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?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
The content and its delivery in schools comes from a colonial history. There was a specific effort put forth by the government to strengthen the European ways of thought when our country was in its early stages. The land was valuable for resources, among other things, and maintaining power in this place was necessary. In an oversimplified way, it can be said that this is the basis of our early educational content. This has changed in many ways over the generations, but the Indigenous ways of knowing that were here prior were not prioritized very greatly. Treaty Education, Indigenous ways of knowing, and FNMI content is therefore tantamount because we have a proverbial uphill battle in order to reach any semblance of equity when it comes to educational content. Therefore, it is important to teach this content for all students, especially in situations where there are no, or few, First Nations, Metis, or Inuit people. We see this content in areas such as Social Studies, but as educators become sharper with cross-curricular approaches, it can be incorporated into more subjects. We might not realize it, but the European content spreads across nearly all areas of the curriculum, and in order to decolonize our society we must start by tipping the scale in the direction of FNMI content. Many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people are aware of, and proud of, their heritage, but many people have lost that part of their identity. It is for this reason that it is important to teach FNMI content to every student.
There are aspects to the treaties that can be troubled, but it often goes unnoticed because the treaties, themselves, are seldom taught in some schools. We must not just say “sorry” and feel guilt for the colonial acts of our ancestors, we must take responsibility for the world we currently inhabit. Being treaty people means we create honest and true relationships with one another. Dwayne Donald defined colonialism as “an extended process of denying relationship”. To decolonise it to be mindful of the wrongdoings of the past, and to create and maintain valuable relationships. We are all treaty people, and we must live and breathe this fact, not just understand it intellectually. There are legal rights and obligations that are a part of the treaties, but there are also values of a harmonious relationship that must be lived by that can be instilled in our students by teaching the treaties. We must teach the history of both sides of the treaties. The land of Canada was not ceded as the Eurocentric view assumes, and to teach the troubling aspects of our history, treaties included, is important.
Curriculum as 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?
One of the examples of decolonization is in the documentaries the Indigenous youth are tasked with creating. “Fifteen interviews were collected and formed the basis for a short audio documentary, titled The Kistachowan River Knows My Name, which aired in the local community and on Wawatay radio, which reaches a wide audience in northern Ontario.” The documentaries create intergenerational relationships through the interviews, and by airing them on the radio, it spreads the history to a wider audience. The facilitators and the students then go on a trip to the river, to see the land itself. They rename words and areas on the map of the area into the Cree language, and they are encouraged to use Cree in their assignments. The students learned how the Mushkegowuk Cree community perceives land, the environment, and traditional cultural and economic practices in relation to social and economic well-being. They learn about the development proposals in the Treaty 9 region. There are hydro development projects and multiple announcements about potential roads and mining projects. “As the region became seen externally as a new frontier for extractive development, it was also a time of resurgence of Indigenous identities and cultural practices.”
We cannot escape who we are, and where we are and have been is a large part of constructing that. I believe that being a good role model and educator requires one to be honest with themselves, and part of that requires us to actualize where we are and where we have been. I will be reaching out to elders and knowledge keepers in my community to come and talk to my students to incorporate different perspectives in the classroom; a perspective from those with the authority to speak their story. I will also prioritize teaching practices that focus on the land. Teaching the holistic aspect of nature in all subjects in the classroom, and taking our projects outside as well as on field trips and nature walks, are some of the ways this can be accomplished. This must be prioritized because a connection to nature is important to children’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual development. I will also post treaty maps in my classroom, as well as maps showing the different nations of Canada pre-colonization.
I am almost certain that math was taught in my school years in oppressive and/or discriminatory ways, but I honestly cannot recall. The reason any pedagogical inequity hasn’t stuck with me is likely due to my privilege; I was not learning disabled, neuro-divergent, or otherwise exceptional. I struggled what I would say “the normal amount” when approached math. I don’t know what normal actually is in this regard, but it didn’t come easy to me, and I didn’t have an excessive amount of difficulty to practice and learn the concepts.
