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Eurocentric Numeracy, and What That Means

But that comes from thinking that mathematics is always certain and that it’s free from relationship. And it’s not.

Gale Russel

Math is regarded as oppressive in how it is taught. I was discussing how it could be oppressive with my sister because she is getting a degree that is heavily math oriented. I, myself, was terrible at high school math and have no confidence working with it. An idea my sister gave was that they don’t credit culture they come from. For example, the number system used in English is similar to the Arabic number system. I think a lot of Western/European ways of thinking is shaped from the Arab world. There were different milestones and discoveries made during the Renaissance period (1300-1600ish) that relied on knowledge found and published during the Islamic Golden Age that took place while Europe was undergoing their Dark Ages. There’s a documentary that also shows that Europeans travelled to the Arab countries and saw how they jotted down what they traded and sold. They kept records, which is the basis of financial accounting. Europeans brought that back with them when they travelled home. However, it is not a part of the curriculum to explore how European math relies on Arabian ideas of how do math, and its underlying influence on the Western ways of knowing (if you want to go that far). Math is also discriminatory because it’s ableist. I have worked with people of disability and I noticed how there is an importance of writing down what you solve. If you are someone with a physical disAbility, you might find it difficult to hold a pen and write down the answer or work through the process to get do the answer. One of the smaller ideas I had was how confusing math questions can be at times. I felt that a lot of the word problems the teacher set us up to do where strange. For example, it wasn’t rare to see a questions like “Jimmy has twenty watermelons” in Grade 2. I would focus more on why Jimmy would need twenty watermelons. My sister says maybe Jimmy was holding a party, and she decided that teachers intentionally confuse children. This confusion helps children focus on what the actual problem is, and prioritize the numbers, rather than the confusing context. However, I think context matters. A child has more interest in situations they have been in or will be in compared to situations other people will experience. I think the idea of ignoring confusing contexts and just working with the problem is setting up children to not question their surroundings. Things have to make sense for them to learn. Another way math is discriminatory is when word problems only talk about European/Western experiences. For example, any word problem regarding clothes would be iffy. People around the world who wear other cultural garments (the shalwar, for example) would constantly have to adapt to questions about Susie has X number of jeans. No one wears jeans in rural Pakistan, so those questions would be weird and go against the value placed on modesty, in their opinion.

Based off of Poirier’s article and Gale Russel’s lecture, there are three ways that Inuit mathematics challenge the way we practice math in an European-influenced world.

  • One idea Russel introduces is the misconception that only certain people can do math, because it’s a taught way of thinking. The idea is that since it is taught, it is not natural and does not exist consistently through different cultures. This posits a strange idea that some cultures just don’t practice math. Russel claims that babies speak and understand the world in mathematical terms and logic before they actually learn to communicate in their mother-tongue. Math, then, should be natural and a normal way of communicating. The math curriculum, or the way teachers teach it, can make the subject strange and foreign. Poirier claims that there are six domains that are consisted to be mathematically literate. These six domains are: counting, localization (spatial intelligence), measuring, designing, building games, and explaining. Majority of these are skills that even three-year-olds practice without needing to be taught explicitly. One time, I walked in on my little sisters designing their own games because they decided they didn’t like the rules of the traditional games they played. Rules are important to them because they help the game go smoothly.
  • Russel takes away the idea that math is always certain, and doesn’t require context. Math is heavily influenced by the culture and values of that society, and is not something that is constant and stagnant across cultures. Poirier claims: “If mathematical knowledge is a social construction, then the learner’s culture and community will play an important role in learning” (56). Math is a social construction because math is a way of knowing, and ways of knowing are influenced by our understanding of the world.
  • Russel mentions that students often believe that math must be learned the European pen-and-paper way. This is not always the case. Math can be said orally at times. For example, math can be about building games. These rules don’t have to be written down as long as each member playing the game understand it after being briefed orally. If my sisters play a game, they don’t write down the different rules. They just discuss the rules and play. Poirier says that the “The teaching methods used by most teachers in the North (paper-and-pencil exercises) are not based on the ‘natural’ ways of learning of Inuit children” (55). Inuit children learn to speak either English or French in grade 3, and until then, they speak their own language. They interact with math such as geometry at a young age because they use it while working with their parents, and use their spatial intelligence to analyze the environment around them to tell them what is coming or what to expect from it. They don’t write it down on paper, or write extensive algebraic equations to prove their answers.

