Learning to Unlearn

  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?

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, I have come to the hesitant realization that I have inherited a racist view of the world around me. My home community is a short twenty minute drive from the Fishing Lake First Nation reserve and this territorial circumstance created a community where many racist concepts emerged. Although I am now constantly trying to change the biases that I have grown up around, I am not always aware that they are present because of how deeply rooted they are in my subconscious. Even when actively trying to steer away from these lenses, they surface when I least expect it. This is directly due to the over-exposure of racist notions in society (throughout my life). An example of these biases come from the assumption that an Indigenous individual is less educated than their white counter-part. This is one that I am certain many White people are guilty of having at some time in their life, even if they were unaware of it. These biases were not only present around my community while growing up but also in my school. I remember learning in high school that Indigenous people “ceded the land to Europeans” because they weren’t “advanced” enough to use it for economic growth. These ideas were actually accepted as fact in my social studies classes. As a result, I grew up with the notion that Indigenous people were less intelligent at the time of treaty making which allowed Europeans to take advantage of them. This notion continues in society today.

These ideas demonstrate the single story of the European being told throughout classroom narratives. It seems that for a long time the Canadian Government attempted to save their reputation by sugar coating their forced acts of assimilation on Indigenous people. Instead of being taught about the factors that led to the signing of treaties for both the Indigenous and British colonizers, I was taught that everything just seemed to happen in favour of the British by chance. Instead of learning about the devastating factors of disease, reduced buffalo population and Indigenous belief in sharing what is given by the Creator, we learned that Indigenous people simply gave up the land that they inhabited because they were too “primitive” to use it for economic gain. This European narrative being told attempts to rid the dominant race of all fault in Canadian history and in doing so creates a negative narrative towards Indigenous people.

How do I unlearn these biases that I’ve grown up with? How do I work against these biases to better myself as a member of society and as an educator? I believe that all I can do is continue to educate myself about the social inequalities in society and continue to be constantly aware of the biases I carry and challenge them when they surface. Because of the social justice education present in University today, I believe that I am growing more equipped to remove the lenses I wear. With access to more and more socially inclusive education, it has never been easier to educate ourselves on the diversities of our world and to teach our students in ways that are accurately representative of all worldviews, not just what is deemed accurate to the male, pale, and stale.

Citizenship Education

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. 

While recalling my K-12 schooling, I am reminded mostly of examples of Personally responsible citizenship and Participatory citizenship but no memories of Justice oriented citizenship come to mind. In school, I remember contributing to Help for Humanity fundraisers, food drives, and even the 30 hour famine. These activities, although great for raising awareness, did nothing to build my assessment skill of the social, political, and economic reasons behind why problems arise in the first place. Food drives and fundraisers required me to analyze society at a minimal level. I was able to feel responsible and active without really doing anything. Sure I donated some cans or spent the night in a gym with my friends for the ’30 hour famine’, but I wasn’t forced to really think about the causes we were raising awareness for and why they were problems in the first place. In my senior years of high school; however, I began to act more like a Participatory citizen by joining Help for Humanity, the SRC, and other community clubs that would actually organize the fundraisers or events in the community that were aimed to raise awareness. I began to take a more active role in these events and their success by helping to spread the word, counting cans, and offering to set up as well as help run them. Although this is classified as growth, I would say that we had room for improvement in the area of Justice oriented citizenship. The article read for class on these three types of citizenship focused on Justice oriented citizenship as this is the area of citizenship that actually seeks systematic change. Although it is important to have Personally responsible and Participatory citizens, they aren’t necessarily equipped to solve social problems. Justice oriented citizens; however, are equipped to solve social problems because they critically analyze patterns of injustice. I believe that these skills weren’t practiced enough in my school years.

Incorporating TreatyEd in ALL schools

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?