Poirier’s article outlines research done by members of the Kativik School Board, and it addresses the ways in which these students were having difficulty in mathematics. The students didn’t learn English or French until the third grade, and their number system is a base20 system, which is a great divergence from the base10 system that is more widely used. Thanks to the work done through this project, the students continue to use their first language, Inuktitut, during their work with mathematics in the third grade. there is also a divide between their lived experience and the content of their mathematical studies. The methods of teaching are also very different. making the switch from their first language into English, in regards to mathematics, very difficult. The number system in Inuktituk is an oral system which complicates the switch to the Eurocentric math. There is also a different measuring system which does not have a clear equivalence in “western” mathematics. There is a strength with these students when it comes to spatial representation, however, this is not valued in their current curriculum. From the different teaching methods, to the language barriers, this is a challenging switch for these young students.
I grew up in an area of my hometown that was not very ornate. The houses were in varying degrees of disarray. It was an area where you can see many families that were struggling, fragmented, and lost. Many families were new to Canada. Most of my friends spoke English to me as their second or third language. Their families were large. When I was in the 5th grade, I recall only having one friend who had a small family like mine (one sibling). Everyone was struggling, or so it seems in retrospect. I lived in affordable housing. Many families ate from the food bank, including our own. Very few of our parents drove. I found out later in life that some of my friends’ parents drank frequently and stole merchandise from stores on a regular basis. The corner store by my house had bars on the windows, and my mother would call the store manager and inform him that I am coming to buy her cigarettes, and I would run such errands for her almost daily.
My family moved to Regina, one by one, when I was in the 7th grade, spending part of my school year between two provinces. Our financial situation improved greatly, and I had learned that much of what I had experienced was not a necessity of life. I was the kind of kid who had an attitude. At one of the schools I went to back home, I spent many days in the office. It took me almost the remainder of my grade-school days, until later in my high school years, to turn my attitude around. In my earlier grades, I responded poorly to authority, as did all of my friends. I thought we were lost, and our neighbourhood was perceived as being dangerous. After growing up some, I realized that the neighbourhood was quite alright, albeit mainly working class. Some people still tried to avoid it, but it really wasn’t that dangerous. I changed my attitude towards authority, and many of my old friends are now quite successful and otherwise happy. I once assumed that the community was doomed because of the class-structure that it had, but that was a flawed perception. We were not without our own set of privileges, and we overcame the challenges that we met. I was lucky to have seen so many communities, and I was lucky to have parents who did not give up on their kids or themselves.
As a future teacher, I value transparency. Part of being transparent requires us to be vulnerable. What we think we know about our students can blind us to the opportunities we get each day to learn from them. I had not realized my privilege growing up in poverty, but it was there ,and as a white teacher, “the work of interrupting [my] privilege is never done” (Kumashiro, p. 77). It is my responsibility to acknowledge the things that I do not know, and why I do not know them. It can be difficult to be vulnerable, but it is the first step. And it is important to know that sometimes, when we seek, we do not find. We must keep our head up when we see and feel life’s injustices. When we work hard for something and it goes to the less-deserving; we must remember that this is our perception. We don’t know everything. And life isn’t fair.
A friend of a friend made a Facebook post about their bike getting stolen from inside of their apartment. The bike was eventually retrieved, but there was a weapon fastened to it. The comments on this post were left mainly by individuals who were aghast and they condemned this individual for stealing a bike and carrying around a weapon. One comment, however, stuck out to me. This commenter questioned why this person required a weapon, and why were they out stealing bikes? It was a refreshing perspective that assumed an inherent good in all of us. It reminded the other commenters that this person who was out stealing bikes, carrying a weapon was likely doing so not purely for nefarious reasons, but likely for reasons to do with survival. I have had bikes stolen several times, and I hated it, but nobody dreams of growing up and stealing bikes. It is an unenviable reality. This space, this Facebook status, was in danger of becoming a single story. The refreshing perspective supplied by the aforementioned commenter was a reminder for me to always keep my mind-set on this positive, open-minded side of things, something I think is important for all educators to maintain.