In general, today’s math is considerably Eurocentric and can be close-minded. This is not exactly what we should be teaching the next generation because they will probably be interacting with the world more and should understand the context and culture they come from so that they don’t generalize. Many students also believe that they aren’t good enough or smart enough to do math, when in realize, it is integrated with every facet of our lives. It is the Eurocentric model that encourages that mindset. We should then look at math in broader and richer terms than simply getting students to spout numbers and equations on a test paper, because math is so much more than a couple equations to put on a paper in order to get a passing mark. It is a language, and must be treated as such.

Treaty People

And this is the story at the heart of colonialism: the people whose land was taken away weren’t using it anyways. Well, they were not using it productively.

Chambers 27

When we look back at Canadian history, we usually don’t go farther than the 1800s. That’s when Canada began, we were taught implicitly, because that is how far teachers go back in the Canadian history classes. Chambers mentions something like this when she was describing her own ancestral history, which is Irish and Scottish. She says: “. . . it was as if their adopted country had no story . . . the story of their new home began with their arrival” (Chambers 25). If Indigenous peoples are mentioned, they are described as this alien other. They aren’t given the same treatment as the Western Caucasian impact on the history of Canada. In Social Studies classes, we usually have a timeline of events. First, there’s a Prime Minister. Then, there’s a railway. Then, so on and so on. One event leads into the next.

European countries, in general, are usually given more complexity and character as well when they are discussed in class. We are told that Greece was one country, but then go in depth describing how each city-state was different from the other, that Sparta and Athens were different. I can barely name some Indigenous tribes, but I think I could list out a couple of reasons archeologists and historians think that Knossos disappeared. A lot of students dislike Canadian history. They don’t want to learn about Prime Ministers. They want to learn about the Battle of Thermopylae, or how the Vikings lived. Perhaps it is just my class, but we like to learn about the distant other at times. Ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the Medieval Era have a certain mystique that eclipses them. We are intrigued by the Gods and Goddesses that were worshipped because we read novels about them. I remember when I was in middle-school, the book Percy Jackson was popular, which was about Greek Mythology. It was trendy, and all of a sudden, everyone knew the basics of the Gods/Goddesses of Olympus. However, the main reason we didn’t want to talk about Prime Ministers wasn’t because we didn’t care about politics. In today’s social media age, young people are active advocates for social justice and change. We didn’t want to learn about John A. MacDonald because we didn’t see ourselves in him. He was seen as boring, and if that’s all that Canadian History courses could offer, then Canada was indeed a very boring country, especially compared to the U.S.A (with their Revolution and Civil Wars).

I read a book called Clearing the Plains which is about Indigenous peoples before and during colonization. I found their ways of life interesting, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about inter-tribal conflicts. I didn’t know that some of the tribes had complex relationships with one another, as the Greeks did. I also wanted to know their way of life. What did they eat? How did they dress? What was fashionable? What was their education system like? I find myself stumbling onto videos that talk about the Aztec empire, or Aztec theology. Of course, we don’t learn about any of this in class, though I’m almost positive the average teenager would much rather learn about that than a railroad. I learned about the Silk Road, which operated like the railroad in Canada. However, the Silk Road has a grand title, and it is appeared to be political, powerful, fearsome, and a tactical decision between countries at odds. It’s cool. A railroad, though? What I’m saying is that a train is less likely to be romanticized that the grand Silk Road that connected the Eastern and Western worlds.

Indigenous history should be taught, because it’s Canadian history. You can’t just teach the end-tips of it; you have to go back to the start. I was once a hyperactive, anxious teenager. If you gave me a textbook on Aztec or Indigenous mythology and their ways of living before European settlers, I would have eaten it up. Inter-tribal relationships? I would’ve thought it was the coolest thing ever! And yet, I never got that because it wasn’t European. That is why I think Treaty Education is so important. I am not Grecian at all, but it doesn’t take you to be a part of that culture to appreciate it and be enthusiastic to learn about it. Treaties are vital if you want to explain how Europe colonized the Americas. Dwayne Donald goes as far as to explain colonialism is to deny relationships between other people and between yourself. This disconnect is part of the adolescent experience, so this phenomena is readily enticing to kids. They were complex as well; their ways of doing treaties at the start of their relation ship was different from how they did it in the middle of the Hudson Bay period, and the later 1800s and earlier 1900s. Inter-tribal conflict still existed during the Hudson Bay Company’s hold over Canada. How did they feel about the American Revolution? Why were some Indigenous peoples royalists? These are interesting, intriguing questions that leave kids scratching their heads.

