ECS 210

Curriculum as Numeracy

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?

I was a pretty good math student until about grade 11. I was good at math when I could understand it in a practical way. For example, if I am adding two apples to five apples, I will know that I have seven apples. When I got to grade 11 and we started to learn things that I could not relate to my life, I had a very hard time understanding the concepts and learning it. I was, however, always pretty good at memorizing formulas and plugging information into the formula. But, if you were to ask me why it was done that way, I would have absolutely no idea. Now that I think back to these classes, I can see how it was somewhat oppressive that we only learned how to do things in one way, and that we were not really taught the why, or the real-world application.

Something that I find extremely oppressive and discriminating about high school math is how workplace math is seen as the “dumb student math,” and how precalculus is seen as the “smart student math.”  If you were a “good student,” you were always encouraged to take precalculus, as you needed it for university. If there was a student who was perhaps not a great student, they were pressured to take the workplace math as it related more to the trades. Because of this, I took the precalculus route as I wanted to go to university, and I did not want to seem less smart than my peers. I think this is a very discriminative and oppressive way to look at the two routes of math. I believe that what is taught in workplace math is applicable to everyone and is important to know in any profession.  The workplace math can easily be related to everyday math that you would need to know to function in adulthood, whereas precalculus is hard to apply to general every day life. I remember being so lost in precalculus as I had no clue how it related to any real-life situation. I strongly believe that the thinking about this needs to change in the future, and maybe a better approach can be made.

Using Gale’s lecture and Poirier’s article, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it.

The first thing that really stood out to me from Gales lecture and Poirier’s article about the difference in Mathematics in Inuit culture was that their numeral system uses base-20. It is so confusing for me to try and wrap my head around their system as it is so different from the Eurocentric numeral system. Additionally, the fact that they have numerous words to describe different contexts for a number is also very interesting and confusing! I think it would definitely be hard for an outsider to understand this unique system. Also, to add onto this, because their culture relies heavily on oral language, Poirier (2007) describes that “the Inuit have developed a system for expressing numbers orally. They do not have other means of representing numbers; they have borrowed their number symbols from the Europeans”

The second idea that stood out to me was the teaching methods. As described by Poirier (2007), teaching methods rely more on the “natural ways” for Inuit children. This includes listening to and observing elders and other leaders. It is included “Inuit teachers tell me that, traditionally, they do not ask a student a question for which they think that the student does not have the answer.” This definitely challenges how we do education here, as that is often the case where teachers are asking their students challenging questions that they may not have the answer.

The third aspect that stood out to me was the importance of nature in their ways of knowing. I found it very interesting how their calendar is based on “natural, independently recurring yearly events” (Poirier, 2007). These natural events are things such as “coldest of all months, when baby seals are born but are dead, when baby seals are born, when birds lay their eggs,” etc. This again is so different from our Eurocentric ideas of time, and challenges the linear and static way we look at time.

ECS 210

Curriculum as Literacy

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?

I grew up in a white working-class family here in Saskatchewan. Like most white, working class families in Canada, my family originated from Europe from counties including Ukraine, Poland, England, and Scotland. Unfortunately, my experience growing up, and still what I experience currently around my family is a lot of prejudice ideas, and negative biases.  I like to think of my family as good, well-meaning people; however, I believe that they have some harmful ideas about society and certain groups within society. I believe that these ideas they have were passed on to them from their families and communities when they were growing up, and I believe it is a systemic societal issue that has to do with ignorance. 

I also want to acknowledge that it was not just my family that was feeding me these ideas. I believe I was also surrounded by sexism, racism, homonegative beliefs, and other oppressive beliefs in my schooling- even if it was in indirect ways and through a hidden curriculum. When I think back to when I was younger and in elementary school, I can always remember teachers saying, “can I have two strong boys to come and help me move these____?,” or, classmates making homophobic remarks in the classroom and the teacher saying/doing nothing to address the remark that they clearly heard. 

After learning about “single stories” that are often presented in schooling, I can think of many instances where the books read to us enforced negative stereotypes of certain groups of people. Additionally, the books were often only a story from the perspective of white privilege, as well as from the perspective of men and boys. I can only think of a few times where we read a book with a strong female main character, and fewer instances where we read books that were from the perspective of/included people of a minority. I imagine this was damaging for those who could not see themselves in the books we read, or when they did see themselves in the books, they saw the characters going through trauma or saw them in stereotypical and maybe unrealistic ways. I can see this being harmful as the years children are in primary school play a large role in the formation of identity. 

