Oct 14th Reading Response

We Are All Treaty People – The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies by Cynthia Chambers

In speaking on her heritage, Chambers talks of how her ancestors did not know the stories of the land they were colonizing. That promises of adventure and progress in a new nation were at the forefront; not the Aboriginal people being displaced and mistreated.

Chambers explains how the stories of the Treaties between Indigenous people and European colonizers is not her story because she acquired treaty status through marriage. Rather, it is her story, and the story of all Canadians. This story tells of what was taken and what was lost in the signing of the treaties, paving the way for Canada as it is today.

On treaties, these historical documents will forever tie Indigenous people with their colonizers. Chambers repeatedly mentions that “we are all treaty people”, meaning those who live in Canada, on treaty land. Chambers’ heritage from European settlers, and subsequent marriage to an Indigenous person, gave her two perspectives on the relations between these two groups. She reflects on being given a chance to live and think differently than her ancestors did, and to impart those methods upon her future children.

On What Terms Can We Speak? – Dwayne Donald lecture

He introduces himself to the audience in Cree; a big risk by his own admission. Perhaps because Mr. Donald, like many other Indigenous peoples, feel out of touch with their language.

  • teaches a course called Aboriginal Curriculum Perspectives
  • laments that often people who teach such courses do not have the proper perspectives or knowledge to teach it well
  • interest in Aboriginal-Canadian relations, making Aboriginal curriculum studies better
  • has multiple perspectives; losing his ancestral land on one side, and enjoying the fruits of colonialism on the other. Leads to his interest in the subject of relations
  • his question – on what terms can we speak? We frequently miss each other; a disconnect created by the legacy of colonialism
  • denying relationships between head and heart, people and place
  • relationship with subject changes how you present it in classroom; changes dynamics
  • Eurocentric ‘culture’ – a noun, a thing
  • Aboriginal ‘culture’ – a verb, something you do
  • unfortunately culture = race to some
  • Indigenous people are identified as ‘intensely cultural’, and is viewed by some as a learning disability or a reason for poor academic achievement
  • conversely, European settlers don’t really have an identifiable culture – what is their learning disability, then?
  • in order to repair Canadian-Aboriginal relations, Canadians need understand themselves first. Understand how their ‘culture’ led to this point, and

Responding to email sent to Mike:

As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.

The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.

This is a real issue in schools. As you listen to Dwayne’s invitation/challenge, as you listen to Claire’s lecture and as you read Cynthia’s narrative – use these resources and your blog to craft a response to this student’s email. Consider the following questions in a blog post:

  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?
  2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?

Treaty education and Indigenous content/perspectives are a necessary and crucial step towards reaching any form of reconciliation between Canada and it’s Indigenous people. It is arguably more important that this discourse be taught to non-Indigenous students moreso than Indigenous students, as it opens new perspectives up to them. Presents worldviews that perhaps lead to understandings on how Indigenous life was before and after European colonization. This content need be taught in order to combat the shocking disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, specifically the socioeconomic gap, quality of life, and academic success. Some students may be resilient to learning such topics; they may not view it as relevant to them, being non-Indigenous. I would argue that this knowledge is just as relevant as learning the provinces and territories or the history of prime ministers, as Treaty Ed also details the story of Canada. Going through Indigenous history during colonization can help elucidate to students how and why Canadian-Indigenous relationships came to be, and have transformed over time. This education can hopefully be used to foster self aware, socially just students who strive for further reconciliation. It is in this that I believe what Dwayne Donald was going for when he said “we are all treaty people”. As well all live on the land, this treaty land, it is the job of all of us – not just politicians – to aim for reconciliation. Reconciliation can not just be achieved through actions, but rather through gradual shifts in mindsets. These shifts occur for both non and Indigenous peoples, and comes as a result of education, as a result of learning different perspectives that lead to citizens best equipped to strengthen Canada-Indigenous relations. As Claire Kreuger states in her Treaty Ed videos, Saskatchewan and much of the rest of Canada is at times blatantly visible, pervasive in nature. You can see it played out in events like the trial of Gerald Stanley. Kreuger says then that the aim of Treaty Ed is to uproot this deep-seated racism that exists among non-Indigenous populations – she calls it Settler Ed instead. To Claire, Treaty Ed isn’t about learning and memorizing dates and other historical facts…it’s about coming to take ownership and stewardship as treaty people, as people who can work towards better Canada-Indigenous relations.

