What Kind of Citizen Are You?

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.

Citizenship education can be defined as “educating children, from early childhood, to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society”.  Educators are continually “pursuing programs that aim to strengthen democracy through civic education, service learning, and other pedagogies” (1). However, there are debates surrounding what makes a “good” citizen.

I attended school (K-12) in three different places: Oromocto, New Brunswick, Oakville, Manitoba and Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. They were all completely different in a variety of ways; school size, demographics, resources, teaching methods, etc. However, one thing they all had in common was their attention to citizenship education. This began at a young age with a focus on recycling, picking up garbage in the schoolyard, and raising money for different local groups. This would be considered the “personally responsible citizen [who] acts responsibly in his/her community” (3). As I entered high school in Portage la Prairie, MB there was a shift from just simply being a personally responsible citizen, to someone who “actively participates in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at local, state, and national levels” (4). This was largely due to my participation in a student-led “Social Justice” club. This club was focused on helping others and ultimately, building a more just society. Joining this club allowed me to be actively engaged in “planning and participating in organized efforts to care for those in need” (4). Additionally, the club pressed me to think deeper about WHY there are these injustices in our society and HOW we can change it. There was an “emphasize [on] social change [that] seeks to prepare students to improve society by critically analyzing and addressing social issues and injustices” (4). We organized a variety of fundraisers/social projects/awareness events for things such as the Food Bank, Coats for Kids, and Habitat for Humanity. Additionally, I was lucky enough to attend a humanitarian trip in high school to Nicaragua, where I worked in the community of El Trapiche. While there I truly realized that helping others or “foreign aid” should go far beyond giving them money or food. We need to address the deeper rooted problems and provide support in allowing them to build a sustainable future for themselves, rather than pushing our ideals on them. My social justice club provided me the opportunity to be exposed to the two other forms of citizenship: the “participatory citizen” and the “justice-orientated citizen”. However, I do think that our education tends to prioritize the lowest level of citizenship, which is the “personally responsible citizen”.

I believe, that if I had not joined the Social Justice club,  I would not have been able to gain some of the qualities of a “participatory” and “justice orientated” citizen. Considering there was only approximately 15 students in this club, out of 1500 students in the school, many students missed this same opportunity. The curriculum focuses on the “personally responsible” citizen, whereby students are taught that if they give a can of soup or drop a loonie in a collection that they have done their part to help the less fortunate. This, although beneficial, does nothing to get students and faculty to understand the systemic issues. Giving needs to go beyond just the material items and focus on the participation and justice orientated, in that only through “getting your hands dirty” can true change be achieved.

 

What Kind of Citizen?

 

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Oppression and Privilege in Math

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

 

Racism, discrimination, and oppression in math? Seems absurd, even impossible- at least that was my mindset. How could mathematics, something that is “linear and singular, static, and objective” (82), be oppressive? Mathematics is a “universal language…no matter where we are two plus two equals four” (54). I viewed the subject as something that isn’t personal or subjective; it is very black and white. After reading the articles “Jagged worldviews colliding” by Leroy Little Bear and “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” by Louise Poirier it seems that maybe this dichotomy of mathematics is where oppression stems from.

Looking back at my own experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics it’s hard to specifically identify any aspects that were oppressive and/or discriminating. Belonging to the “majority” has allowed me the privilege of being taught all subjects in a Eurocentric way. This “way” of teaching ultimately “makes sense” to me. As a white person, I had to take myself out of my own shoes and try to view my math classes from a different perspective. I attended high school in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, which is surrounded by four reserves. In turn, the racial/economic makeup of my school was predominantly Indigenous and from a lower socioeconomic standing. The Manitoba curriculum divides the math program into three different streams: Pre-calculus, Applied and Essentials. I took Pre-calculus and all students within that class were white kids who came from “good” families. The teacher was passionate about the subject, had high expectations for each student in the class and was committed to making us successful. She was willing to work with us at lunch, during her breaks and would even help via email or text on nights before an exam. In comparison, the majority of the Indigenous students took Essentials, with a few in Applied. Although I believe teachers strive to connect the students with the subject, my outside observation of these classes left me with a different impression. Often the teachers assigned to the class were not “math majors” and were “teaching from the text”. Going through school I never considered that to be oppressive. But now looking back, I can see that the education system sets up individuals who do not learn via the Eurocentric way to fail. Having a teacher who is less knowledgeable on the subject matter means that they continue to teach and assess in the linear, Eurocentric manner as this is both “easier” for them and familiar to them since this is how they were taught. It was difficult for them to adapt to their “audience” and develop a method of teaching that took into account the culture and oral history of Aboriginals.  This disparity is made more concrete when you look at the Provincial averages for standardized testing in the three different math streams. Recently, Manitoba released the Provincial Math marks on a divisional basis. Looking at these marks, highlight the achievement gap that exists. In 2015, the year I graduated, the Government of Manitoba Provincial test marks were as follows;

