For my first video assignment in university (I’m still a bit camera shy!), I talk about my learning journey in ECS 210. My evolution of learning about curriculum started from my very first blog post in 210, and will continue throughout my teaching career. From learning about curriculum orientations, critiques of curriculum, and the practical applications of curriculum in the classroom, I have learned so much about what it means to teach curriculum!
In Kevin Kumoshiro’s chapter on teaching literature in Against Common Sense, he touched on the common misconceptions when it comes to teaching English Language Arts. He explained that while the subject itself is perfect for teaching anti-oppressive education, it is more than just including more diverse stories. I summed it up with the phrase: not the what but the why. In other words, it does not matter what you’re teaching—be it the classics or a modern, racially diverse story—if you’re not teaching it well. Why is a certain story being presented to your students? Will they take away a viewpoint more geared towards the stereotypes they are used to, or less? How can the teacher sway this balance towards the side of anti-oppression?
In my own schooling, how I read the world was through what I read. I never traveled farther than the next province over, so I found my knowledge of other countries and cultures dependent on the books I read and the media I consumed. Had I been left solely to the books read at school and in the classroom, I would be frightened by who I would be now. My schooling stuck mostly with teaching the narrative that would resonate with the majority of my class: white, middle-class, Christian kids. As such, I had very few instances where I was exposed to unique perspectives. It was through the rise of the Internet and social media that brought me in touch with people around the world. Only then did I begin to question the stereotypes I had been brought up with. In high school, we were exposed to Indigenous stories once in a while, it seemed only to be a checkmark on their curriculum outline. The truth that mattered was the Eurocentric, western, white truth…the “grand” narrative that dictates most of education and most of our society. One could argue that my school taught the material that would resonate with most of its students. My story was always told…the white story is always told. But how can we truly know our own story without exposure to others’ stories?
- At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?
In my math experience in high school, I was pushed to take Pre-Calculus over Foundations and Workplace because it was said to “open all the doors for you.” This was meant to advertise that post-secondary institutions would only take those who had a 30-level math credit under their belt. The focus in my school was on the maths that would get you into university rather than those that would help you in the trades or just day-to-day life. I took Workplace and Apprenticeship one year and I learned more about credit, taxes, and measurements—the math I have used a lot since—than any other class in high school. Imagine if I had stayed in Workplace and Apprenticeship math…maybe I could figure out how to do my own taxes.
My school was also incredibly discriminating towards those who struggled in math. You weren’t considered a “smart” student if you weren’t good at math. What’s more, you weren’t considered one of the best the school had to offer if you weren’t good at both math and athletics. This thinking developed a hierarchy of intelligence based on which math you were in. Top of the list: the AP Math kids. The elite. After those came the regular Pre-Calculus students who completed Calculus as well (this is where I fell). Then it was the Pre-Calculus students who stopped at Pre-Cal 30. Then the Foundations students (few and far between) and then the Workplace and Apprenticeship math students. These were the students considered too stupid for university but would pursue trades instead. How messed up is that? Going into trades does not make a person stupid. It’s actually quite the opposite. While we academics are sitting around pondering what makes the existence of a table real, they are actually learning and applying skills—sometimes right after high school. But because they weren’t in the “smart math,” they can’t be considered smart people. I think it’s an indicator of a huge flaw in the math education system.
- After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes of mathematics and the way we learn it.
The Inuit mathematics system challenged three of my Eurocentric ideas about mathematics:
- Math is not universal: Remember Cady Heron’s reason for liking math in Mean Girls? “it’s the same in every country.” Boy was she wrong. The applications, the formulas, the language, the base, the way it is taught differs. Math is not universal.
- Math is not always used for the same purpose: What’s the purpose of math for a Eurocentric mind? You learn it to learn, to know numbers and what they mean. We know 2+2=4. Why? Because we’ve been told that again and again until it sticks. The Inuit, however, have deeper meanings and applications for their mathematics that make a lot more sense.
- The terms used for mathematics is different: there are new meanings for words like cube and straight line. Just because it doesn’t directly translate to what we know and deem “the right way” does not mean that the Inuit conception of terms in wrong.
The citizenship education in my K-12 schooling was extremely limited. Besides learning about Canadian history in History 30, Canadian politics in Law 30 and through Social Studies in elementary school, and developing Canadian identity, the dynamics of citizenship were not referred to. The focus on the small spurts of citizenship education in my schooling was on the “personally responsible citizen” type that Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne explain in their article, “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” (2004).
I couldn’t help but connect the different types of a citizen to the different orientations of the curriculum. Westheimer and Kahne introduce the “participatory citizen” and the “justice-orientated citizen” which remind me of process and praxis, respectively. I think that the “personally responsible citizen” is close to product because its goal is to produce good citizens. I think this approach is also very passive towards potential issues in communities. The integration of the “personally responsible citizen” into my K-12 education allowed for a pacifist attitude to bloom in students. The idea that if we don’t litter and we give blood, we’re good citizens is making students blissfully ignorant to the actions needed to truly make things better.
The notion that we, as educators to the next generation of leaders and decision-makers, could ignore or reject teaching Treaty Ed in schools with little to no First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students is abhorrent to me. A phrase pops into my mind in response to Mike’s prompt after reading and watching the materials for this week, materials from people like Cynthia Chambers, Dwayne Donald, and Claire Kreuger. The phrase is “out of sight, out of mind”.