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October 6th – Reading response to Learning from Place

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to: a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74). List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative. How might you adapt these ideas / consider place in your own subject areas and teaching?

The article takes place during a research project on social, cultural, and economic perspectives of people on the Kistachowan River. The river and the surrounding area both played a role in determining said perspectives. Gathering information project for this data involved youth interviewing Elders, strengthening intergenerational bonds and the transfer of knowledge. These processes are foundational in the ideas of reinhabitation. Youth, adults, and Elders travel along the river, and ways of living off the land are shared. An Elder speaks of communicating with the animals, using their calls to determine things from water quality to the type of weather approaching. These traditional knowledges are the type that have been lost to youth, and can hopefully be recovered in these reinhabitation processes. It will serve to reestablish a “sense of connection land, culture and life” amongst youth. Further acts of reinhabitation are attributed with ancestral Mushgegowuk languages – Elders note that the traditional word for the group’s territory and it’s environment was no longer being used by youth. Instead, they used a simplified word, one that doesn’t hold the traditions, or maintain the historical identity of the band. If youth were to recover the traditional languages, they would be able to better grasp intergenerational knowledge passed on to them using similarly weighted words.

Decolonization is found in another part of the project, one based around the reclaiming and renaming of traditonal lands, or add more to the barren English-language maps. To Elders of the community, they suggest “every curve in the river has a name”. European colonization had simplified, removed, and Anglicized these ancestral names, and now these acts of renaming and reclaiming work towards achieving decolonization. This project brought together Elders and youth in ways that have been hard to come by since colonization and the ensuing gaps in intergenerational knowledge transfer caused by residential schools. These processes and projects help achieve decolonization through this connecting manner, fostering positive relationships in and around the community.

In my own subject area of teaching, Chemistry and Sciences, I have long wondered how to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing into my lessons and discourse. Ideas of a critical pedagogy of place can be brought into play when I can engage students in a field trip or outdoors activity. For discussions on chemical reactions, students can be taken along a waterway, or into a nearby park.  Indigenous science is heavily observation based, and so I would engage students to follow along and try to see what I see. To find evidence that because plant x is in state y, chemical reaction z must have occurred. I would place on emphasis on getting outdoors, being in the moment and in a “place” as fundamental to the scientific process. 

Discussions on environmental sciences and sustainability, taking care of the Earth, while used in our Western curriculum these discourses are appropriate for and tied to Indigenous ways of knowing in science. The idea of reciprocity and living in harmony with the land is a common theme in most Indigenous beliefs, as they lived off the land for so long prior to colonization. Further advancements in our environmental education curricula in Canada need address the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and worldviews. The perspectives of our Indigenous people, who were able to live sustainably with their environment for hundreds of years, would be useful in decolonizing Western education and high-consumer lifestyles. An emphasis on place, and developing a sense of wonder for the natural world will be required in our education systems in order for this to occur. 

Sept 30th – Reading Response

Respond to the following prompts: What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense? Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student? What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these commonsense ideas?

According to commonsense, a good student is one who follows the school’s commonsense. For Western schools, this typically means sitting down and listening to discourse without questioning it. Taking that knowledge as absolute and regurgitating it later. This knowledge is often oppressive, and the status quo is maintained because the curriculum does not mention this, or how to fix it. Comforting knowledge and ideas are more easily learned because they do not disrupt these normative narratives, while discourse that does disrupt them is found uncomfortable and anxiety provoking.

The students who are privileged are those who conform. Trouble or noisy students, those who ask questions that are considered non-relevant, and others who cause disruptions are not granted freedom in Western education. Questions, alternative answers, and prompts for discussion are dismissed by educators. As educators critical of our education systems, we reject the very students we should most desire in our classrooms.

The style of education that pervades the Western world prevents us from seeing how oppressive our education system is. Critical review of such systems will allow for more engaging school experiences for students. For instance, more contextual-based information and discourse can be incorporated, as well as activities and engagement with the community that takes place outside the classroom in order to see the real world. Only by openly discussing oppression in the curriculum can we start to unearth it’s roots in Western society.