  • Pre-Calculus: Provincial Average – 68.7% and Division Average – 70.6%
  • Applied: Provincial Average – 57.5% and Division Average – 58.7%
  • Essentials: Provincial Average – 58% and Divisional Average – 56.6%

Additionally, the Provincial and Division average have continued to decline in the years since I have graduated. Typically Indigenous students are getting lower grades than white people – this is known as the achievement gap. Instead we should be talking about the “…opportunity gap, educational debt, and the investments in Whiteness. Because these gaps are the result of how we fail to support all children, not failures of the children themselves” (Felton-Koestler, 2017). If we consider that everyone has a “jagged worldview” that is not “…100 percent Indigenous or Eurocentric” (85) we need to revise our outcomes and expectations to better reflect the worldview of our students.

In Poirer’s article “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” she discusses a number of ways to challenge the Eurocentric ideas about the purposes of math.  The three that resonated with me are:

  1. The idea that mathematics is a universal language. It is now being recognized that, “different cultures have developed different mathematical tools according to their needs and their environment, and the Inuit community is no exception” (54).
  2. Sense of space is another area where Inuit ideas are in conflict with the Eurocentric teachings. Reference points for location and distance is often described using landmarks and senses rather than measurable distances.
  3. The adaptation to their calendar to reflect naturally occurring events rather than constricted time frames. For example, September in “Inuktitut means ‘when the caribou’s antlers lose their velvet’” (60). This can be longer or shorter than the lunar calendar that is often used, depending on when the antlers lose their velvet.

In summary, the Inuit teachings with respect to math, presses the Eurocentric view to be more “free-flowing” and less constricted. Recognizing and addressing this is essential as a teacher to help students achieve their best results.

 

 

 

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.

http://feltonkoestler.wixsite.com/realworldmath/single-post/2017/10/25/Privilege-and-Oppression-in-Math-Ed

https://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/grad_rates/grade12.html

 

Treaty Education in Our 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?

Prior to entering into the Faculty of Education I never gave much thought to Treaty Education or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Content/Perspectives. I never considered the importance of integrating this knowledge into the classroom, largely because I had never even heard of it before. As I have moved through my education courses I have noticed this concept of treaties and indigenous ways of knowing continually “pop” up, either directly or indirectly. This has led me to think about why I am learning about Treaty Ed and FNMI Content and Perspectives, and more importantly why I should teach it. 

For many teachers, the thought of teaching TreatyEd or FNIM Content/Perspectives seems like an extra task that they are not willing to spend time on. This is especially true if there are few, to no First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. This is largely due to the teachers ignorance on these subject matters, their unwillingness to educate themselves on them, and the perceived limited time available to meet all their indicators. However, teaching TreatyEd and FNIM Content/Perspectives has a purpose and role within the classroom regardless of the cultural makeup of the students. All individuals can benefit by diversifying their mind, broadening their worldview, and educating themselves on our shared history. This is especially important for non-Indigenous students who have not necessarily been exposed to the concept of treaties, the relationships formed in writing them, the imbalance of power and  the continued effect they play in today’s society. Teaching this in every grade will help combat racial stereotypes and misperceptions. If we don’t teach them someone else will, and the information they hear from others may or may not be accurate.

