Blog Post 6: Inuit Mathematics and Single Stories

The most evident challenge of Eurocentric purposes and learning methods appears in Louise Poirier’s article, Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community. The article makes clear that the Eurocentric view of mathematics is that it is a universal language that should be the same no matter the context. The article refutes the Eurocentric view by stating, “Different cultures have developed different mathematical tools according to their needs and their environment”. That is to say, a culture’s mathematics develops based on how it must be used, and thus there is a diversity of methods and understandings between cultures. On a similar but more broad note, Leroy Little Bear’s article, Jagged Worldviews Colliding focuses on Indigenous conceptions of knowledge as opposed to colonial conceptions of knowledge. He notes that while colonial conceptions of knowledge focus on objectivity and linearity, Indigenous conceptions of knowledge are that knowledge is dynamic and should emphasize narratives and group thinking. He posits that the latter is the better option because there exists no Truth, only consensus. Again in Poirier’s article, it is stated that “The teaching methods used by most teachers in the North are not based on the ‘natural’ ways of learning of Inuit children”. By this, it is implied that the Eurocentric tradition of writing equations for mathematics is not effective for use among Inuit children, and that they should rather learn by observing elders and listening to stories. This should help them learn in ways that can be carried into their everyday lives, unlike the methods for “Southern Mathematics”.
Many “Single Stories” were present in my own schooling. By nature of the school I attended for my most formative and memorable years (an International School Abroad), there was a very diverse staff and student body. Narratives were present from over 100 countries, and I was exposed to these narratives often. The most prominent narratives in the schooling were that of Alberta Ed and the local ruling authority. Alberta Ed held the most sway in many ways as they mandated the textbooks and material studied, although the local authorities made censorious ommissions and added classes that would not be available in Alberta. Biases that I may bring into the classroom are that of a Canadian who was raised a minority in foreign countries, and maintains cultural ties to Canada. I might work against these biases by asking important questions about the biases and lenses present in the materials used in class, and focusing on challenging ideas that promote and continue oppressive practices and systems.

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.

Blog Post 5: Educating Toward Democracy

The most prominent example of citizenship education I can remember from my schooling was student body government. Students were elected to positions of President, treasurer, secretary, etc. The context in which my schooling took place was, however, very different from Saskatchewan schools. Although Alberta Ed. came to our school for inspections, and the teaching was based on Alberta curriculum, the government had much sway over the content of the schooling. There were noticeable conflicts in the ideology prevalent in Alberta curriculum and the ideology of the state, and the students also greatly differed in many ways ideologically from both. In light of these circumstances, the approach to curriculum in regards to citizenship was inclusive to many ideologies in many interesting ways. Our student body was democratic within bounds of the rules set forth by the school administration and of the state. Many of the events students wanted to hold were not allowed due to gender segregation, censorship, or other rules. While students were educated about the government of Canada and its operation, students were socialized to be good citizens of the benevolent dictatorship in which they live. For these reasons, students were overall educated to be “responsible citizens”. This approach made possible the transition to democratic citizenship with some limitations if one’s choice was to do so, or the continuation of living within the state.

Citizenship instruction can tell us much about the place in which it is taught. Because public school education is funded by the state, it is ideologically influenced by the state. When the state is given the responsibility to raise children, it is the best interest of the state to produce children who will most benefit the state. The model that the state and its representatives find most useful for their purposes, will, with some exceptions, be the model promoted by their representatives in the making of curriculum. Where schooling is privatized, the citizen model will be that which the parents are most likely and willing to pay for.

Blog Post 4: Treaty Ed

Good day,

You may find that Treaty Ed and First Nations, Metis and Inuit Content and Perspectives are an important part of education in Canada. Our collective history, after all, made possible our being here. Although European Canadian students are not aware of the implications treaties and other aspects of Indigenous and European historical and current relations have on their lives, they are affected by such things each day in many ways. Certain narratives may be ingrained in their practices and personal traditions, which we refer to as “commonsense”, that they would be well served to acknowledge and ultimately challenge. It is important for students to understand their history and cultural context, so that they may take an active role in shaping the future in terms of the past. Without such knowledge, mistakes as previously made are bound to repeatedly occur. If student understand how they an others are racialized and culturalized, they can choose to be more understanding and inclusive. As is often said, “We are all treaty people”. Treaties shape our way of life in Canada, as they are living documents that represent and conduce to ongoing agreement and discussion between European Canadians and Indigenous peoples. To maintain a forward trajectory in the path to truth and reconciliation, students need to be aware of not only the contents of the documents, but their historical and cultural context, the contemporary implications of such facts, and made aware of options for their moving forward in light of these things.