 

 

 

Sept 23rd – Journal Search for Assignment 1 ideas

The topic I aim to explore for my assignment is place-based education. It is an idea that has been touched upon as early as the late 19th century by educators such as John Dewey. An article called Place-Based Education: Learning to be Where We Are by Gregory Smith reviews some of the history of place-based education, as well as outlines some of its core themes. Smith says of place-based education (PBE, for short), “its aim is to ground learning in local phenomena and students’ lived experiences” (pg 3). To Smith, learning is something to be achieved through hands on experience, but Western schools view learning as something achieved through reading textbooks and attending lectures. Ideally, hands-on learning and continuous engagement through questions and other dialogue will foster critical thinking skills in students. Activities can feature realistic examples of problem solving, so that students can link it to their daily lives.

Smith breaks PBE into 5 core themes. They are: cultural studies; nature studies; real-world problem solving; internships and entrepreneurial opportunities; and induction into community processes. Additionally, he also speaks of many characteristics PBE curricula would feature. For example, questions and concerns of the students are used to determine what will be studied, creating a sense of ownership over their own education. Teachers act as guides, not instructors, and facilitate this learning process through engagement rather than discourse. It is a hope that these types of curriculum can be used to help students become involved in the community. Smith sees Western schooling as out of context, removing children from participation in society for 8 hours a day. This creates a disconnect, in which students study material made by individuals they do not know, and usually has little to no relevance to their lives. It is Smith’s hope that PBE can challenge this normative idea we have of schooling. Lessons can instead be focused around inquiry-based activities, real-world problems, and interactions with the community.

For my next steps towards this assignment, there are a wealth of journals I can look into to find information on place-based education. Furthermore, a preliminary investigation reveals that the subject of environmental education contains some principles of place-based education. I will continue to explore other topics related to PBE, but make sure they are intricately linked enough so as to not stray to far off. Hopefully these will provide a good basis from which to start this assignment.

September 9th – The Problem of Common Sense Response

The Problem of Common Sense

Kumashiro defines common sense as the nuances and peculiarities, big or small, that help shape the day-to-day lifestyle for a culture or community. Common sense is virtually a reflection of how most people live, or how the average, normal person lives. Common sense could perhaps just be defined as, ‘the way things are’. For example, the number of meals eaten in the Nepalese village per day, or their usage of the only running water available. In school, the tendency to group by gender was ‘common sense’ amongst the children. Nepalese school systems revolved around an end-of-year exam, and working towards passing this exam was the sole goal of the school year for most children. Kumashiro’s attempts at changing up the curricula, introducing more varied activities beyond lecture-practice-exam, was thus not seen as ‘common sense’ to his peers and students. 

 

The problem of common sense – the status quo can be oppressive, and normalcy isn’t always the best way. For the Peace Corps, it seemed ‘common sense’ that the Nepalese school system was not up to par with the USA. Thus Peace Corps volunteers with little formal education training were able to teach these kids, merely by having been themselves put through a childhood of American education. This could be seen as ‘cultural imperialism’, displaying US superiority and telling Nepalese schools and students to be like them. Paying attention to common sense will help ensure that we can remain critical of ourselves, and thus avoid oppressive actions such as these.

 

It is important to pay attention to common sense, lest we will be unable to push boundaries and improve our education practices. New ideas and pedagogies can be seen as nonsensical, cast aside as irrelevant in the face of common sense. Common sense becomes the one and only way, and conformity is a must – very oppressive. Curiously, schools are seen as non-oppressive, educating others on such matters. Thus, if we ignore the absolutes of common sense, we cannot advance ourselves as a socially just people, let alone as educators. 

Sept 16th, 2019 – ECS210 Reading: Curriculum Theory and Practice

Four models of curriculum, as described in the article:

1) Curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted:

  • curriculum is a table of contents, a syllabus – however you see it, it is a body of knowledge to be transmitted to the students. This is the process of education in this model.
  • one positive of this model is that it is efficient, in that the curriculum is limited to the subjects listed on the syllabus. The content need be delivered in the most efficient manner, and so deeper interaction through questioning and reflections may be glanced over so as to quickly move through the course.
  • of course, the major problem with this model is that it is eliminates the need for students the aforementioned student-teacher interactions outside of the prescribed course content. Knowledge (content) may be translated to students, but without much meaning.

