Curriculum as Literacy

  1. How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?
  2. Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?
  1. Many students in my school had little guidance at home and social connections with their pupils at school held more importance than anything. Many of my friends throughout elementary and high-school were not treated well at home and were home alone more often than not. This is not to say I know everything about their home life, just that I understand why these students put so much importance on forming social relationships. Looking back now these students were wise far beyond their years and understood social cues and language incredibly but they did poorly in school because it was “informal” language. Even though these students were wise beyond their years they had been conditioned to think that effort in school meant social suicide. Due to this I was silently told I was “better” at school or “smarter”. I think to work against these biases it has to be considered how little you see inside a classroom. It is also important to fight against giving a student a permanent identity. For example when I was labelled a “good student” it worked in my favor and brought me success. In turn, students labelled as “bad student” had to uphold this given identity and it was a constant struggle.
  2. Language completely dictated school success. I was considered successful in school largely just by speaking fluent English. I didn’t have to go to special classes or fight to interpret every assignment. Students talented enough to learn two languages were categorized as undeveloped because they did not speak English with ease. In addition, it wasn’t enough just to be fluent in English, it had to be the “right kind” of English. I grew up mostly around adults and picked up on academic and “adult” vocabulary. In my schooling students who learned slang or modern language were immediately categorized as rebellious or immature. The truth that mattered was the one that reinforced tradition and repetition.

Curriculum as Citizenship

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.

Throughout elementary school and high school the main focus was  definitely on the “personally responsible citizen”. The focus was on improving the self and change was rooted in potential influence. Throughout my K-12 schooling the most noteworthy focal point I remember is  the “setting a good example and being a model citizens”. Learning prevention or taking measures that prevent similar negative incidents was generally  linked to work safety etc. and rarely had anything to do with large scale social issues.

A damage control approach was often taken in schools. For example, it was often stressed throughout high school that we should have low tolerance for overt racism; however, there was not much emphasis on systemic racism. Volunteering was a large focus in high school but it largely centred on simplistic physical labour. Historical problems were commonly covered in social studies classes but their link to modern issues were not covered until I took university classes. 

There is nothing wrong with emphasizing the importance of being active in the community, in fact it is essential. Where the issues lies is that this form of citizenship always relies on someone else doing the organization. When the justice oriented citizen is taught, this incorporates the aspects of citizenship not included in the personally responsible citizen concept. Socially problems are interconnected and need to be treated as such. Approaching the source or multiple sources of a problem directly is a long -term solution and expands beyonds the focus of one person. 

Curriculum as Numeracy

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?

Math was often taught by one method while I was still in school. This method was tested through quizzes and standardized testing which grouped students by “capability”. Students not doing well enough were often enforced to study and practice until they were at an “average” or high level. When students are grouped by measured skill it often creates a negative cycle. Students categorized as “below normal” have hurt confidence and self esteem. This can lead to a loss of interest in math or a self defeating attitude. Student are not only enforced to understand the logic behind math problems but also the language used in math. Language used in math is often sophisticated and dated, meaning inadvertently teacher evaluations discriminate against students who do not hear academic language at home. In turn, math is presented through a linear worldview and math is typically taught step by step in small sections and then shown as a big picture. If a FNMI approach was taken, it would likely be shown as a big picture first and each section would be described through its relationship with another section.

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.

1) Universal terms is a Eurocentric idea challenged by Inuit mathematics. Inuit mathematics is generally expressed orally whereas Eurocentric mathematics is mainly expressed in written form. This is why Inuit terms change in reference to context and spacial location. In learning Eurocentric mathematics, something as simple as “δ” can refer to several equations and measurement. This is not the case in Inuit mathematics because stating something like “delta temperature” would sound insane without a visual context. In Inuit mathematics terms need to be logical and related to things that are well known.

2) Another way Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric mathematics is in terms of measurements. Measurements of time such as months directly relate to common events. I found this incredibly useful considering if there is no access to a calendar you can get a time estimation by natural events. For example, if you see birds laying eggs you can determine it is roughly April.

3) In Eurocentric mathematics terms are often small descriptions to assist with diagrams. Things like linear, repeating, large/small, etc. In turn, terms used in Inuit mathematics often are the explanations. Terms and the use of suffixes provide visuals that explain whole diagrams. One word often will contain numerous descriptors; things like location, number of sides, amount, size.

Curriculum and Treaty Education

1.What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (general)

2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
3. Spend at least one paragraph making some connections to TreatyEdCamp – What did you hear/see there that might help you to enact treaty education in your future classroom?

The purpose of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, and Inuit is that genuine knowledge comes from global knowledge. Looking at life strictly through a ethnocentric perspective is limiting and leads to a false sense of understanding. One main thing learned in school is what is considered useful knowledge. Teaching FNMI content and perspectives shows students that incredibly useful and logical knowledge expands beyond older European philosophers and scientists. This different perspective also pushes students out of their comfort zones and gets them to analyze what is common-sense values and knowledge in a society. We are all treaty people acknowledges that treaties are not a one sided deal. It is not just Firsts Nations government, it is our government and treaties outline who gets what for all Canadians.