I can acknowledge that some of the thoughts and unconscious biases in the back of my head in regard to race, class, gender, etc. were passed on to me from my family, my community and my schooling; however, I can recognize these ideas and thoughts as not right and something that I have to work on. I want to do everything in my power to learn what I can to be educated on these topics, so I do not pass negative ideas on to my future children or teach in an oppressive way to any of my future students. 

ECS 210

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 regard to citizenship.

Looking back to when I was in primary and secondary education, I believe that for the most part, I received “the personally responsible citizen” citizenship education. I recall a lot of “how to do your part for your community,” and “how to be a good person” instruction. There was a lot of focus on right vs. wrong, but nothing really about the why, or the cause of the issues that were presented (such as homelessness, poverty, racism, etc.), or the changes we could make to address these issues. 

I remember a lot of bottle drives, food drives, clothing drives, etc. when I was in school. We talked about the things we could do to be a good person or a good citizen such as recycle, have manners, volunteer, or help the less fortunate; but I can’t remember talking about the why, other than that’s just what you do. These ideas were also echoed in my home. My parents, and my church community had the beliefs that you were just supposed to help people and be a good person. 

By having this education and these beliefs instilled in me, I believe it limited me from learning more about systemic issues, why they were happening, the injustices that came along with them, and the changes I could make or help others to make in regard to these problems. I was never really taught to challenge the status quo. 

This is something that I want to have a different approach with when I am a teacher. I of course want to teach my students how to be a “good” human being, but I also want to challenge them to ask the hard questions, to learn the uncomfortable truths, and then I want them to be able to ask themselves what they can do about it, and believe that they can make a difference. 

ECS 210

Curriculum as Public Policy

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? 

According to Levin (2008), policies govern just about everything in society including education; and politics and policy go hand in hand. This can be a concerning idea, as Levin (2008) states, “in every setting, from classroom to country, political influence is usually highly unequal, and those who have the least status tend also to have the least influence on political decision making” (p. 8). This information concerns me and surprises me as the people who have “the least status” are typically the students, teachers, and families, and according to the information in the article, those groups of people would not have a lot of say in the development of curriculum. 

I did not realize how political curriculum and education are. Levin (2008) states, “every education policy decision can be seen as being in some sense, a political decision” (p. 8). This is concerning as voter interests drive everything in politics, therefore, education policies may not be made in the best interest of the students and teachers, but in what the popular ideas are for the voters. With this, what the voters believe to be true may be more important that what is actually true (Levin, 2008). 

In most jurisdictions, the authority over curriculum is with the national or subnational governments, but in most settings, schools themselves have some say (Levin, 2008). For example, schools may have a say in what subjects are offered, the time that is allotted to each class, what the curricular emphasis will be, and the areas of focus for professional development (Levin, 2008). In regard to who specifically has a say in curriculum development and curriculum reviews, Levin (2008) identifies a few groups of people. First, it is mentioned that main education stakeholders almost always are involved in curricular reviews and decisions. Additionally, subject matter experts normally play a large roll. It is also noted that post-secondary institutions have a large say in the curricular content as they decide what the entrance criteria is for their institution; as well as leaders in subject areas or in the work force may put pressure on certain subjects being taught in schools. 

Something that stood out to me in the article is that when you have a group of experts creating the curriculum, it may be created in a way that is quite extensive. This could be a problem as teachers are generally not trained in every subject, or at least to the same extent in every subject. I could see this being a problem in schools, as the curriculum may become unusable for teachers. Also, if this was to be the case, formal curriculum may have a vague relationship to what is actually being taught in the classroom and learned by students (Levin, 2008). 

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 tensions might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

After reading the Levin article, I realize that politics must have played a critical role in the development of the Treaty Ed curriculum and the policies around it, including the policy made in 2007 to make Treaty Education mandatory. In the Treaty Education document, I also noticed that there appeared to be many experts that developed this curriculum. 


From what I learned in the Levin article, I could see that there were probably some tensions between the general public (the voters) and the government in developing and implementing this mandatory curriculum. As the Levin article mentioned, the government is concerned with the perspectives of the voters, as they want to be re-elected in the future. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that I have met in the general public who have oppressive ideas about Treaty Education and inclusiveness in the classroom. I can definitely imagine that this was a dilemma for the government when developing the curriculum, as I’m sure they did not want to lose support from the public. 