“We are all treaty people”- a line we have all heard either on the first day in our university classes, at the start of a hockey game, or on the radio. In Canada, this phrase has been shouted at us in all areas of our life; it is almost inescapable. Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe we need to be continually shouted at, yelled at, or  reminded of this fact. But why? What is the purpose of this phrase? This phrase, “we are all treaty people”, highlights the fact that the agreement of treaties depended on two parties; the settlers and Indigenous peoples. As said in the article by Chambers, “the treaties are a story we share” (29). This concept is essential in seeing the value behind having treaties taught within our schools. This isn’t the Indigenous peoples story; this story belongs to ALL of us. Finding the commonalities and link between Indigenous people and settlers can help us recognize that we all have (or should have) a common goal. Chambers discusses this when she states, “the commons is what sustains us all: it is the true curriculum, the one that calls us to renew our commitment to what we have in common, to our stake in the world and its survival, upon which our own depends” (30). Finding this common ground is the first step in creating action. As a settler, I need to recognize and reinforce in my classroom this connection, while also highlighting the role we have. As “treaty people” it is our responsibility “…to stop moving, to start listening, to find my place on the planet, and to dig in and take responsibility from there” (35).

During TreatyEd Camp, I attended a session that was focused on implementing Treaty Education within the classroom. They provided various resources that I can use as I move through my internship and eventually enter the workforce. These resources are being continually added to and updated. However, the resources tended to focus on integrating Treaty Education into a Social Studies class or English class. I hope as I move through my university education I gain more resources that will aid me in teaching Treaty Education within my biology, chemistry and physics courses. With creativity anything is possible.

I will admit that integrating TreatyEd into my teaching is an idea I currently struggle with. Additionally, I struggle viewing myself as a “treaty person”. I hope to continually dig deeper into my feelings about this and exit university with a broader perspective on the need for TreatyEd and FNIM Content. This is something that I will continually have to address, explore, and educate myself on. I am a work in progress.

 

 

Finding our “Place”

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:

  • 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.
  1. How might you adapt these ideas to considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

 

The research project conducted by Restoule, Grunner and Metatawabin and outlined in the article, Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing was undertaken for a variety of reasons. The goal of the project was to re-establish a connection between the youth of the Fort Albany First Nation with not only their Elders but with their community, the environment and the concept of land. This, and much more, was achieved.

The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines decolonization as, “The action or process of a state withdrawing from a former colony, leaving it independent”. I find this definition to be very sterile. It fails to account for the effect that colonization had on the people of the area. Several times throughout our studies, we have learned how colonization has caused Indigenous communities to lose their language, their way of life and their unique culture. Therefore, the definition in the article where Gruenewald (2003) that states that decolonization “…also depends on recovering and renewing traditional, non-commodified cultural patterns such as mentoring and intergenerational relationships” (74) is far more inclusive of the greater intention of decolonization. Several examples of this appear during the course of the study. It began with the very design of the project when the parameters and scope were developed based on the involvement of local community members. This helped ensure that the project would reflect the changes and learning they wanted to address. During the project and 10-day river trip, participants reconnected with their culture and heritage by documenting the history of the Cree people in relation to the bordering Albany river, learning traditional place names for many of the communities on the river, discovering how the river provided a spiritual connection for many and how the river provided for the “social and economic well-being” (75) of the past and present community. These results were far more reaching than the authors imagined.

As a science major, with the goal of teaching at a secondary level, I am often conflicted in how I can include these ideas in my teaching. Some of this stems from the previous learning I have had. In both high school and university, there has been little exposure to the inclusion of Indigenous teachings as they relate to science or the concept of place in my science classes. Therefore, it has been difficult for me to see it in practice and therefore apply it to my classes. Additionally, I view science as a series of facts, that when related to each other produce a measurable outcome. I find the idea of “place” to be less concrete, more determined by each individual, and difficult to connect to the more rigid ideas around science.  It is important that I develop my skills and expand my learning so that I do not continue the practice of “skipping over” the concept of place in my future teaching.

The Politics of Curriculum

Before the reading: How do you think that school curricula are developed?

After the reading: 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?

Prior to reading the article, Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools, I believed school curricula to be developed by a series of individuals such as professors, teachers, specialists, federal officials, school boards, and others. They would discuss (argue) the topics only to come to a perfect, tidy conclusion that is easily implemented within the school system. I’ll admit, I’m an optimist.