One of the most important take home messages from TreatyEdCamp is that we have so much responsibility in the quality of life of others. As Erica Violet Lee said in her keynote, contributing to the normalization of violence and racism even in tiny ways has a negative impact. These small actions can accumulate into large harmful ideas which lead to situations like Tina Fontaine’s trial. Embracing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge through things like storytelling is also an opportunity to teach thoughtfulness and empathy, which is an essential aspect of education. Students experience character development largely through schools say that content on Indigenous people is pointless to teach Caucasian students, it sends a very self-involved narrative.

Fredrich Morhart, a presenter from TreatyEd camp explained that the way he was treated by others determined more than anything else which aspects of his childhood were positive and which were negative. When he stated that he used to live in North-central, everyone immediately thought that it was a bad experience due to the area’s correlation to crime and poverty. However, he said that it was the happiest aspect of his childhood despite negative events in the area because of his extremely close and accepting friend group in his neighborhood. Furthermore, Rosetown was an incredibly negative aspect of his childhood due to the bullying and the intolerance students had to difference. There, the majority of students were the same race and same social class and anything differing from that was met with criticism and isolation. By deciding that leaning about Indigenous people is unimportant, it inferences that Indigenous perspectives and experiences are unimportant. In turn, if we pretend treaties do not effect non-indigenous people, we ignore the direct and indirect benefits received by others in a more privileged position.

Curriculum as Place

Throughout the narrative, the incorporation of multiple generations was used as a way to reclaim indigenous knowledge and start a community dialect. Together different generations would use their unique experiences as Indigenous people to discuss issues like land management and governance (Restoule et al.,2013). Decolonization is seen in this narrative through the restoration of traditions and traditional knowledge. A knowledge that acts against non-sustainable environment usage and overexploitation. Reinhabitation is displayed through the education bestowed through intergenerational conversations, which leads to more responsible land use in the future. This is also due to the increase in respect and appreciation for land present in this narrative through the ten day trip in the Kistachowan river. The value of knowledge on nature is that much higher when it is a physical experience as well as a learning one.

I loved learning about the spiritual aspects of nature through Wordsworth in english. And I know I would find it that much more profound if I had physically been somewhere similar to the locations Wordsworth described. I am well aware that some students react positively to Wordsworth’s writing and others…would rather listen to elevator music. That is where I believe Indigenous views on nature would fit perfectly. Students can find what they connect with and hopefully gain new insight on things they thought they already knew. I find traditional uses for plants absolutely fascinating and I would love to have an elder talk about healing if they were willing. This also ties into the importance of hearing from multiple generations. Hearing about a plant is fine but people are much more likely to remember if they have physically seen a plant, felt it, or even tasted it (NOT poisonous plants of course). If we valued this knowledge as much as we do knowledge on resource-economy perhaps we would be less current-profit driven and more generational-profit driven.

Curriculum Politics as Public Policy

Before Reading: (Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools.)

Before you do the reading ask yourself the following question: how do you think that school curricula are developed? This is an entry point to this topic and whatever you write will be fine.

I believe a collection of prestigious school officials wrote school curriculum. I assume that the government assigns a few people who they believe best reflects their own beliefs about schooling to make the majority of decisions. I also believe this is somewhat related to what they want in their citizens when they reach adulthood (i.e labor influence in industrial revolution).

After Reading: (Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools.)

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?

After reading Levin’s work it became clear just how many people have something invested in curriculum. Including people with personal investments (parents, teachers) as well as economical investments (textbook creators, employers, etc.). And it is not just one appointed board who creates curriculum, it “involves some combination of national, local, and school participation; and in federal systems, education governance will have a fourth (and often primary)level at the state or province” (Levin, 2008). That is both large and small scale influences and there a lot of different perspectives to accommodate. In terms of implementation there is an attempt to use data and individual expertise, as well as an interest to include more input from everyday citizens. The amount of input these individuals and data gets is highly dependent on the amount of power they are given and ultimately the province and government together get to do the ultimate decision making. I was unclear to what politics had to do with any of this until I read the quote which stated “one of the most enduring definitions of politics is Lasswell’s (1958), ‘Who gets what?'” (Levin, 2008). This surprises me as it really drives home how many people are or want to be involved in the decision of what I teach students.

The Good Student and its Limitations

A good student is essentially a student with no “problems”. They contribute but not too much and they do not challenge the normal narrative unless instructed to do so. This student often fades into the school system. Things that separate this student from others is socially accepted therefore it is labelled unique and not different. To be a good student often means to be predictable. Students with abusive backgrounds or students who struggle with mental health are not well understood. Students with high self esteem and emotional stability are well understood which is why they are considered a desired presence. Students well represented by society are generally the “good” students. This may include the popular jock or the sensitive written/visual art students. In turn, there are labels known but more harmful like the trouble makers or outsider that deter away from the idea of a good student. These are labels that androgynous students or students into rap culture are often given to name a few.

