Digital Story – Dec. 9th

This is the YouTube link to my digital story:

Nov 4th Reading Response

  1. 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?
  2. 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 mathematics and the way we learn it.

 

To some extent, Western science and mathematics reflect a Eurocentric value system that is “linear and singular, static and objective” (p. 82). Canadian mathematics education poses questions, and it is the students job to logically and linearly work through the problem to reach an answer (a product). By attaining an expected product, the process loses its meaning. For Indigenous cultures, their worldview and systems thinking revolves around interconnected webs and continuous cycles. As such, linear thinking is discouraged, and the process of the cycles is more important than the products along it. In this way, Indigenous students and those who subscribe to their ways of thinking may be alienated in SK mathematics courses. So too are those who do not reach the correct answer, representing “proper behaviour”. Those who diverge, and behave “poorly” by getting wrong answers, are told that they are doing things unacceptably in Western worldviews. The learning process is not reflected, as only the process is taken into consideration. The combining of these two conflicting worldviews leads to jagged worldviews, especially amongst Indigenous students, which are not conducive to their learning experiences or even life experiences in some cases.

One way that Inuit mathematics contrasts with Eurocentric mathematics is that in certain regions, math is taught in the Inuktitut language up until grade 3. It is taught in English or French following this.

Secondly, Inuit mathematics and traditional ways of knowledge have been noted to lend to increased spatial relation and representation skills in math, compared to those children in non-Indigenous schools. Through observation these concepts are more readily attainable, rather through abstract discourse in a regular Western mathematics classroom.

Lastly, the teaching methods used by teachers are different. Whereas Western education often relies on paper and pen exercises, natural ways of Inuit education rely on the listening to or observation of an Elder or other older community member. One aspect of this is that Inuit teachers do not ask questions they do not believe they have an answer to.

Further challenges to Western education include: using limbs to measure things rather than a ruler, identifying ‘months’ through events rather than a calendar,

October 28th Reading Response

Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense Chapter 7 – Examples from English Literature

  • reading literature from only certain groups of people, like British or North American authors, limits students to certain perspectives and viewpoints. In this case it is referring to those who are privileged, such as white, middle-class men (pg 71)
  • different perspectives helps expose students to different experiences and ideas from their own
  • in school, and society at large, only certain interpretations can matter to those around you. Different lenses or interpretations can have different political implications. When some lenses are highlighted, others are left invisible, and thus the ‘norm’ cannot be changed.
  • when reading literature, how can one’s own life experiences, their culture or ethnicity, or other various personal lenses help them connect to characters?
  • classic N.A. literature can reinforce those aforementioned privileged perspectives, thus can see use in teaching anti-oppression
  • conversely, “multicultural” (not-North American) literature is not inherently anti-oppressive, and can in fact reinforce stereotypes if teachers do not ask students about what lenses they are reading these novels with

 

Reading response:

Respond to the following:

a) How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?

b) Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

My upbringing and schooling have certainly helped shape how I “read” the world. For example, to begin with school, I have always enjoyed learning and being there. I am able to freely listen to others and view the world around me as learning experiences, and have developed a sense of understanding other’s perspectives. As a half-white, half-Chinese male, I have experienced racism targeted me – at a verbal level, but not nearly anything like those who deal with real oppressive racism. Moreover, everyday I live in a privileged white man’s world. This is a pair of lenses that only education can help one overcome. The type of lenses that one need be made aware of. It is pervasive in the sense that it is a privilege that cannot truly be oppressed by any other group of people. Education faculties like those at the U of R are great for dispensing this information and educating a wave of future teachers who can aid in doing the same. Through this type of education we can begin to unlearn oppressive perspectives like those of the white man in the Western world.