Best Regards.

Chambers C. (2012) “We are all treaty people”: The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies. In: Ng-A-Fook N., Rottmann J. (eds) Reconsidering Canadian Curriculum Studies. Curriculum Studies Worldwide. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Blog Post 3: Politics in Curriculum

According to the Levin article, school curricula are developed through the political process. This process involves experts in the fields of study, experts in education, officials in education ministries in government, political lay persons, and lay persons. Curriculum is implemented by the teachers, but methods are influenced by government policy. I was surprised to read the extent to which non-experts in government influence what happens in schools, an aspect of curriculum development that might be disturbing to some. I was also surprised by how little research and information is used in making decisions based around curriculum development.

Because I did not primarily go to school in Canada, I have little knowledge of the implementation of treaty education in Saskatchewan. What little knowledge I have is gathered from my one year of school in Saskatchewan, and my field placement in ECS 100. I have very little recollection of treaty education in my year of school in Canada, Likely because of both the placement of the school in a rural area, and my lack of interest in the subject being little invested in Canada at the time. During my field placement, much emphasis was placed on treaty education, and it was evident in many of the lessons as the lens through which to view the material being taught. Most of the decorations on the classroom walls were indigenous focused, including a medicine wheel, quotes from elders, and diagrams of Cree words and characters. A metis flag was also flying in the library. Tensions I might imagine were involved in the development of treaty education would be fear of accusations of White Saviourism among political lay persons and non-indigenous legislators, and considerations for making the material digestible for non-Indigenous parents and students.

Blog Post 2: The “Good Student”

According to “Common Sense”, a student would be organized, punctual, attentive, quiet, cooperative, agreeable, enthusiastic, and studious.

The students that might be privileged by this definition of a good student are those who fit the description above. These might include students who always have enough to eat, come from intact families, and live among a supportive community.

Historical factors helped shape the idea of the “Good student” in many ways. Before modern and post-modern educational theory, the understanding of what was important for students to learn and the methods through which they are to be taught was not developed to its fullest extent. Despite advances in fields such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and biology that challenge the educational status quo many traditions and habits continue to be practiced without critical examination. These practices include corporal punishment, rigorous lectures, and standardized examinations.

Blog Post 1: “Common Sense” and Curriculum Theory and Practice

In his introduction, Kumashiro both defines and implies definitions or his term, “Common Sense”. In the third paragraph, Kumashiro writes, “”common sense” or what everyone should know”. On pages XXXI and XXXII, Kumashiro examines his experience teaching practices in Nepal in comparison to his teaching practices which he had learned through his education in the United States. He notes that the teaching practices of those that practice teaching are seen as normal from an inside perspective, but as alien and inferior to outsiders. From this it may be inferred that “Common Sense” from Kumashiro’s perspective is traditional knowledge, passed unquestioned and unquestionable along cultural lines.
It is important to pay attention to “Common Sense” because unquestioned beliefs can be harmful. According to Kumashiro, “Common Sense” carries on oppression and the use of oppressive practices inside schools.
The curriculum theory and practice Kumashiro encountered in Nepal is best described, according to the criteria laid forth in Mark K. Smith’s article, “Curriculum Theory and Practice”, as “Curriculum as product”.
In my experience, the dominant curriculum model in Canada is also the “Curriculum as product” curriculum theory and practice. Closer to the end of my high school career in Alberta Ed, “Curriculum as praxis” became evident in many of the new teachers, however the prevalence of standardized testing (Diploma Exams) and other practices neccessitate an answer of “Curriculum as product” as the dominant curriculum model. I have little recent experience with the education systems of other provinces, and will withhold comment about Canada to avoid preconception and generalization.
The strengths of my experience of this model through the perspective of Smith’s article are that it is a product of systematic study; it analyzes skills required for various careers, and sets objectives to train the skills. It is systematic, organized, and standardized, and works well for efficiently organising production.  The weaknesses of this model through the perspective of the same article are that objectives are set outside of the learning environment, result are difficult to measure objectively, results can be different than expected, focus is often on parts rather than a unified whole, and is suited best for industrial applications.