The phrase “We are all treaty people” is tossed around, but what does that mean? Even if you yourself are not Indigenous, you agree and must abide by the promises made in a treaty of your given territory just by occupying a space in the land. I was conflicted by this. I come from a country that has negatively changed drastically by European influence. I do not fit in with the Western standards at all. Where do I fit in with all of this? Again, even though I am an immigrant Canadian, I am still a Treaty person because live on Treaty 4 territory. I am thankful I occupy a space this beautiful country. I feel terrible because this is not the country where my parents were raised. And yet, I am given better treatment compared to the Indigenous peoples. I have running water. They don’t. I don’t have to be Caucasian to be privileged. This concept is startling, but children are people who actively seeking out their identities. While educating kids on this notion, I would ask them who they as citizens. Once a teacher makes them responsible for building their selves, their more likely to take this topic seriously and understand it in greater depth.

Citizenship

I was always taught that a “good” citizen was obedient. A “good” citizen picks up the trash. A “good” citizen does what the majority legal party tells them to do. A “good” citizen can’t be a leader because a leader was not a normal citizen. A “good” citizen helps out the poor, the elderly, and volunteers their time to help them.

In K-12, there were examples of this “good” citizenship. Each month, our school focused on a certain virtue. These virtues were kindness, generosity, fairness, etc. Each week, a teacher can nominate a student from their class to receive a mention of their virtuous nature. Being a “good” citizen was turned into a sort of contest. Who could hold open the most doors? Who could stay inside during recess and clean up? Whoever could would receive a mention in the morning announcements. At the end of the month, they would hand out a certificate to everyone who got a mention. My Grade 6 teacher would do the same, except instead of a topic virtue, she would simply mention their name. She would only choose one student per week. At the end of the month, they would be given a golden star picture (made out of construction paper) with their name on it with “Keep up the good work”, or something to that effect. We would also have penny races. We were seated in rows. If your row was good, you received a penny. If your row misbehaved, then you would get a penny taken away. Being a good citizen there meant being obedient and not weigh others down. The punishment you would receive was not limited to the penny, either. It was the groaning and anger you got from the others in your row. In other words, if you misbehaved, the teacher could turn the class against you. My teacher in this grade was extremely kind, let me say. She was open to our ideas, was easy-going, was go-with-the-flow, and was a fun teacher. However, I don’t think she realized the full consequences of her penny race trick, even if it did work to keep students quiet and if it was, to be honest, a fun way of getting students to sit in their seats and be quiet. I mostly enjoyed the penny race, but then, I was obedient to the teacher. I’m not sure how trouble-makers would have felt.

This is called “personally responsible citizenship”. This is described when a “citizen acts responsibly in his/her community by, for example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, obeying laws, and staying out of debt” (Westheimer, J. & Kahne, J. 2004). In terms of curriculum, it definitely emphasized doing things the way you were taught. For example, you do math equations EXACTLY as the teacher did (show all work, do X number of steps only, don’t skip these particular steps, etc.). Once the teacher got to English, however, they would be shocked by how much people didn’t want to say their ideas. Students are taught that there was one answer for questions, so it didn’t matter to them how “interesting” their idea was if they thought that meant they were wrong. Being wrong was a humiliation, also. Students lack creativity and a proper voice and identity in that sort of situation. They also lack the ability to understand situations complexly. I’d say it was a major hit to the curriculum because the curriculum asks students to learn things at deeper levels. A personally responsible citizen is simply too scared to do that.

A personally responsible citizen, then, is driven by fear. Their main goal is to appease the higher authorities, despite the fact that higher authorities do not make up society. The other citizens make up society. Therefore, it would be natural to rebel and disagree and protest if it meant to improve the lives of those around you. You would still be a good citizen to others even if you can’t be a “good” citizen to the party that holds the most power.

Curriculum as Literacy, and Understanding Lenses

When students read literature by only certain groups of people, they learn about only certain experiences and perspectives, especially those of groups that have traditionally been privileged in society (such as White, middle-class men).