Resources

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.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/materials/english/docs/Treaty%20Education%20Outcomes%20%26%20Indicators%20-%20Feb%2021%202013.pdf

ECS 210

Curriculum as Treaty Education

In response to the email from an intern asking for help with Treaty Education, 

Hi (intern), 

Thank you for reaching out to me. I first want to start off by saying that I am sorry that this has been your experience so far. As you know, Treaty Education is an important part of the curriculum, as well as an important part of reconciliation, and is something that needs to be taught to students. In regard to there being “no First Nations students” in your school, I would invite the teachers at the school to consider that we are all treaty people in Canada.

In teaching students that “we are all treaty people,” we teach the students that treaties are part of all of our histories, our identities, and where we live. When we teach Treaty Education, we are owning the history of Canada, which has played a crucial role in who we all are and where we live in the present. Talking about treaties and being treaty people is about relationships, identity, who lives here, and who this is home to; all of which includes all students, not just Indigenous peoples. 

With saying that, here is some advice that I would have for you moving forward in your internship:

  • Find out where the students are at presently with their Treaty Education knowledge. It is important to start where they are at, even if it means that you need to reteach something so everyone is on the same page. 
  • Identify that being a settler is not a negative thing. It is your relationship with how you came to be here. This may help some of the push back that it sounds like you are getting. 
  • Be real and honest about what happened in the past and what is still happening today. It may not be pretty, but the students need to know the realness. 
  • It’s okay to be wrong and make mistakes. This is where the best learning comes from. 
  • Invite the parents to the learning. For examples, send weekly emails about the content that you will be covering, express how the topics relate to the curriculum, invite parents to discuss the ideas further at home, and send articles that you will be looking at in class. In this way, we can educate the whole family on ideas they may not be familiar with, as well as by doing this, we can make the learning accessible to the parents too. 
  • Link the curriculum to other subjects such as social studies and ELA when you can. These subjects mesh well together. 

I hope this helps, please feel free to contact me again to discuss this further if need be. 

Thank you, and keep up the good work, 

Ms. Florek

ECS 210

Learning from Place

“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 (rehabilitation), and (b) identify and change the ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization)” – Jean-Paul Restoule

List some of the ways that you see rehabilitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

In the narrative Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing, youth, adults and elders participated in a learning and teaching experience that included a 10-day river trip where the participants were able to travel on the traditional waters and lands of the area. Additionally, the experience included an audio documentary that was completed by the youth who had the opportunity to interview various community members. With their traveling experience, the youth were able to learn about the relationships between the people and the land. According to the author, for the People of Fort Albany First Nation, the land is very important to their cultural identity. Another part of the project that I believe contributes to rehabilitation and decolonisation is the community mapping that was completed in the Inninowuk language. Additionally, the experience brought together different generations which helped with their connection and reclamation to their traditional knowledge and culture. Through this, the younger generations were reintroduced to traditional ways of knowing.

How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

As my field of education is health, identity is something that will be an area of focus for my class. When learning about identify, place will be something that will be important to bring into the conversation. An example of something I would do for this would be to ask the students to reflect on their own identity, and how the places they come from, were raised, or somewhere that is important to them, ties into their identity. 

ECS 210

A “good” student

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 commonsenese, to be a “good student” means to be a student who is conforming to the ways in which the teacher and society prefers you to behave, think, and learn. A “good student” sits quietly and talks only when asked a question or invited to share their opinion (which is one opinion that is the “right” opinion). A good student learns by listening, and taking notes, and then regurgitating the information back to the teacher. The good student also tests well, does their homework, and is along for the ride. In this way, nothing will challenge the students, what their common sense is, and how they see the world. 

The students who are privileged with this definition of a good student, are students who are perhaps concrete thinkers, and students who learn best through sitting in one spot and listening and following along to the teacher. Additionally, students who are good at taking tests, and learn in the way the teacher wants them to learn will be privileged. 

Because of these commonsense ideas, students who see the big picture, who are inquisitive, and who like to challenge the “normal” will be disadvantaged. With the commonsense idea of a “good” student, there is no room for students to learn about important ideas and topics that are maybe uncomfortable and challenging to think about.