2) Curriculum as a product:

  • objectives set, plan drawn up, outcomes measured; that’s how we get our product
  • curriculum is a set of experiences that prepares students for “specific activities” that consist in the human life, according to Franklin Bobbitt (page 3).
  • just listing the competencies and skills that activities teach children will not be an adequate curriculum, as it lacks the ‘social vision’ to create socially responsible, competent children
  • children do not need an instructor to perform an activity or lecture them; they need an instructor who can use these activities to bring about ‘changes in patterns of behaviour’ of children

When curriculum is used to generate a product, the ‘plan’ becomes very orderly. It is an improved version of the curriculum as syllabus model, in that it only serves to transmit certain content to the students. However, the curriculum as product model is systematic and organized, so that the teacher’s approach to lessons are logical and efficient.

The issues with this method is that for one, the ‘plan’ becomes of the utmost importance. Curriculum becomes restricting, dictating what need be learned, leaving no room for exploration by children. It can also ‘deskill’ the educator. Again, curriculum is restricting for the teachers as well. They are confined in what they teach, and thus become ‘technicians’ regurgitating the curriculum. Teachers are then judged on how well the product comes out, or how students used the curriculum to reach outcomes.

Another issue is the questionable nature of objectives in this curricular style. It implies that behaviour can be measured objectively. If someone meets are the requirements, little check marks for behavioural patterns attained through discourse, then they pass the course. Judgement from the educator must fit within these confines.

Third, the educator’s role comes into question. Why do they need be there? Research indicates that pedagogical style focused on objectives doesn’t impact learning in a positive manner anyways. Objectives should be sought after, but educational exchanges outside the lecture material are deemed trivial as they do not teach the necessary material.

Lastly, there are sometimes unanticipated results. By being hyper-focused on objectives, learning that may occur in the background can be overlooked by both educators and students.

The drawbacks of this curricular style is that it is relatively simplistic, mimicking industrial management styles. Academics also use the objective-based nature to challenge teachers. It removes accountability from the teachers if objectives are not met – the curricular design can be blamed instead.

3) Curriculum as a process

Rather than treating curriculum as a product, a list of objectives to be attained, curriculum as a process treats curriculum as non-physical interactions between students, teachers and knowledge. In other words, it is what actually happens in the classroom, not a list of what is supposed to happen in the classroom. Curriculum can have guidelines, but is subject to change, like a recipe. The recipe analogy acknowledges how the curriculum/recipe can be criticized and need be grounded in practice.

The process is the means by which the curricular demands are met in practice in the classroom. A way of translating educational ideas into testable practices. These are to be practiced in every classroom; some methods will not work in all classrooms. In a process the lack of direct outcomes means that they can develop as the students and teachers progress through the course. The attention to process over product moves the emphasis from teaching to learning, through interaction and questioning rather than through discourse.

One problem with this curricular method is that there may be a lack of uniformity in what is taught in similar classes between different teachers. This is due to the unique interactions between educators and students in a curriculum that focuses on such interactions rather than straight lecturing.

A second problem is that, in reality, school has goals – to teach children subjects, and this is generally reflected in test scores and grade advancement. As such, parents and students may place a premium on sticking to the curricular topics to be taught. The curriculum as a process model may fail in that it doesn’t pay attention to the context in which student-teacher interactions arise. This context is the school, and as just mentioned, their is an overall goal that schools have in passing knowledge on to children.

Third, the teachers may be a problem. The process will lead to free student-teacher interactions, and the contents of these interactions will largely depend on the quality of the teacher and their ability to foster quality, positive interactions.

4) Curriculum as praxis:

A development of curriculum as process, curriculum as praxis pays closer attention to the purpose of the curricula, and what it is meant to achieve beyond academic outcomes. Praxis is ‘informed, committed action’, not just a plan of action. This method of curricula can be implemented by having topics that focus on collective understandings rather than individual understandings. Practitioners of praxis should also ideally be able to explain what they think are important factors for the emancipation of humans.

The benefits of this model is the creation of engaged, socially aware educators and students. The curriculum becomes an active process, ever changing with each individual class to best suit its needs and desires.