Traditionally, a “good student” is obedient, quiet, and they do their work. They respect authority and meet the expectations of the teacher. Kumashiro had met students who did not behave in this traditional way, but does that mean they are not a good student? Does it mean they are not deserving or capable of the same learning as their traditional “good student” counterparts? Kumashiro says that it is the responsibility of the educator to adapt to the needs of the student. These “common-sense” ideas privilege those who are white and usually male, those who have secure and supportive home-lives, those who do not have physical or mental disabilities, and those who embody the status-quo. When a student is behaving in an unusual way, it is traditionally seen as disobedience. Educators must adapt their expectations to what they find is most beneficial to the student, which might look different than the needs of the “common-sense” student. Understanding someone’s behavior isn’t always easy, and accommodations are often necessary for a more enriched learning atmosphere. Furthermore, the classroom will never be perfect as it is a place of varying learning styles and habits. Students express themselves in different ways, and some have difficulty expressing themselves at all. Because of the diversity within the classroom, common-sense ideas in education are detrimental to inclusive praxis in pedagogy.
Four models of curriculum described in the article are,
- Curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted
An approach to curriculum theory and practice which focuses on syllabus is only really concerned with content.
- Curriculum as product
Curriculum as product is an approach to curriculum that is based in rationality and relative simplicity. “Curriculum as an attempt to achieve certain ends in students.”
- Curriculum as process
“What happens in classrooms.” (Catherine Cornbleth 1990)
“The attempt to describe what happens in classrooms.” (Stenhouse)
Lawrence Stenhouse made the analogy of curriculum as a recipe in cookery; “A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment.“(Stenhouse 1975). “Outcomes are no longer the central and defining feature… content and means develop as teachers and students work together.” “The focus is on interactions.” “A process approach to curriculum theory and practice tends towards making the process of learning the central concern of the teacher. This is because this way of thinking emphasizes interpretation and meaning-making.”
- Curriculum as praxis
“In this approach, the curriculum itself develops through the dynamic interaction of action and reflection.” Praxis is informed, committed action. It can be recognized as practice that focuses on collective understandings, a commitment expressed in action to the exploration of educators’ values and their practices, and educators to explore their practice with their peers.
I can explicitly recall the first three models of curriculum being present when I was in school, and I can surmise that curriculum was praxis was at play as well, however, I don’t have an overt memory or example of it. There is an importance to each approach because of the different types of learners as well as the strengths and preferences of the educators.
Kumashiro’s introduction is interesting. His time in Nepal definitely challenged what his notion of common sense was, from mundane tasks to big picture ideas. Even though he was brought to bring an outsider’s perspective to the school in Nepal, he was scoffed at and confronted over the fact that he had a different approach. Even the Peace Corps had reinforced “American” values and “common sense”. I found the testimonial experience to be an insightful and layered illustration of his professional epiphany regarding common sense.
On the surface, common sense seems to be something that it omnipresent and neutral. Kumashiro shows that what is common sense for one may be novel or alien to another. He elaborates on the idea, noting that schooling is not neutral, either. We must learn, to the best of our abilities, which ideas in schooling are in fact rooted in a certain perspective? Challenging the “common-sense” is difficult because it is engrained into the curriculum, and these “normal” ways of teaching are seen as “professional” and “effective”. It is also comforting to stick with the status quo because we have been taught that it is moral or normal.
The customs teachers adhere to must be in flux while being well-informed. If not, we risk privileging some and marginalizing others. The systemic privileges are built into the education system; into the curriculum. Kumashiro finishes his introduction by listing four overlapping approaches to anti-oppressive education:
1. Improving the experiences of students who have traditionally been treated in harmful ways.
- Changing the knowledge that all students have about people in this world who have traditionally been labeled “different”.
- Challenging the broader (and often invisible) dynamics in society that privilege certain groups and identities and marginalize others.
- Addressing reasons why anti-oppressive education is often difficult to practice.
I want to thank you for the resource, and the introduction to the concept of anti-oppressive education. A big takeaway for me was that anti-oppressive education is premised on the notion that its work is never done.