Digital Summary of Learning

I thought of my learning as taking a road trip of sorts.  We started out by orienting ourselves after reading a passage from Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense and we ended talking about curriculum as literacy and how we read the world/what stories we learn.  In my mind, those are very similar topics but after a semester touring around the idea of curriculum as cultural and social practice, we end up viewing, interacting with, and unpacking the topic differently at the end of the course.  The very same way that traveling makes you notice things about home.  I explain it bit more in my digital summary of learning, viewable here.

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Reading the World

I very much believe that our upbringing and background shape how we see the world in more ways than we even realize.  I had an interesting opportunity to experience just how impactful it can be first hand.  It is pretty obvious to us that as a person in Regina, SK, we will have different viewpoints than someone who grew up on the other side of the world.  It is still even pretty easy to see that we will read the world differently than someone who grew up in North America but in a big city like Toronto or New York.  But small differences in upbringings can even make us read the world differently than those who live in the same city as us.  I am a white middle-class female in Regina, SK and upon leaving my home base of North Regina to work and live in the South and East ends, I experienced moments of almost culture shock.  There have been numerous moments where things were lost in translation – between white middle-class females from Regina, SK (seriously though, how??) Many times I  would refer to something, which to my childhood friends, wouldn’t even register a reaction, and my new work friends would ask me to repeat what I said – either having no knowledge about what I mentioned or because they were in disbelief.  A simple example would be helping my parents take stuff to Sarcan.  Some of my work friends have never set foot in the place and did not even know the public was allowed to enter.  Another example might be how shocked they were that at age 24, I had never tried sushi.  Or how I carry a pocket knife (as do a few of my childhood friends.) These situations were always funny though and good dip of the toe into examining one’s place in society and the privileges you may/may not have had.  If these are the people that I should have so much in common with based on age, race, and location and there are already so many differences (small often yes, but they add up), then imagine how differently people who have none of those things in common with me read the world.

I think that realizing this also helps to be mindful of single stories.  The story of two 20-something, white, middle-class females from Regina could be so different, so why would I let one single story represent any other group.  I stumbled upon a word one day while I was online that I think is applicable here.  I don’t think it is actually a real word but I love the definition it is given.

Sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

We often get so wrapped up in our own lives with our own problems, goals, etc. that we do not realize that every person has just as complex and rich life as our own.  If we try to employ empathy in all of our interactions, I think it would go a long way.  But that empathy cannot be expecting that their complexities are the same complexities as ours, we do not all share the same story.  We have to understand, especially if we are part of the dominant culture, that there are experiences some people are having that we will never be able to connect with because of our upbringing that the way we see the world.  But those experiences and how they will be processed are different for each and every person going through them.

 

Citizenship

 

Curriculum as Numeracy

After attending Gale’s lecture, I must say topics are certainly more interesting when someone who is passionate about them is the one introducing the topic.  I had never put so much thought into the connection between language and numeracy, probably because they are so segregated in our Western culture.   To me, although it was not my strong suit, I could appreciate math because it was the “universal language” that transcended different mother tongues.  Reflecting back on math classes, I do remember it being the sort of subject that you either got or not. But with everything, I’ve learned about differentiating instruction etc., that seems crazy that this subject gets treated like this.  The fact that alternative approaches are not usually offered is discriminatory now that I think of it.

I think examining the challenges of teaching European ideas of mathematics in Inuit communities may help to identify ways in which our traditional way of teaching math can be differentiated.  There are a few ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge European ideas of math.  Firstly, the Inuit culture is an oral culture.  Thus how and why they use and communicate math will be different from European views right from the get go.  Secondly, a base 20 system of counting is used (with a sub base of 5 – think digital counting) as opposed to the European base 10 system.  This minor tweak is pretty influential when we consider the mental math skills that we assume people should have.  I think the biggest challenge to the Eurocentric idea of math is the Inuit language.  “The Inuit tradition being essentially an oral one, the Inuktitut speaker is always mindful of being understood by others (we will come back to this in discussing the Inuit sense of space). Such precision in language brought the Inuit to develop several forms for
each number to mark the context in which it is used” (Poirier, 2007, pp. 57).  In addition to that, their holistic and spiritual/relationship world view presents itself through the language presents adding more complexity. “For example, using the word Atausik for one, meaning ‘indivisible,’ may hinder their understanding of fractions” (Poirier, 2007, pp. 57).  I think teaching Eurocentric ideas of math to Inuit students is seen as a bigger problem because it has never been experienced in this capacity.  I’m sure there were many contextual challenges for Indigenous students taken into residential schools but the lack of regard for the students meant that it was their problem.  As well, assimilating them and taking away their language and culture is certainly, unfortunately, one way to tackle the problem.  This leads me to end with a quote I liked from the first reading:

“They no longer had an Aboriginal worldview, nor did they adopt a Eurocentric worldview.  Their consciousness became a random puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle that each person has to attempt to understand” (Little Bear, 2000, p. 84-85).

 

Treaty Ed and FNMI Content

I think it might be even more important to teach Treaty Ed or FNMI content where there are few – no First Nations, Metis or Inuit students because the students in your classroom have no knowledge on this content other than what they have heard through word of mouth.  I think everyone can relate to going home for Christmas and hearing some very ignorant things from certain friends/relatives mouths.  Or take a look at the things that get shared on Facebook.  Although this does bring up another issue of visible minorities always feeling the pressure to act as spokespersons for their groups, but that can be tackled a different day.  When a person is fully immersed in mainstream culture, with little to no challenges to that immersion, this person becomes blind to the problems of the system.  This once again ties with Kumashiro’s idea of common sense (if someone didn’t understand why that was the first reading, there is no way they are leaving this course without understanding why now).