The danger of a single story is that in the face of a story we are “impressionable and vulnerable” (from the TED talk) to it, especially with children. If faced with a single story, this is all one may know. If exposed to other types of stories, different perspectives can arise. For me, one single story present in my own early schooling was that of the misfortune of Indigenous people’s in Canada. Although Indigenous people were recognized as being the first inhabitants of this land, and their culture was explored, nothing was taught to me with regards to the marginalization of these people. As I grew older I became exposed to stereotypes about Indigenous people, such as the socioeconomic gap between Euro-Canadians and its Indigenous people is a result of drinking problems, in spite of not paying taxes. These are espoused by misinformed people, and this is their truth. The media only portrays Indigenous issues when it is negative in nature – a peaceful protest over a pipeline, or outside the courthouse after Gerald Stanley’s trial, or issues with clean water on reserves. This view highlights Indigenous people as being inherently problematic, rather than as citizens of Canada. This is the single story presented by Canadian media, and it is the discourse that was mildly glanced over in elementary school for me prior to the introduction of Treaty Ed. As I did not take Indigenous Studies (I think it was called Native Studies at the time), I recall very few lessons being specifically taught with regard to Indigenous peoples of Canada. This is the ‘truth’ of Canada, and the average Canadian citizen, as it is the discourse presented in school. This is an example of the dominant culture’s truth prevailing, and by virtue of this power and socioeconomic gaps remain invisible without investigation. It was only through my own experience, through working and speaking to Indigenous people that I became interested in the history of Indigenous colonization in Canada, and started to educate myself through literature. This knowledge base on such matters only grew in university through engagement in Indigenous Studies and Education courses. Education is one of the only ways to undo these single stories, and as ever the vital importance of Treaty Ed can be seen again. 

Oct 21st Reading Response

After reading the Levin article, please also read pages 1-4 (according to the page numbers in the document itself) of the Saskatchewan Treaty Education document. Then, answer the following prompt:

  • Part 1) According to the Levin article, how are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?
  • Part 2) After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, what connections can you make between the article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan? What tension might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

 

Part 1) School curricula are developed by “governments or other sanctioned authorities for standard use in schools” (page 7). Levin quotes Lasswell (1958), who said of politics –  it determines “who gets what”, to which Levin states can be applied to a country or a classroom. In that sense, Levin says every education policy can be seen as a political decision (page 8). Of note, Levin says that at times “beliefs drive political action and voting intentions much more than do facts” (page 13).

Implementation of policies became a focus in the late 1960’s, as policy makers started to notice that policies were not always producing intended results (page 9). Another reason is that many issues may arise following the creation of a policy for those governing curriculum creation (page 12). As more things pile up, it becomes difficult to go back and check on the progress of something purportedly implemented months before – presumably to some measure of completion.

The politics of curriculum often involves two discussions: the first is on the gneral schedule and list of subjects to be included in the curricula, and the second is over the content of said subjects. These discussions can get heated, and are a source of stress for politicians and governments trying to work on education policies (page 15). When parents ask for more subjects ot be taught, with more content in them, without longer school days, how are policy makers to comply?

Policies are often a reflection of what the general population wants – in order to be elected into a position of power, one must be popular to warrant enough votes, yes? Thus, education policies too are based off what the voters want. With respect to education reforms, many voters are inclined because they have some foundational knowledge given that they likely went through at least some schooling.

Who is invoved in curriculum politics – the actors according to Levin? Typically there are national, local, and school levels of involvement in curriculum, and in some federal systems this may include provincial or state governance as well (page 15). Post-secondary institutions can influence curricula, typically those in secondary schools, as these institutions often have minimum entrance requirements. Various industries may push for topics like Calculus to stay relevant in the Ontario secondary curriculum so that a hole in the labour market can be filled (page 16).

Curricula are often created by groups of teachers and professors, working on their field of study. Brought in to these committees as well were experts on the subject. These experts are now less utilized for fear of making the curricula too advanced, really only usable by experts themselves (page 17). Modern curricular review parties now include parents, students, and non-educators such as business representatives (page 18).

I was quite surprised to hear that Ontario had a Grade 13 until the late 90’s. More importantly, I was surprised that public interests and non-educators were not always a part of curriculum creation.

Part 2) One connection between the article and the Treaty Ed document is that Treaty Ed, and it’s implementation, are one of those things easily pushed aside by education policy and curriculum makers here in Canada. It is put on the back burner in light of other issues, those moreso regarding the majority, non-Indigenous students. I imagine some tension involved in the creation of the Treaty Ed curriculum was that it would, for the most part, affect non-Indigenous students. This opposition would come from those educators, presumably non-Indigenous, who do not feel the need to add this to already full curriculum, already too heavy on content. As was said by Claire Kreuger during her chat with Mike Capello (from last week’s readings), Treaty Ed is much more important for non-Indigenous students. It in of itself will not equate to “reconciliation”, but it is an important step towards bettering the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous people.

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.

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.