to view both literature and the world.
When I was in school, we often read “classic” novels and plays, but there was also a sprinkling of what my teachers deemed important that were outside of the dominant English Cannon. While the bias was on, and I believe still is, on white, European, heteronormative and able bodied works of fiction with protagonists that exemplify the dominant perspectives, there were others inserted here and there.
My grade 10 English teacher, Mr. Stephens, really tried to have varied forms of texts for us to engage with. He brought into the classroom South African works of fiction, books about disabled protagonists, speculative fiction, along with the prescribed Shakespeare. While I maybe didn’t appreciate the readings at the time (the South African works used a punctuation and sentence styleI couldn’t grasp at the time having only seen the western form of writing), looking back I can appreciate how much Mr. Stephens was trying to include diverse perspectives in his classroom.
Trying to unlearn our dominant way of reading the world is difficult. Even as a gay man, I still often look to heteronormative fiction as an easier buy-in over stories with LGBTQ+ characters, because I am used to stories that fit that norm. If I still am following that because it’s how I am taught, we can see how white students might have a more difficult time getting into multicultural literature if they never get to explore and read with a diverse lens.
When thinking about a “single story” my thinking mostly goes back to white, middle class protagonists for most contemporary literature in elementary school, and often white, historic protagonists during high school. While there were the previously mentioned insertions of other perspectives, the majority still was the Eurocentric (mostly English) lens. I would say this perpetuates that the white students truth mattered more than the other students in the room.
When thinking about my education, specifically in Mathematics, at the time I did not find any of the ways we were taught oppressive or discriminatory, as when you are a student you just assume that is the way things are, but now I can see some bias in the method.
Firstly we are taught in the Western tradition of Mathematics, which follows guidelines and principles that have been in place for hundreds of years. The fact that there is a place to begin and end for each grad level also matches with a Eurocentric vision of learning as a path where one continually heads down a straight path to enlightenment. There is generally a “proper” way to learn and other viewpoints are not overly considered or welcomed. Math is often taught with limited creativity and questions are limited to how a particular equation is solved.
In regards to Poirier’s (2007) article, the three ways I see the Inuit community challenge the Eurocentric practice happens in:
- Language, and the Inuktitut way of assembling words, which gives numerical values a different alignment that how English speakers conceptualize the words.
2) The way spatial reasoning is used by the culture based on senses (sight, smell) rather than systems of measurement. The uses in a space which is mostly snow much of the year makes the utilization of distance culturally specific.
3) Measurements based on the individual body, such as when a woman makes clothing for her family and measures using her palm and hand. When practiced this makes sense as both utilizing what is easily accessible as well as practical.
So often we learn math because it is deemed important, but the actual in practice use of the principles we are teaching can be lost in transition from the classroom to real-life application. The way the Inuit seem to intuitively incorporate math is both culturally specific and practical.
- Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 77-85). UBC Press.
- Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.
- Watch this TED Talk (Mathematics is the sense you never knew you had)
Answer the Following: What examples of citizenship education do you remember from your K-12 schooling? What types of citizenship (e.g. which of the three types mentioned in the article) were the focus? Explore what this approach to the curriculum made (im)possible in regards to citizenship? See the article by Joel Westheimer here.
When I was going to school, from what I remember, mostly we were taught to be The Personally Responsible Citizen. We were told the expectations of getting a job, following the rules, and very much being compliant in the way the government and society at large expected us to behave. I don’t think there is an inherent wrongness to this underlying goal, however there are many things I left school more or less unaware of until I was much older.
If I had learned more about how to be a Participatory Citizen I may had learned more real world skills that could have benefitted in organizational structures and even in management. While I have done a lot of volunteering, which was drilled in as being one of the best things a person can do to help others, when I think of the actually long term differences I’ve made, they are likely quite minor.
In regards to being a Justice Oriented Citizen, I think this style of questioning authority and systemic injustice would have almost been unnerving in my schooling. Teachers wanted students who followed rules and asked questions about some injustices, but not policies or the systems that force people into precarious and unlawful situations.
I feel like I’m learning much more about Social Justice, not only since being in the Faculty of Education, but just by seeking opportunities in the community since not being in the public school system. A few years ago I was an Artist in Residence at Generating Momentum, which is a Youth Camp (19-31) put on by RPIRG, where people learn about the ways they can try to involve themselves in taking action and making change. Although I didn’t agree with everything that the camp had as an agenda, I learned a great deal about issues that I hadn’t considered a great deal before and think it helped to broaden my views. Seeing multiple perspectives and looking at news items with a critical lens is important and I want to pass that on to my students.
While I don’t know if being guided in any of these paths makes anything entirely impossible, I believe that for students to be effective thinkers and engaged citizens, being taught towards being a Justice Oriented Citizen seems to be the most needed in today’s society. If we are looking at making changes in our environmental impact, looking at corporations and their abuses of resources and socio-economic impacts, and being more open-minded of diversity and systemic injustices, we need more justice, less compliance.
In response to a student teachers concerns raised about the lax attitude towards teaching Treaty Education answer the following questions:
1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?