After reading the article, it is clear to see that there are far more factors and contributors than previously believed.  Developing and implementing curricula is extremely long-winded, politically charged and messy. Truthfully, I never really put much thought into how long the development and implementation process of curricula took. I thought it consisted of 3 easy steps: shaping, developing, and implementation. I never really took the time to consider how twisted, interconnected, overlapped, and complicated these steps are. Reading this article gave me a greater appreciation for this process. As outsiders, it easy just to question and be upset over what is wrong with curriculum (outdated, vague, etc). Reading the article gains insight into the inner working of developing curricula. While we don’t have to accept the decisions made surrounding curriculum or how long it takes, we have to understand that the process isn’t an easy, neat one to navigate.

Additionally, this reading opened my eyes to the politics behind school curriculum. I knew it was there, but didn’t realize how prominent it was. Politicians have a great amount of power, and with that power they have the ability to alter policies and the curriculum as they see fit. However, political leadership will prioritize public opinions and the views of leaders in key sectors over specialists and teachers. This is because they want votes; that is their job, and they will do whatever it takes to please the individuals voting for them. Due to this, topics that people feel passionate about often lead to politicians working to please the majority. Unfortunately, one of these topics is education. Everyone believes they have a valid opinion in regards to education, because almost everyone has gone to school. This is very different when compared to other political issues, as not everyone has knowledge on the topics, so they do not speak on it (as loudly). School is not the same. As said in the article, “any issue that is politically contentious can also turn into a curriculum dispute” (15).  A great example of this is sex education in Ontario schools. In regards to this topic, people feel passionate about to what extent it should be taught or even if it should be taught in school; it is very black and white. Depending on who is in office, results in the change of curriculum we see. A case in point would be the removal of the sexual education standards that were implemented under Kathleen Wynne, to an interim model that is more moderate. While developing the curriculum there are so many voices screaming to be heard that the voices that matter are often muffled. These voices are the students and teachers. These are the ONLY people that the curriculum directly affects and needs to be taken far more into consideration.

Something that I find concerning about how school curricula is developed is how there are so many opinions contributing to the development of the curriculum that really have no business in doing so. Additionally, there is a large gap in the relationship between “the formal curriculum and real teaching and learning practices in schools” (17). The policies/curriculum being emplaced usually does not correlate well with what students and teachers are actually going through. The specialists, politicians, and overall community are not present in the classroom everyday; only the students and teachers are. So although theoretically their ideas about the given curricula may be “right”, the transmission of that curriculum in the actual classroom may not be reality.

Curriculum decisions and changes are not easily made. They are “shaped in large measure by other considerations-ideology, personal values, issues in the public domain, and interests” (22). The scope of how these decisions are made and the issues that arise from them is huge. It is imperative that the decisions made reflect the needs of those who are being directly affected: students and teachers.

The Good Student

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the common sense? Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student? What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these common sense ideas?

Good listener, motivated, hard-worker and enthusiastic are the first qualities that come to mind when I think of what a good student is. This follows along closely to Kumashiro’s article on what it means to be a “good” student according to the common sense. Kumashiro describes a good student as someone who doesn’t question or criticize the teacher’s practice, listens, never misbehaves, is quiet, and easily catches onto the material.
In the article, Kumashiro discusses two students he had, known as M and N who challenged his ideas on what it means to be a “good” student. As described in the article, M, a student at the daycare he worked at, “…did not follow instructions well”, “…would have difficulty listening quietly to the speaker at the museum or following the rules at the hands on science exhibit”, “…was restless if required to sit for too long and rowdy if required to sit quietly for too long”, and “…often spoke loudly”. Similarly, N, a student Kumashiro had in a high school class, caused grief as he continually questioned why the material was being taught and why it was being taught a certain way. For example, “N quite often asked if I actually thought that what we were reading was interesting, or whether I was teaching it just because I had to” and “would get frustrated with the notion that some ways of interpreting the book were more correct than others and that those correct ways were the ones that mattered on the standardized exams”. We all know classmates, or students that behave this way. Often they are labeled as the trouble-makers or challenging. According to the common sense these are the types of students you hope you never have to deal with and encounter. Why is this? Why don’t we want to be challenged? Short answer: it’s tiring. Long answer: it requires us to reflect on how we teach, what our own expectations are, and whether we are meeting the needs of our students.