The good student; these are the students who are trained to respond to certain cues and they naturally excel in English, Math, and Science. These students speak school. The “good student’ also excels socially and understands what is polite, what is appropriate and what is not. These students generally have the ideal parents who share a “commonsense” worldview. These students understand that not following instructions means to be disrespectful. These students were taught at a young age that impulsive action against a teacher’s order is considered an act of rebellion. Student’s like “M” from Kumashiro’s book “Against Common Sense : Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice” are examples of students who struggled in school due to this ideology. “M” learned in autonomy and when he inadvertently resisted against close instruction he was viewed as a trouble student. This harmful view that students are consciously bad when they do not follow instructions or that teachers are bad when their students do not follow instruction can really alter the way student’s view themselves. When discipline against this form of student fails over and over, creativity is needed and that should be viewed as okay. The shamed “different” should be changed to the accepted “unique”.

In lifting one group up there will always be someone lowered. I was once told that it is my job to teach every student and that is a simple statement but a powerful one. To expect to connect and understand every student is a pipe dream. Regardless, as educators we are responsible to assist in the growth and learning of students, even if that means adjusting the simplified and the familiar.

Paulo Friere: Inquiry in Pedagogy

“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.” -Paulo Friere

I chose this quote by Paulo Friere because it demonstrates the delicacy of leading other people. It can be very easy to take independent thinking from a student, as well as incredibly dangerous. In a career that is designed to assist people in innovation and self-sufficiency it seems absurd to prevent students from deciding for themselves. Although it seems extreme to call the prevention of inquiry “violence” it is in many aspects true. There is no room for ego in the classroom and to treat a student’s curiosity as a challenge towards intelligence is damaging. Students follow actions and behaviors and when we behave this way towards being questioned we are silently telling students to they must always be right and that growth is a defeat. There is many situations in schooling where authority and orders is unavoidable.

This ideology makes it possible to incorporate active learning and problem solving skills into the classroom. This emphasis on student-centered, investigative learning makes student independence possible and the reliance on teachers for answers and instruction becomes less constant. This approach also allows teachers to expand beyond the traditional lecture without dialect method. It places the teacher and student in very committed roles and places extreme emphasis on skill development and broad concepts.

Although meaningful,assisting students to accumulate their own knowledge can take a lot of time and effort. Inquiry is a long process and it can make it impossible to effectively meet curriculum requirements by the end of the school year. Constant inquiry based teaching is of high quality but limits quantity of learning. This is especially true when taking into account limited resources like time and one-on-one teaching. This idea of teaching challenges the clear cut nature of curriculum but does closely relate to skill based outcomes. This ideology places teachers in a serving role as well as an authoritative role. And students are placed in a role of both freedom and responsibility.

The Social Efficiency Ideology: Michael Schiro

In the section of Michael Schiro’s book titled “Social Efficiency Ideology”,he touches on multiple aspects of education including curriculum, behavior, objectives and standards, knowledge/learning, and child/teacher roles. The intense focus on evaluation and consequence is perhaps one of the most recognisable identification of the Tyler Rationale in my own schooling experience. I also saw the idea of the model citizen or the finished product in my own schooling. The only distinction being that Schiro’s version of a ideal citizen is shaped around labour and industry whereas today an ideal citizen is more shaped around university(PhD’s, etc.).

One of the ways the Tyler Rationale is very limiting is in its tendency to look past diversity and human nature. In this theory students are not seen as individuals with independent worldview and their significance is measured in becoming active members of society. This tightly controlled approach to child development and this push to get students to “emit the desired behavior” (Schiro 90) will become complicated once students don’t act or respond in the way they are designed to. There is also no room for variation or autonomy in this form of education which essentially sets up many students for failure.

In turn, the Tyler Rationale is quite favourable in regards to predictability and structure. Students and Teachers are given clears goals which can increase efficiency. The structure and repetition of this ideology is also beneficial in terms of discipline and leadership. Students (especially students exposed to chaotic environments) often like stability and find comfort in consistency and clear cut expectations.

The Trouble with a Right Answer

In education, there is a common pattern of directing students towards the right answer. In a speech done by Neil deGrasse Tyson, he discloses that our fixation in finding the “right answer” often deters us from logical thinking and original thought. He conveys this notion perfectly using the example of a spelling bee. In this example, a contestant is asked to spell cat which the individual spells C-A-T. They get the right answer. Another contestant is asked to spell cat and they spell it K-A-T. They get the wrong answer. This person is considered just as wrong as someone who spells cat Q-W-R, even thought K-A-T is arguably a more suitable spelling for cat. Sometimes we are so adamant on getting students to the correct answer that we squash their logical process. Although it is valuable to strengthen the ability to follow clues and instructions, it has no use when someone is faced with an unfamiliar situation. Learning should go one step further than listening and replicating.

If students are constantly find answers from someone else it is completely understandable if they become incredibly frustrated in situations where they are left to their own devices. It is almost like taking the training wheels off a bike and then sending it down a cliff. I felt incredibly incapable and discouraged the first time I had to figure out a conflict without support because I was not prepared for it and I have a feeling that is not an isolated incident. If students were given the confidence of figuring things out on their own in a controlled environment I can only imagine the positive impact that would have. The best thing we can do is to challenge students, to let them fail and then to let them grow.