I believe the purpose is to start bridging the gap of an “Us” and “Them” mentality regarding non-First Nations and First Nations people. When students are brought up with little knowledge of FN, Métis, and Inuit perspectives it can be easier for us to ignore the many ways Canadian society is biased against perspectives outside of the settler norm.
Another big reason is that it is often overlooked that First Nations and Inuit people were the original occupiers of the land, and that Canada owes most of its identity to the ways Indigenous peoples were stewards of the land. When we are only taught that history begins when settlers occupy what would eventually be Canada, we are ignoring the original perspectives of the people who were here long before.
I know I was not aware of the Treaties during my time in schools, and this left me ignorant to many of the ways we have a societal bias in the ways First Nations people are treated and the adversities it leaves them to overcome. I want my students to have an understanding so that as they move though secondary and post-secondary education, they can have a better understanding of the ways Treaties were meant to establish a sharing of the land between settlers and First Nation problems, and how that has actually been enacted as a displacement of First Nation peoples.
2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
In my understanding of curriculum “We are all Treaty people” means that we all equally share the land we occupy, and thus all carry the rights and responsibilities of being part of the treaty. If we do not teach what entailed the creation of treaties, what they continue to mean, and how treaties are still shaping the world we live in, our students will remain ignorant of these rights and responsibilities.
This understanding will also help to deconstruct some of the racial bias that can be a part of our Canadian identities. Incorporating Treaty Education into our curriculum helps us to take part in creating a more equitable curriculum for all our students.
Dwayne Donald mentions many of our students feel they do not have a culture (https://vimeo.com/15264558). Really we are all Canadian, whether that be a settler identity, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, or a recent immigrant to Canada, when we know the history of the land we are on, we can see how we all share a common identity as Treaty People.
After reading the article Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dI7wj8JcsOuMVHjWx1aKJy3XzCSoyYuc/viewe were asked two questions.
1. List some of the ways that you see re-inhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
I saw this happening in the article in a few ways. One was the boundaries placed on the land by the colonizers seemed to dissipate to the participants in the project. By seeing how the land informed boundaries based on natural occurrences, trade routes, historical sites to the peoples and families, the formally defined boundaries were made less oppressive. The use of language to help connect the students with the traditional perspectives is also a form of decolonization as they are coming back to their cultural definitions of place and seeing themselves inhabiting those spaces. Even the facilitation between Elders and students can be seen as reinhabitation, as it reestablishes cultural norms that were being oppressed by colonization. When language becomes revitalized it also connects students to their cultural role in place and citizens of the land.
2. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?
I think it will be important to look at multiple perspectives when teaching in any subject area and not seeing the dominant theory or pedagogy as the only one that is right. In visual art it has often been taught that European centred art and art history were the “right” way to view art and its history while Asian and Indigenous arts were treated as a separate, and less superior art narratives. This philosophy discounts all the ways that they share innovation and inform one another in the development of contemporary arts. Canada is now seeing First Nations, Inuit and Metis art as valuable and modern, and this shift is being seen in the way galleries and museums now show and feature these art works and histories.
In the same way teachers needs to look for the non-dominant ways they want to incorporate into their classrooms, whether this be First Nation views on the sciences, mathematics, literature, or any subject matter. To only teach euro-centred ways of knowing leaves out many perspectives that can help create an open and welcoming classroom to all cultural views.
Exploring the creation of the curriculum
For this week’s prompt we are asked to write a before and after blog about Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools, found here: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf
Before Reading: How do I think school curricula is developed?
I believe school curricula is developed by education professionals who are employed by the Ministry of Education in a permanent or consoling contract that view existing materials to make changes reflective of contemporary values and issues. These changes are then reviewed and may be made into the permanent curriculum at a later date. Curriculum mirrors the dominant values of a society and has importance placed in areas that are deemed as the most necessary for future success (employment) of the students.
School curricula is developed and implemented by experts in a specific field, political opinions, relevant industry, and public opinion. This reading provided new insights into how complex the creation of curriculum can be and the various ways the creators have to navigate political and popular beliefs to create a palatable curriculum that has little objection. The fact that curriculum is often not based on empirical data and research is a little disconcerting, as the ability to actually teaching the curriculum may not be a priority for those involved. That some creators are experts in the field is a good thing, but if a curriculum requires that same expertise to be recreated, that may be an issue as some teachers are more broadly trained and educated, and may not have that singular knowledge base to pull from.
A major concern is to be teaching based on assessment requirements that may be created on a national level and not reflective of the province’s own curriculum. This could be dire as students may not test well in accord to a standard even though they have been learning the required materials. I also worry about the basis of what students are learning being directed by industry leaders who are looking to serve their own interests in having readily available workers. While I see it as important to be teaching hireable skills, the fact that we could be molding students on a path towards employment in a particular field without properly exploring multiple interests is a little discomforting.
I see how complex the factors that shape and dictate curriculum can be. It is hard to make everyone happy as well as create the best guide for teachers to facilitate learning with their students. That curriculum is always going through evaluation and change is a positive thing, even if teachers may need to be ever vigilant they are using the curriculum to best meet their students’ needs.