Curriculum as Numeracy
Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 77-85). UBC Press.
Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.
After watching and reading the assigned articles and videos this week, we were posed these questions:
- 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?
- 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.
This was my response:
One of the things that really stood out to me in “Jagged worldviews colliding” was the connection between what we view as animate and inanimate. Aboriginal peoples have a holistic view of the world and that all things have an energy or a spirit that keeps the world going. I do not share the same viewpoint, but it made me realise how that was a marginalization in schools. We weren’t taught in a holistic viewpoint, in fact, we weren’t even taught about holistic viewpoints of the Indigenous peoples. When I think of mathematics, things were taught very direct, you were right or you were wrong and there was little in between in terms of the way we came to answers or believed an answer to be true. I wonder if this is a discrimination as well. It does not allow mathematics to be looked at holistically like the article had mentioned. It only allows for something to be right or wrong. Leroy Little Bear also mentioned in the article the challenge with colliding worldviews of law and how the Eurocentric view was that law was enforced by a ‘cop’ and you were either right or wrong (can you see how this relate back to mathematics as I previously said? ). As for the Aboriginal ways of knowing, it was common to know things as holistically- how did this break of norm come about? How can we fix it for next time? In mathematics this would be looking at the process of how we came about the answer, and what we could do to fix it for next time.
After reading the second article, I was challenged to look at three ways in which Inuit mathematics, challenged the teachings of Eurocentric mathematic studies. The first I identified was the way in which we learn mathematics. The article states that “The teaching methods used by most teachers in the North (paper-and-pencil exercises) are not based on the ‘natural’ ways of learning of Inuit children. Traditional Inuit teaching is based on observing an elder or listening to enigmas.” (Poirier, pg. 55, 2007) If these views are conflicting, it sets up Indigenous students for failure when they have previously learned in Inuit ways and are integrated into a Eurocentric school system. Students would have to completely relearn how to understand mathematics. Another idea that conflicts Inuit and Eurocentric ways of learning is that mathematics is taught and learned in different languages. “Inuit children learn to count in their language, and, until last year, they would switch into either French or English in Grade 3.” (Poirier, pg. 57, 2007) This language barrier is a challenge as well- it marginalizes students who have learned mathematics in a different language and are expected to switch to an English-only understanding of math. The final challenge I identified in the article was the value of time in the Inuit and Eurocentric viewpoints. Eurocentric mathematics teaches time, for example, in months, in opposition, the Inuit form of time in mathematics is based upon events. The article uses this example: “They answered that the word for September in Inuktitut means ‘when the caribou’s antlers lose their velvet’ and that the number of days changes, since it depends on how long it takes for the caribou’s antlers to lose their velvet.” (Poirier, pg. 60, 2007) This is another way in which the way mathematics is taught, can be a conflicting method.
Curriculum as Public Policy: Critical Engagement with the Politics of Knowledge
This week we read a chapter from: Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense. (chapter 7)
We also watched a film called: “The Danger of a Single Story.” (Chimamanda Adichie)
These were the questions we were posed:
- 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?
- Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?
This was my response:
My upbringing within the school system has exchanged between knowledge of the outside world and knowledge about what was considered the ‘normal’ world. I had teachers that were wonderful about teaching about the ins and outs of the world around us and giving us those different viewpoints, and I had teachers that exclusively taught about the ‘normal’ society- even though this is a subjective idea. Even though there were teachers that brought ideas of the world, they were most often their ideas; about groups of people who were oppressed. I think my schooling has definitely created that bias within me. While I wish to think that I do not hold bias towards people groups, the odd time, thoughts and ideas will creep into my head from a book or a film that I would have watched in school, and I would use that bias to make an assumption. It is not something to be proud of, and I am not. It is merely something that stemmed from a ‘single story’ that could have easily been taught to my teachers and passed onto me. The importance of the bias is to work against it and to unlearn the things that we were fed in schools. I think we do that by broadening our knowledge of the world and the people in it. Trying to understand the world through a perspective that holds no bias.
In “The Danger of a Single Story”, Chimamanda referred to her roommate who believed that all African people were poor, incapable and unintelligent. I cannot say that I share all of those views, but I remember watching an African film recently where I was confused, because of the resources and money that the characters had. I recognized it instantly as a bias that I had been fed in school; not intentionally, but it goes to show that what and why you teach certain ideas, matters. I am still learning how to ‘unlearn’.
Curriculum and Treaty Education
This week we read excerpts from: 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 on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.
We were given these prompts:
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?
This was my response:
School curricula is developed and implemented on the basis of public policy. The article states: “Every education policy decision can be seen as being, in some sense, a political decision.” (Levin, 2008, p. 8) In other words, policies and curriculum are intertwined; there is a political guiding factor in the way curriculum is developed. I always understood the curriculum was based on the opinions and guidance of politics and government, but I did not understand that there were specific policies that were in place to develop curriculum. I think my biggest concern of that being is the development is subjective; it would only view curriculum through the lens of what society thinks and not through the lens of what our students need. I also found it concerning on the basis of what the development all effected. However, I was intrigued by the following excerpt: “Curriculum politics and policy choices are also increasingly related to larger issues of school change and improvement and to varying theories of what it is that shapes the outcomes of education” (Levin, 2008, p.14) I enjoy that the development is always looking for ways to improve upon itself, but I do think that is dependent on who is in charge of creating the framework for improvement and whether or not it will work.