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 idea that TreatyEd only needs to be taught when there are Indigenous students present baffles me. I am astounded that this train of thought is still common and apparently accepted by many educators. Since colonization and attempted assimilation of Indigenous people is a shared history among all of us, why shouldn’t all students learn about it and what it means for the current and future generations of Indigenous people in Canada? For real change to occur between Indigenous people and “Canadian-Canadians” (Dwayne Donald’s lecture “On What Terms Can we Speak”), everyone needs to understand the relationship between these groups and how Western cultures have benefitted from the power held over Indigenous people.

This subject directly relates to the belief that “We are all treaty people” because it affects all of us. As a white person living in Canada, I experience privilege every single day. That in itself defines what it means to be a treaty person because I am benefitting from the legislation used to suppress Indigenous people. My family was never placed on a reserve or made to attend schools that did not correlate with my belief systems. When I walk down the street, people don’t intentionally cross over to the other side to avoid being near me because of the colour of my skin. I have not experienced these things because I am privileged and am categorized as the ‘correct’ culture according to government history. All of these circumstances are bound to reproduce if we don’t start properly educating students on the complex relationship between the Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people of Canada.

Claire Kreuger discusses the importance of implementing treaty education into the classroom. She explained that teachers use the excuse that they already have a large amount of content to cover and they cannot add any more to their plate. Claire’s response to this is that it doesn’t have to be separate. The curriculum provides vast opportunities for teachers to weave treaty education into the already implemented areas of the curriculum. Treaty education is something that fits almost everywhere and can be adapted to the outcomes and indicators currently listed. There is no need for a new curriculum, only to better use the one we already have. For example, the session that I attended at TreatyEd camp discussed the areas of the SK curriculum that have great resources for teaching treaty ed. The website is called “Supporting Reconciliation in Saskatchewan Schools” and it is an always progressing resource for knowledge on how others are teaching treaty education. This cite will be very useful for me once I begin exploring treaty ed in my classroom.

Learning from Place

The article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” 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)

  1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
  2. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

The article lists many ways that the research project conducted in Fort Albany First Nation demonstrated reinhabitation and decolonization. An example of this is demonstrated when the researchers had youth from the community do interviews with elders to connect a sense of place and the importance of the ways of knowing. This was done as a form of material creation to teach these youth how to live in their environments.

As well as interviews, the researchers took community members on river excursions which revealed an importance in naming sites along the river in the Cree language. It was found that many more sites could be named using the Cree names rather than English mappings of this area. The English language failed to outline many key sites along the river. By conducting these excursions, a deeper understanding of Cree words and concepts to the land was gained by the participants, proving that a distance from this connection had been gained over the generations. With the reduction of the Cree language also came the reduction of understanding place as curriculum.

This research project successfully brought youth and elders together to address reinhabitation and decolonization. A significant part of this was the difference between how these generations understood ‘place’. Once again, Cree terminology came in to play as the terms “paquataskamik” and “noscheemik” were defined in relation to place as understood by Cree culture. Paquataskamik refers to traditional territory, all of the environment, nature, and everything it contains; whereas, noscheemik is the word for “camp” and describes a more specific area within paquataskamik. The researchers recovered that these terms were being used improperly by younger generations within Fort Albany First Nation. This meant that youth in the community did not have a true concept of what paquataskamik is. An elder community member even described this term as “too high a word” for young people to understand.

I believe that these ideas can be used and adapted in many areas of study in today’s curriculum. By aiming focus at the ideas of place in this article, students can begin to see on a larger scale the importance of land to Indigenous people and how it is still being misunderstood today. For example, in geography, a connection could be drawn between these ideas and the ever-growing oil industry. Who is benefitting from the oil industry? Who makes the decisions to use land that is sacred to Indigenous people?

If change is to be expected for Indigenous Ways of Knowing in Canadian policy, we must start by educating students on the priority differences between Western culture and Indigenous cultures.

Curriculum Policy and Politics

Before reading prompt:

How do you think that school curricula are developed?

I think that school curricula is developed by school division representatives meeting to discuss the curriculum and what needs to be improved. I would imagine that this happens provincially as each province is responsible for producing its own curriculum. To have symmetry among the different curriculums throughout the country, province representatives must also have to meet to discuss larger scale changes.