Representation, as indicated by history, is unmeasurable in its importance. People see, or more specifically, minorities see the things they could do being done by people who look like them or sound like them, and it makes wild dreams into plausible realities. The issue lies in not seeking knowledge based on that lack of important representation. Learning of First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspectives in light of, and intertwined with, the history and lasting legacy of colonialism is not something that is isolated to those who are the victims of it. So often, people take the easier route and it’s obvious that happens with Treaty Ed. It’s easier to not incorporate it into the classroom full of white, settler kids because the students think and quite possibly the teacher thinks that this history and its consequential ramifications do not apply to them. This is simply not the case. Just because a teacher doesn’t have a classroom filled with Indigenous students does not mean that Indigenous students do not exist. Indigenous communities do not cease to exist simply because they aren’t staring at the chalkboard in your classroom. Their histories should exist and do exist in the classroom—in every classroom, even if their physical presence does not. The legacy of colonialism and the lasting effects of residential schools are so essential to grapple with and to begin to understand one’s identity—Canadian or not. The Canadian school system puts importance on learning and developing a Canadian identity…but how are we supposed to teach that without knowing Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous people of this land?
Treaty Ed is so much more than telling students which treaty land we are currently situated in (although that is important). As Mike’s discussion video with Claire Kreuger demonstrates, the integration of Treaty Ed is complex and complicated, and I’d even go so far to describe it as messy. There are so many mistakes to be made and *hopefully* fixed. It’s a long, difficult process of figuring out the best way to teach Treaty Ed in the classroom—in every classroom—regardless of the number of students with Indigenous backgrounds. The idea that we are all treaty people rings true. We all are affected by treaties in one way or another. Just because we didn’t sign them ourselves does not mean they do not continue to impact our communities and our treatment to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. This means that Treaty Ed is not only for Indigenous students but for everyone because we are treaty people.
Chambers, C. (2012). “We are all treaty people: The contemporary countenance of Canadian curriculum studies”. Reconsidering Canadian curriculum studies (pp. 23–38). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Donald, Dwayne. (2012). “On What Terms Can We Speak?” https://vimeo.com/15264558
Kreuger, Claire. (2017). “ECS 210 8.2 – Claire Intro” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWY_X-ikmaw&feature=youtu.be.
Kreuger, Claire & Cappello, Michael. (2017). “ECS210 8.4- Q&A”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnPl9Xfd0Bw&feature=youtu.be
In Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, and Edmund Metatawabin’s article, “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”, the authors state that “rehabilitation and decolonization depend on each other” (74). In this way, it is difficult to separate one from the other and so there are many instances in the narrative that exemplify both the integration of reinhabitation and decolonization. The article, for example, references the “discoveries of the Ring of Fire mineral deposits west of the community were and are bringing pressures from mining companies and the federal government to enter into large scale extractive development” (73). It is this pressure from western society to develop sacred land that pushes forward the project for intergenerational dialogue and teaching youth about Indigenous ways of knowing with an underlying message to reject the exploitation through decolonization.
As well, encouraging intergenerational relationships between youth and First Nations elders through projects such as interviews and “zines” (74) helped to create a “snowball effect” of the community wanting to contribute this important conversation of Indigenous traditional ways of life. Soon there are excursions on the river with lessons on how to survive off the land. In my opinion, there seems to be an interesting blend of incorporating tradition (lessons of surviving off the land) and modern methods of learning (documenting through audio interviews and videos). I think this helps the students see how Indigenous ways of knowing don’t have to be completely separated from the modern world. This knowledge has maintained its relevance since before European colonization, and I think this project to join youth to elders in Indigenous communities shows why it has been able to survive despite the Canadian government and general public’s repeated attempts to assimilate and eradicate Indigenous culture.
It might be beneficial to integrate a teaching style that implements more considerations for Indigenous ways of knowing. A deeper, more critical way of thinking about nature and the earth itself can be engaging if related to what students already know. For example, the river that was consistently referenced in the article is just a body of water for anyone that is solely taught in the white, majority, Eurocentric narrative. To Indigenous communities, however, it is so much more. Not only is it a means for survival, but its personal to each member of the community in unique and sacred ways. Teaching students that there is more to learn than just what Is presented at face value can allow for future generations to respect the Indigenous ways of knowing throughout their own lives and future careers.
Restoule et al (2013) “Learning From Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dI7wj8JcsOuMVHjWx1aKJy3XzCSoyYuc/view.
Before reading the article on how the government influences policy in education and curricula, my knowledge of how the curriculum is created was vague and minimal. I know that the government has an important role in what we teach and when we teach it. I know that the team of curricula creators is usually creating the curriculum through a white, Eurocentric lens. Beyond that, I never questioned the “how” of curricula creation.
Reading Levin’s “Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools,” I was introduced to the politics of curriculum. I learned the big debates that usually surround curriculum—such as what is taught and to what degree—as well as who is involved in curriculum. Namely, this involves government officials at various levels: some federal, most provincial, and a few municipal. As well, however, there also seems to be some influence from experts from certain subject matters, educational “stakeholders” like principals, administrators, and other groups such as parents of past, present, or future students. The development of school curricula is completed through a lengthy process of research, editing and revising. There seems, however, to be a disconnect between curricula creators (the very best teachers and/or experts in their subject) and the average school teacher. This gap prevents the curriculum from being taught efficiently because it has not been built for the every day.
I was both surprised and concerned by the interesting point that Levin brought up: “Any issue that is politically contentious can also turn into a curriculum dispute.” (15) In a way, I know this idea to be true, but I never really considered its implication until now. It brings me back to what was repeatedly said in lecture, “Education is never neutral.” Levin gives the example of sex education and I completely agree. Issues like rape and abortion—so-called “hot button topics”—cannot be (and in my opinion, should not be) avoided when developing a curriculum for sex education. Even if they are not explicitly addressed, they become the elephant in the room. Education in this way–and in other ways–are politically charged.
Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available online from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.