Curriculum as context: 

Cornbleth views curriculum as what actually happens in classrooms, whereas Stenhouse attempts to define curriculum as a description of what occurs in a classroom. Cornbleth makes a fantastic point that the ‘hidden curriculum’ does not contribute to a student’s experience in a negative way, as some would say. The hidden curriculum in that it teachers simple social norms (in the ‘capitalist production’ sense of bells and time management) and skills (forming peer groups).

Curriculum as boundary between formal and informal education:

  • youth work and other informal educators cross line between informal education and curriculum (which is grounded in the context of school)
  • however, one must not adopt the curriculum and use it in order to be considered an educator.

From my experience in school, the model of curriculum most often used in my elementary and high school days were curriculum as product. Teachers seemed determine to sludge through material put up on overhead projector slides, followed by odds, evens, sometimes even all the questions from a worksheet. Group discussions rarely, if ever took place. Questions could be asked one at a time, if we raised our hands. I don’t recall ever speaking without raising my hand, unless asked by the teacher to answer something. This didn’t foster a great learning environment, as kids will not hold onto questions as the lecture moves on. Later in high school, some group discussions occurred, facilitated by the teacher. Even still, few positive teacher-student or student-student interactions took place. Group members were just a means to an end to complete the task at hand, not people with whom we can bounce ideas off of, furthering our personal growth as students.

What a model such as the curriculum as product model can do is constrict the classroom, leaving little wiggle room for extracurricular learning. It is impossible to foster positive development amongst students if self-expression and curiosity is stifled. However, models such as curriculum by practice/praxis facilitate student-teacher interactions that exist outside of the normal lecture.

The Self in Relation to Others ii) Disrupting normative narratives

Compared to my own story about gender: https://seansecsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/self-story-4-what-does-it-take-to-be-a-man/

Compared to Adelle’s story about gender: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/141088861/posts/74

A well-written story by Adelle that serves to disrupt the normative, two-gender narrative discussed previously. She doesn’t wish to be judged by being with a man and fitting feminine beauty standards. Contrary to the two stories previously discussed, Adelle realized the gender norm but openly discusses refusing aspects of it because it makes her happy, makes her who she is. Adelle can wear dresses and have long hair not because she is a woman, but because she chooses to. She notes that such expression has “less to do with gender and more about how you express your personality”. As great as this is, it may not work for all. In a 2012 essay on undoing gender Martino mentions a story in which “a boy forced to repress his sensitivity and emotionality in order to be accepted by his father” becomes a broken, emotionless doll. We live in a society where breaking social norms and rules can lead to criticism and ostracization. We can preach expression and individuality as much as we want but if a binary gendered world is the dominant view, we as future educators have a lot of work to do to change this narrative. Counter stories such as this one show that individuals have the courage and wherewithal to push for these progressive changes.

This story was quite a relief to read. I’ve spoken to several female friends, and my girlfriend too, about marriage and it is wonderful to hear many say they don’t want to get married, settle down and have children anytime soon, if ever. Careers and other personal goals come first. It further affirms my own, prolonged self story about gender. I identify as a male, but do not promote my masculine traits and I am very aware that I exhibit many feminine traits. I do not want to get married and have children nor relegate my partner to be a traditional housewife. That wouldn’t make me happy. The questions raised reviewing these four self stories are simple but have no easy answer. How can we as a society escape this binary gendered world? It will be a long, difficult process but it absolutely must begin with elementary school education, if not earlier. Parents need stop throwing clothes and toys at children that limit them to a binary gender role. Elementary education must be inclusive of people of colour, LGBTQ+ members and any other non-normative social group.

In the essay mentioned earlier, Martino (2012) also speaks of a boy who reveals his genitals to affirm the fact he is a male. If education continues to be limiting, we will keep seeing “how gender norms get lived and experienced as biological differences that are grounded in sexed bodies” (Martino, 2012). I could engage in conversation about this all day. My own gender self story was just some giant mess about how nothing I do really makes me feel “masculine”. I identify as a male, and some of that is biologically grounded. But my brain has always aligned with my sexed body – this is not the case for many. A binary gendered world is a dangerous, scary place for those with gender dysphoria, and as future educators we must strive to make schools and all other institutions more accepting of all.

Reference:

Martino, W. (2012). ‘Undoing’ Gender and Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity: Embracing a Transgender Social Imaginary. In: Down B. & Smyth J. (eds), Critical Voices in Teacher Education (pp 125-138). Netherlands: Spring Netherlands.