Blog Post 8: Curriculum as Literacy

Colonialism is defined as the complete or partial takeover of another country. It is often linked with assimilation, the absorbing of the colonized culture into the now dominant society. Although my personal identity has not been stolen by math, it is still apparent that throughout my high school years mathematics has catered to one specific viewpoint, one of doing what the teacher was told and not questioning its purpose. I did learn well through this method, as I learn very well through simply following tasks and using examples provided as a base to build off of. However, other students may learn through different methods that seem strange to other students and the teacher, and as a result they are led to believe their math skills are not great. This is not the case; it only seems this way because how they have learned up to a new lesson is inconsistent with what they are being taught at a particular moment. To combat this, teachers must incorporate a variety of teaching styles and opportunities to explain the question to students who may be able to figure out the solution to a math problem through different means.

One way that Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric teachings is learning through Inuit students learning through their own language in the first three years of teaching, then switching to studying either English or French. We have traditionally studied in one language from preschool education to graduation, never switching through any significant means. It is highly possible that Inuit ways of learning mathematics allow for a greater exploration and development of the curriculum to explore multiple perspectives. Another is the concept of math as a universal language; the Inuit are one of many different cultures who have used math differently according to their surroundings. Although some contexts are used in Eurocentric ideas and other cultures, the ways of learning vary from culture to culture. The Inuit, for example, use enigmas as clues for problem solving. Finally, Eurocentric ways of teaching mathematics usually revolve around a teacher asking a student for an answer, but in Inuit tradition, this is typically not the case. As a result of these changes, it is important to realize how much students with different learning methods have had to adapt to European ways of learning. We must take care to incorporate these perspectives into our classrooms, because in not doing so we risk making students feel inadequate in addition to removing lifelong traditions.

Blog Post 7

A common theme in classroom reading is the study of old English literature. Although these novels are rightfully considered “classics,” they only represent the perspective of one specific type of person, typically the privileged members of society. It would seem simple to explore different perspectives from different minority groups, but stereotypes are more often than not repeated in different works. Throughout my early years of education, I have read several novels written from limited perspectives, and apart from a select few exceptions, we have not managed to explore multiple perspectives from text alone. Instead, students and educators must not only look at different books, but also learn to examine the text from many different viewpoints. If we broaden our opinions and analysis of readings, we can apply this extended knowledge to the world around us.

Growing up with a stable home life and as a white male has made it difficult for me to relate to these perspectives, especially with the perception that only my perspective was important to analyze. It was not until high school that I engaged with several teachers who encouraged open discussion of perspectives that seem alien to our own experiences. We discussed several novels, including Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and News of the World by Paulette Jiles that explore multiple perspectives, in this case, the viewpoints of a privileged European society and an Indigenous one. Until this period, the predominant truth that mattered was exclusively a white European one, and I have worked hard to change biases, both personal and those rooted in others.

Blog Post 6: Curriculum Policy

Levin’s article states that curriculum is a statement of what students are expected to do in the classroom. Politics are presented as a defining factor of curriculum through policy, which are the rules and procedures that are present in communities. How and what education is provided and who provides it are some elements implemented by policies, and curriculum policies are always part of the government’s mission, despite members of the general public often being left out of these decisions. I was not aware of the extent of influence politics have over education due to lack of information from some of my educators in the past. As I grew more experienced in this area, however, I realized that education is tied to politics in a way that discourages separation, but also is a negative influence on final decisions. The government has catered to power for centuries, therefore those with no voice have no decision considered for possible improvements on educational decisions.

Another way the government has regulated schools is through Canada’s Constitution. One of its responsibilities is establishing the rights and regulations of First Nations peoples. Several subcommittees have helped develop goals relating to Treaty Education: treaty relationships, spirit and intent, historical context, and promises and provisions. The inclusion of these goals are as a whole, representing how our society must include all perspectives to be considered connected. It is likely the government had to deal with the pressure of including these sections, as some might consider it too late to add in something that should have been included long ago. However, due to the retaining prevalence of racial tensions, some might not have wanted to include these elements of the curriculum.

Blog Post 5: Curriculum as Place

Teachers such as the intern mentioned in the post often question themselves and the curriculum’s contents, especially regarding First Nations peoples. We may ask ourselves why it is important to learn about First Nation values and treaties when there are few to none present in the class. The reason is that even if our schools are lacking in cultural diversity, our world includes people of many different backgrounds, and although they may seem foreign to us, from a different perspective it is our traditions that seem alien. In the classroom, we must understand other cultures and their individual histories to overcome our own hidden prejudices inside all of us, and by introducing new concepts relating to First Nations culture, we can build stronger relations and avoid mistakes made in the past. As Chambers explains, we have all experienced the severing of who we once were, so we must understand why learning about and reestablishing ancient traditions is important.