The idea that we are all treaty people is an important one.  A lot of times, especially in Saskatchewan, the only reference made to the treaties are derogatory statements about free school and no taxes.  I think treaty education should have a couple of components.  Firstly, I think a history of the conditions of First Nations societies before and after the treaties should be covered, specifically how Canada decided to “uphold” their end of the treaties – think James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. Secondly, I really liked the idea of “we are all treaty people” equating with a sense of ownership and stewardship of our home.  This is especially important in today’s climate (political and literal). I think that if we treat Treaty Ed and FNMI content as amended afterthought to our classes, that is very evident.  Students are perceptive; they pick up on the fine details.  Incorporating this content has to be purposeful.  It will feel forced and uncomfortable for the first bit, but that is how all new routines are until you get used to it.

Cynthia Chambers mentioned that there are no equivalent words for nature or culture in Blackfoot or Inuinnaqtun but instead there was just a word for home.  I found that to be a sort of profound statement that definitely ties in with our discussion about curriculum as place.  She then went on to discuss various ways that their culture was expressed, despite not having a word for it.  This section reminded me specifically of Brad’s (I’m pretty sure it’s Brad??) session called Rap is the New Buffalo.  He talked about getting students excited/involved in school by incorporating culture. He drew comparisons to Hip-Hop culture and First Nations’ culture by discussing how music, dance, language, and art are the main components of culture and how to use Hip-Hop culture (cause it’s the cool thing) to open discussions about cultures as a whole and integrate First Nations’ cultures into the classroom.

Curriculum as Place

 

The themes of reinhabitation and decolonization present themselves in a few ways throughout the text.  The river tour is an obvious example of reconnecting to the environment.  Another way this is exhibited is through the connections that were established between the youth and the Elders.  The Elders were much more connected to the land and its offerings and through the interview process were able to influence the youths ideas and beliefs about traditional ways. I think the greatest example is the use of Inninowuk language.  History has revealed that language is a key component to culture and culture is a driving force of beliefs.  The word paquataskamik is a great example of this.  We do not have a direct English translation for this word.  On paper, it describes the natural environment and our relationship to it.  I think the idea of paquataskamik can be explained well through this quote from a Fort Albany First Nation community member:

“When we hear frogs singing we know the water quality is safe for our consumption. We listen to the song of the birds to know what kind of weather is approaching. The moose will know when we need food and allow themselves to be taken. Such is the contract we have with the animal world.” (pp. 76)

Examining that word and its use (or lack there of) can provide insight into the discussion surrounding colonization and decolonization. “Paquataskamik is significant partly because it references a historical relationship to land which encompassed a much larger area than the reserve or family camps. This territory has been regulated, divided, and parceled by non-Inninowuk into Crown land, treaty, and reserve spaces, which has resulted in fractures and alterations to that relationship. The resulting effects of this for social networks, economic development, and survival are felt daily. When youth lose a sense of what paquataskamik is, they may begin to lose the connections that form the complex set of relations that bind them together in a historically and geographically informed identity. The focus on the word is an explicit attempt to retain a relationship to the rivers, the lands, and the communities joined together by them.” (pp. 77)

In regards to adapting and integrating these ideas into my classroom, I think as a Science major, there is a lot I can do.  At its most basic element, science is there to answer why and how things occur in nature.  There are many examples of cycles, feedback loops, connections and interactions between ourselves and the world.  This sounds an awful lot like examining our connectedness to the place we are.  There a quite a few outcomes that even have indicators of students going out into their community and examining these connections/gathering data.  I think a holistic approach to a science classroom will naturally incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and a sense of stewardship for the place we are, which both into the ideas of reinhabitation and decolonization.

 

Politics of Curriculum

Before reading/lecture:

I have never really thought about who decides what makes it into the curriculum or how it is decided, which, now that I think of it, is pretty crazy. This is a perfect example of Kumashiro’s commonsense.  Curriculum is what we need students to know. But why? Who decides? At this point in my reflection, I would say curriculum is designed to prepare students for university classes, but again, who decides what is learned once one is there? I do know that some professors that I have had have helped designed curriculum in their specific subjects so I believe they decide what level they want students to be at when they receive them at the university level.  This is interesting though because in theory school should prepare us for the real world and university is hardly comparable to that.  Additionally, at least for myself, at most maybe one quarter of my graduating class of 200+ attended university.  The idea of our schooling being designed to prepare us for something only a select few participate in is kind of ludicrous.

After reading/lecture:

This reading gave me a lot of insight into political processes.  Sometimes I forget how many people the government has to answer too and that it is impossible to keep everyone happy.  The article made a point that went something like, since everyone has experience in the school system , everyone has opinions on it.  This is one of the few topics where everyone feels qualified enough to make a statement.  I had never really thought about this but it is totally true.  Curriculum reviews and decisions almost always involve teachers and administrators but once those decisions get put up to vote is where things can get sticky.  Although we live in a democracy, a person with certain position may have a lot of influence over how the vote goes.  This is why it is important to elect officials with a up-to-date knowledge of the latest studies and findings and someone with real-life practical experience to position that oversee educational decisions.  One crazy thing to think about is that our education system produces the voters so if there is a flaw in the educational system it may be hard to overturn because that flaw helped to shape those voters.