This narrow definition of what a good student is benefits some students, while depriving others. We reward the students that are able to learn in the “traditional” manner, and who understand the expectations in the classroom. These are typically individuals who have grown up in our society and are “pleasers”. They are aware of our cultural norms with respect to being respectful, polite, and how to act among others. If you were to transplant most Canadian students into a school in Japan, we would most likely be seen as disruptive and lacking a strong work ethic.
Canadian classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse. This diversity makes it difficult to achieve the narrow criterion of being a “good” student. Teachers need to take the time to learn that the word “good”, is subjective, requiring a willingness to adapt without giving free reign in our classroom. We need to be aware that labeling students, good or bad, should be avoided.
Due to these “common sense” ideas, we fail to see the talents and abilities that students have. We also fail to give them the opportunity to develop into well rounded individuals who can think critically, express those ideas, listen to differing opinions, and draw their own conclusions. We say that we are trying to create students who can think for themselves; however, most of us have been in the situation where we have submitted an assignment, expressing and supporting our ideas on a topic, only to receive a poor grade because it didn’t match what the teacher thought, or what the answer key said was correct. This common sense mindset tends to funnel us into a narrow way of viewing the perfect student and stifles individual thought and expression. It makes it impossible for students to think outside the box. Teachers need to realize that there is more than one “correct” way to meet expected outcomes. Everyone is capable of learning. It takes a good teacher to find that way. There are no bad students, just teachers who have not found a way to reach them.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”- John Dewey

Choose a quotation related to education. It might be a quote from lecture, a quote from the list posted here, or a quote you found independently. In a post, unpack that quote. Think about what it makes possible and impossible in education. What does it say about the teacher, about the student? How does it related to your own understandings of curriculum and of school?

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” – John Dewey

 

John Dewey was a primary figure in promoting educational reform in the late nineteenth century. He advocated Progressive Education; an instructional theory that emphasized learning through experience, developing critical thinking skills, and creating lifelong learners who were socially responsible.

John Dewey’s idea that life and education are linked rather than one being dependent on the other opens up the possibility to a multitude of learning opportunities for all students and teachers. Educators are trying to create global citizens who will be passionate about causes that interest them. The best way to achieve this is by introducing some basic skills that students can use to develop their own processes. When children are allowed to explore from a young age, an inquisitive spirit is sparked in them that will help them be eager to continue to learn long after they leave school.

This mindset of individualized learning, geared towards topics that interest students, changes the role of the classroom teacher. Teachers are no longer someone who dispenses information but rather become a facilitator of learning. They now have the job of ensuring that the topic or curriculum introduced each year expands on the previous year’s material and that students have some area of focus.  Additionally, it encourages teachers to continue to learn as they have to adapt to the changing needs and interests in the classroom.

An area of concern is that if you approach all subjects with the viewpoint Dewey has; curiosity  based with limited memorization or recitation, there will be a lack of interest/curiosity in topics that are, in my opinion, important to learn. These would include such fundamentals as reading, spelling and math. Most children are not naturally curious about learning multiplication facts or spelling. In order to gain mastery of these things, recitation and teacher delivered learning is necessary.

As someone who enjoys learning and exploring new topics that interest me, I relate strongly to this quote by John Dewey. I believe education should extend outside the four walls of the classroom and include more than just the fundamentals of reading, writing and math skills. This love of learning was passed on to me by my parents. They encouraged the pursuit of a formal education as they realized that this is how success is often measured in society. However, they really prioritized learning outside of schoolwork by actual doing and seeing. Whether it was through travel, completing outside projects or service work, I was provided the opportunity to apply and expand the skills I had acquired in the classroom.  This “hands on” approach allowed me to link “what I know” with “how to use it”. Who knew that I would one day need to use the Pythagorean Theorem to create the right slope for the dog house roof! Life really is the best classroom and gives us the greatest number of chances to learn something new every day if we allow ourselves to be willing students.