Treaties do not just apply to the First Nations; everyone living in Canada is a treaty person. In the past, treaties were originally designed to be agreements between two countries. However, these agreements were exploited immediately by European settlers, and the promises to the First Nations were frequently broken for centuries. In the curriculum, we must explore why this was a breach of agreement and betrayal, and why it contributed to the destruction of Native traditions. When we refer to everyone being treaty people, what we mean is that everyone is part of a great community that aims to build a better experience for all and establish relations regardless of animosities. The classroom is the first step to teaching everyone about their place in Canada’s community and why First Nations history is important.

 

Blog Post 4

Ideas of reinhabitation and decolonization seem similar based on word definitions, but they actually differ in significant ways. Reinhabitation is fundamentally about remembering past ways and developing upon existing ways of living, while decolonization focuses on changing potentially harmful beliefs that affect others.

In Learning from Place by Restoule, the author details an expedition about the remembrance of Cree concepts, examining how the Cree view their surroundings and why these understandings have been altered. Reinhabitation served as a way to share feelings and remember the connection to the world. For example, the Fort Albany First Nations and Keller (2005) emphasized that a connection to nature strengthens the development of children in many areas, as well as the identity of all people. The river trip that was conducted with the Mushkegowuk people brought the traditional ways back to the forefront after decades of disconnection from the importance of the land. The authors and other researchers have discussed several issues, including language, relationships between people, other people, and nature, and the ways of seeing the world besides a western perspective. They will take these ideas and create objectives that will reintroduce uncommon ideas that were once abundant among the Mushkegowuk Cree.

When reinhabitation is introduced, decolonization must be implemented to explore why past traditions and beliefs fell out of favor and ensure they are not erased again. During the river trip, the researchers listened to how the government had affected relations with the land. Not only was an advancement made on the reclamation of previous beliefs, they were able to clearly see how the people were exploited and assimilated. Whenever a question was asked by the Cree or researchers, answers must be formed; not only should we reintroduce forgotten ideas, how do we find a countermeasure to past and future problems? This is decolonization at its core; we must examine negative implications whenever a positive development seems to have been brought to light.

In my role as an educator, every student has their own story and beliefs. I will encourage class discussion about personal experiences of their heritage and expand upon each child’s unique ties to their world. I will also use the practice of decolonization by discussing providing examples of actions that have produced disconnections and how we can prevent future severances from our traditions and worldview.

Weekly Plans Week 3

Commonsense, as discussed in previous entries, varies according to certain factors, such as age or system of education. As a university student, we will receive less praise than a kindergartener for sitting still because it should not be praised; it is expected of us. Similarly, what we are expected to know in advance as a second year student is higher than the standards we should meet as a first year student, likely because we are still transitioning into a university setting from high school. Schools in different parts of the world also have different standards, such as the banning of religious clothing from French schools or learning by memorization in China. In areas such as the US or Canada, it seems absurd to ban material such as specific types of clothing, until we realize that some schools in these areas adopt uniforms, or ban based on indecency (ex. too short of a skirt). Based on the commonsense, a “good” student is one who complies with and follows all of the rules and standards laid upon them.

The good student benefits by realizing and pertaining to the commonsense by gaining a sense of enhanced learning, at least in the eyes of the educators. A child goes through the stages of moral development as they mature, and their reward for being a good student will be based on their maturity. For example, if a student is offered by a friend to cheat off of their test and refuses, they may consider themselves proud of taking a moral stance as a reward. The commonsense reinforces the areas of law and order in the classroom, and students in different places may be rewarded for certain behaviour while another may be ignored or even punished. As educators, we must look at what the students infer from commonsense standards and ask ourselves why this happens. Although students can learn a great deal by adhering to the commonsense standards placed upon them, we should take care in seeing how this may negatively affect them in other areas. As an example, as a student matures, what they have learned in elementary school may not apply as a high school student. However, because of learning from common sense, the student may find it hard to adjust. This is why the educator must take extra steps to prepare students for a transition period.

Assignment 1 Plans

For my critical summary assignment in ECS 210, I have chosen disability studies as a topic. I have selected this idea because of the developments that have been made in the classroom since the concept of disability education in the classroom. The curriculum has historically been unaccomodating and not inclusive of those with disabilities, despite recent efforts to change this. One article I have found, written by Nirmala Erevelles, questions post-structuralist efforts to provide equality in the classroom for minority groups while simultaneously rarely discussing the experiences of those with disabilities in the curriculum. Special education classrooms do exist, but in order for progress to be made, educators must analyze depictions of disabilities and avoid “normalization” of the afflicted.

To use a contrast, I have viewed other works by authors who take a different approach to disability education. Curriculum and Assessment for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities by Diane M. Browder avoids looking at the history of negative depictions of the disabled as highlight various teaching and planning strategies in the classroom. Instead, she provides descriptions of the positives and negatives of each strategy to allow the educator to come up with their own ideas and plans for a lesson to incorporate equality for everyone. Curriculum Content by Diane Lea Ryndak and Sandra Alper also compares past practices with current ones similar to Erevelles, but their approach differs. They do not use the outdated method of normalization as a cautionary substance to avoid, but simply use it as a comparison to the full inclusion model. This is an effective way to remove bias as an author.