When reading the Levin article, in conjunction with the Treaty Ed article, I was disappointed because I realised that there were so many parts of this that were misunderstood and perceived wrong. First of all, the treaty document states: “outcomes and indicators at each grade level are designed to engage learners on a journey of inquiry and discovery.” (Saskatchewan Treaty Education document, 2013, p.3) While Treaty Education seeks to have learners ‘inquire’ and ‘discover’ through outcomes…pay attention to the words ‘through outcomes’ because this is stating that there are underlying policies in place in order for a student to receive a grade. Treaty Education is implemented through the use of policy which is not the same policy that First Nations people have. I think that there would have been so much tension in creating outcomes that students had to ‘meet’ in order to have knowledge of treaties; the learning should not stop at the completion of an outcome set within schools.
This week we were posed this email:
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.
These were our questions to consider:
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:
- 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?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
I empathize with the challenges that you are facing in teaching a concept that is unfortunately, not a widely held value in schools. Nevertheless, it is so vital that you do teach it, because these students (and teachers) clearly need someone to do that. In my classes this week, we have been talking about all of the different ways in which TreatyEd is so important in schools because it leads to the knowledge and application of a concept that students will want to learn more about. I watched a video where a woman named Claire Kreuger explained the ins and outs of teaching Treaty Ed and how much it impacted her students. The purpose of teaching TreatyEd is to gain awareness, explore reconciliation (at a surface level) and to give students knowledge about the place that they inhabit. There are so many things that are unknown because teachers have decided not to teach it. That is the importance of exploring and implementing TreatyEd- it is that which guides and promotes a teaching about OUR heritage. “WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE.” (Cynthia Chambers) You heard it. We are actually teaching students about a part of their heritage that they probably do not know. If you do not teach them, who will? Take heart! This will be a challenge, but the impact will be much more than you know!
This week we read through: Learning from Place- Restoule et al (2013)
We were posed these questions to discuss:
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?
There were three major points I found in this article that suggested reinhabitation and decolonization in this article. The first was this: “it was evident that a community priority was bringing together Elders and youth so they could learn from one another about the role and meaning of the land to social well-being.” (p. 73) There is direct ties that relate the importance of decolonization for the effect of relationship/community and a change of thinking and the reinhabitation of land that strives to connect meaning of the land to the social aspect of relationships. One of the points of this article mentioned that usage of certain words had changed overtime, due to colonization. It stated: “This change in word usage was attributed by interviewed community members partly to intergenerational language loss.” (p. 78) This intergenerational language loss comes from the colonizing of people groups and the customization of language that was not a mother-tongue. This was and is an ongoing exploitation of decoloniation. It could also be argued to include reinhabitation, as movement of people groups changed and lost interaction between like-spoken languages of the First Nations peoples. This article ended with an explanation as to the research and the findings that it acquired: “By supporting and creating a space for dialogue and learning between Cree youth and Elders, this project fostered learning about strengths binding social and economic well-being to land and environment and social and family ties and their rootedness in land.” (p. 84) This expresses the importance of land and language and the impact that decolonization and reinhabitation would be of positive effect on the relationships with people and the environment.
One thing we have always done when hosting meetings or gatherings at the university, is recognising the land as Treaty 4 territory. But I do not think this has to be something done only in the university. If we really want to take steps to recognise decolonization and a call to reinhabitation of land, we should be recognising the land that we are on and the steps it took to reach a Treaty in our own classrooms. But, this should be something we are doing anywhere we can- for it is important to recognise the world around us and the different viewpoints of the people around us. If we want to make curriculum, we can always include relevant materials to ‘place’ and as teachers, it is so important that we do so- that way our students are learning knowledge as it relates to the world around them.
We were posed these questions to respond:
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?
These are my thoughts:
I think there is an innate pressure to be a ‘good’ student. When I was in school, both elementary and high school, I cared so much about the marks I was getting and whether or not they were as high as the marks of my classmates. There were a few classmates that were considered ‘good students’ and got really high marks, and if my marks weren’t close to theirs, I felt as though I wasn’t ‘good enough.’ Commonsense tells us that being a good student, means you have to excel in your core classes; Math, Science, English as opposed to Music or Art. This also encompasses a good student as someone who is not disruptive and behaves well. But this only privileges the students who excel in core classes, because some students, do not excel there, but in other areas. This also privileges students that aren’t impaired with either visual/aural/vocal capabilities, but also impairments such as ADHD, autism, etc. And this is just a short list; there are many other things that can impair learning. Thus, it becomes impossible to understand why students don’t understand material, pay attention and behave. We expect all students to be specific people, but all students learn differently. It is impossible for us to for us to see the negative impact that ‘commonsense’ teaching has on those students who do not learn by ‘commonsense.’ That is why it is so important for us to recognise what, how and why we are teaching what we are- then maybe we will understand ourselves, that commonsense is nothing more than society telling educators what they should do, as opposed to our students telling us what they need from us.