I imagine that developing school curricula is a task not taken lightly.

After reading prompt:

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?

School curricula is influenced by many different parties along the way before reaching the classroom ranging from national to local to school to state participants. At each of these rest stops along the way, the individuals involved have some say in what should be implemented into the curriculum and/or how it should be implemented. Curriculum decisions are made by a panel of experts and are then implemented based on the influences mentioned earlier.

After doing the reading, I was surprised to learn that so many people have an influence over what the curriculum consists of. According to this reading, individual preference of those holding the position of cabinet minister or political advisor can be implemented fairly easily. This means that curriculum decisions don’t necessarily boil down to majority rule but simply to personal preference, which seems unfair as the cabinets of government are filled with white cabinet ministers over minority representatives. I was also surprised to find that Elementary schools often have complete control over what they choose to be emphasized from the curriculum.

As for the Process aspect of how curriculum decisions are made, I found it interesting to learn that the measure of actual classroom experience is ever disappointing. Often curricula is put in place that is not effectively taught by many or even most teachers. An example is given on new mathematics curricula brought in that was developed by six teachers who were said to be the “only ones who could teach it successfully”. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked about this gap between formal curriculum and real teaching and learning practices but I did not believe that it still posed such a wide problem.

The collection of research and results are ongoing as a way to always be improving curriculum. Teacher implementation of curriculum is often shaped by day to day realities of their workplace, their habits, and their personal views about what is practical. All of these factors increase the likelihood that the intended result will not be produced; therefore, research is still being done on how to mediate personal interests in hope of developing the intended vision of educational expertise.

The common sense and what is ‘good’

As we know, the curriculum has been written by the powerful. Painter’s “A History of Education” exemplifies this perfectly by emphasizing the “uncivilized communities” as uneducated; therefore, implying that European communities are inherently more educated. This is where our curriculum stems from. These ideas of a hierarchical society where minorities are seated below white culture seeps in to education and into the minds of students learning in our classrooms. Painter’s first chapter goes as far as to say “Their education is thus too primitive in it’s character to bring within the scope of our present undertaking.” He even claims that education to the “uncivilized communities” only consisted of training the body for “war and the chase”. By now, most university students should be aware that the “uncivilized communities” in which he is referring to are the Aboriginal communities that were taken over in North America. These communities were taken over because of the Europeans differing views on common sense.

Common sense decides what is the norm for every aspect of education. What qualifies a normal teacher. What qualifies a normal students. And what qualifies normal behaviour, beliefs, and values within society’s parameters. In a North American school, a good student would demonstrate traits such as completed homework, regurgitation of information, ability to memorize content for exams, ability to demonstrate topics covered in assignment form, and proven skill in reading, writing, and arithmetic. A good teacher would assess the students’ learning with tests and assignments, cover “academic” topics only (not political), and would present themselves in a “professional” and “effective” manner. These ideas are all believed to be characteristics of a good school setting; one without too much difference or individuality. A cookie cutter school is a model school.

But with these common sense ideas come consequence. These projected values are steeped in white culture that can be traced back to 1886 when Painter described “the end result of education…the ideal of all culture, is Christ.” This demonstrates that education has been linked to the dominant culture for centuries and what we teach and how we teach is representative of white culture. This leaves minority cultures feeling alienated and inferior.

Kumashiro discusses alternative teaching methods in chapter 2 of “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What it Means to be a Student”. These ideas, although proven effective, are viewed as unproductive and nonsensical because they don’t align with the comforting common sense ideas of education. People view these ideas as abnormal because they are different and may be difficult to comprehend. An example of white culture being valued over minority culture can be be seen in the participation of the Christmas holiday in North American schools. Christmas is a large celebration for many schools and is accepted as joyous and normal. However, if holidays from different cultures were brought in to schools, many parents would feel “uncomfortable”. This is because religious views that don’t agree with the dominant Christian religion are viewed as the “wrong” religion and society has deemed them different and therefore not normal.

So with this, how can we claim that our common sense ideas present in every day school life aren’t just as assimilative as the ways of the European settlers?