For my assignment, I will use Erevelles’ article as the main summary of my analysis to provide a history of past approaches and potential ways of making up for the derogatory history attributed to the disabled. This will serve as a backdrop for my next two articles; Alper and Ryndak use a more neutral tone when looking at methods of long ago, while Browder does not cast the past in a negative light, rather, she illustrates many methods of implementing disability education into the curriculum effectively. As an educator, I will carefully analyze in how my classroom develops my students to ensure no one is excluded, and these articles will improve my understanding on why changes must happen.

References:

Nirmala Erevelles (2005) Understanding curriculum as normalizing text: disability studies meet curriculum theory, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37:4, 421-439, DOI: 10.1080/0022027032000276970

Ryndak, Diane Lea and Alper, Sandra. Curriculum Content for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities in Inclusive Settings. Allyn & Bacon, 1996.

Browder, Diane M. Curriculum and Assessment for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities. The Guilford Press, 2001.

 

The Problem With Common Sense

While living in a village in Nepal, Kumashiro is taught many important lessons that are seen as “common sense,” which are taken for granted because of their widespread familiarity.  However, this proves to be difficult because his previous familiarity with teaching customs proves to be different from that of Nepalese traditions. This may be by design; the students and teachers already have ideas about teaching that make Kumashiro’s lessons seem pointless, but his assignment was to explore different and potentially improved methods of teaching. Of course, different countries have different perspectives regarding values and methods in the classroom. What is seen as common sense in one area may be foreign knowledge to another. This not to say that any form of teaching is superior to one or all other forms, in fact, a teacher must learn variety, but we must take care in introducing new methods lest traditional methods be “colonized” by new ones.

 

Common sense is commonly viewed as standard practice in schools because alternative measures are often seen as nonsense or a distraction. If current movements are proving effective and functional in the classroom, why should a new element be introduced to disprove these methods? There are two main reasons; one is that the curriculum is used as a guideline, albeit one to be questioned, and the other is that commensensical ideas provide contentment. We do not question some practices because to do so would cause disorientation. However, the status quo has allowed feelings of oppression to run rampant because ironically, feelings of neutrality have convinced us that we should not take a stand for or against oppression. Insisting we use the common sense essentially means we should only be focusing on certain perspectives and people instead of treating everyone equally.

Curriculum Theory and Practice

There are several ways to interpret and analyze a curriculum; four of which are explained in an article by M. K. Smith. The first is a body of knowledge to be transmitted, or a syllabus. A syllabus is a brief statement that outlines the contents of a series of lectures. Those who use this method tend to focus solely on content, and analyze the most effective way to transmit knowledge to students. However, using a syllabus may mean we will dismiss issues with the curriculum as being unimportant, and we may not pay attention to the relative importance or order of material due to the syllabus’s limitations.

The second form of the curriculum is one that is a product. Education is mostly seen as a technical exercise, and we can make ordered procedures that are well-organized and systematic. Although using the curriculum as a technical practice may seem foolproof, it disregards the social aspect, and students are not given a voice; they must do as they are told. Even educators are forced to work with objectives, leading to much uncertainty about the importance of past and current topics.

Another form of the curriculum is that of a process. In comparison to being seen as a product, curriculum is the interaction of students, teachers, and knowledge, and teachers enter the classroom with a more pre-determined idea of what will occur in the classroom for organization and simplicity’s sake. As outlined by Stenhouse in the article:  ‘A curriculum is an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice’. However, this statement does not define the curriculum as a process, exactly; it states how putting together an educational proposal is implemented and used. As a result of this misdirection, the definition of curriculum as a process has expanded to a point that we no longer recognize its original meaning.

The last form of curriculum is a praxis, which can be seen as an expansion of the process form. Unlike the process model, the praxis model makes explicit statements about the interests it serves, and not only informs action, it commits it. This is praxis at its core: the curriculum is not just a set of plans, but created through an active process where planning, acting, and evaluating are integrated and build off of each other. We recognize praxis by focusing on questions and collective understandings rather than individual opinion, and practitioners must look for certain values and reflect upon their practices with their peers.

In my personal experiences in the classroom, both the syllabus and product methods were used. As mentioned earlier, these methods provided both positive and negative experiences. The syllabus method was an easy way to coordinate and organize lessons, but many of the students, including myself, frequently questioned the reasoning behind why a particular subject was important to learn. The syllabus did not provide an answer, and neither did our educators. A similar experience was brought upon by the product method; although well organized, teachers and students were not encouraged to question the relevance of the material. In my future teaching career, I will examine every limitation and strength of the models and appropriately implement them when each model is best required.