Kumoshiro, 2009

My upbringing was one that is mostly unique compared to how others are brought up. At the same time, however, they are very similar. I attended a public school in Ontario between Kindergarten to Grade 2. The school had a mix of races, but almost half of the class was white. The teacher was also white. We didn’t learn about Indigenous Peoples at all, and we weren’t told what racism was. In these years, I had never confronted racism. I had never felt like an outsider. No classmate was racist to me, now that I think of it. I think this is why I think racism is a learned concept. It isn’t natural or normal to be racist. When I moved to where I am now, I went to a private school full of people like me: Muslim. I was excited to attend this school because I thought that I would have some sort of bottom-line, some undisputed similarity, that would bind me to my classmates. I would not feel like an outsider. Indeed, I was not treated like one. However, in Grade 6, I was finally told what racism was. I knew what discrimination was at that point, but I never even heard the word “racist” until that point. I treated it like a bad word, something not to be said out-loud. I was afraid of the word. I was also confused. Could I be racist? Oh, but I was Muslim. I was a minority. I loved all my classmates equally. I was not born in the West, so I wasn’t really “white”. Could I really be racist?

My up-bringing said I was accepted. My up-bringing had this bright and beautiful perception of society that we can all hold hands and get along. That is what my teacher said we must do as students, so why wouldn’t people in the broader world do the same? I treated my teacher as this noble prophet, or as some sort of God, where their word is law. If they said to get alone, then we would get along. It was ordained. Unfortunately, teachers aren’t Gods. They are prone to mistakes. They don’t always know what they’re teaching or doing. For example, I wasn’t told what Islamophobia was until Grade 8 and racism until Grade 6. Why? These are mature subjects. But I am a Muslim in a post-9/11 world. This isn’t mature to me as it is an obvious fact. Islamophobia exists. Racism exists. And they’re two different things. For a child to live through them but not have a word to their experiences is to unacknowledged their oppression, and this can be traumatic. They might also fall into believing racism views, even if they are a person of colour. I had a very sheltered life, growing up, and I shouldn’t have. I see the world in rose-tinted glasses, and I am afraid each time I must take it off in fear I’ll be angry or frustrated of what I might see. I was raised not to be angry or frustrated at anything.

I will indefinitely bring these biases into the classroom. I think I’ll be afraid of branching out into different and complex topics of racism. For example, I’m always afraid of teaching Indigenous subjects for the fear I might be appropriating Indigenous Peoples or accidently being discriminator against them. I don’t want to be that white teacher that wants to bring their culture into the classroom, instead of their history. I also don’t want to be the teacher than selfishly doesn’t educate their students on a very real topic because of my own fears. I think: Well, my teachers didn’t acknowledge my oppressions, so I must not have to acknowledge theirs. This is wrong. The world isn’t rose-tinted, even if the glasses are. As a teacher, it is wrong on all levels to avoid heavy discussions, even if you were taught to do so, because the only person who finds it heavy is you. To the students, it is a “natural” way of life (you must teach them why it is not). I can work through these biases by doing a number of things:

  • Learning how to apologize for mistakes.
  • Learning that your students have a right to be offended, angry, and frusterated.
  • Making the classroom somewhere students feel safe to discuss these “heavy” topics.
  • Don’t introduce the topic as “heavy”, but say that they are complex.
  • Go to programs or seminars of decolonizing the curriculum.
  • Go to events that support movements regarding poc, lgbtq+, gender rights, etc.
  • Be unafraid to talk about ways the world oppresses you, and use that to link yourself to other students in the classroom.

The “single stories” presented in my schooling were the traditionally “uncomplicated” stories. It had to be mostly white, male, and (surprisingly) heterosexual/asexual/aromantic. I remember the only times it wasn’t so were stories in English classes in Grade 10 and 12. We focused on Indigenous works in Grade 12, but it sometimes felt like we were tossed into the subject without having an actual introduction of it. We had to write an essay on a work without any sort of resources, and didn’t know where to go to obtain Indigenous books/poems. Nonetheless, I am still glad it happened because I really like this one Indigenous poet named Louise Bernice Halfe. In Grade 10, we got a series of short stories that were still mostly heterosexual/asexual/aromantic but it featured a series of different races and game from the perspectives of male and female. However, things became different in other classes. For example, in social studies, we focused on the whiter aspects of history and Canadian society. In math and science, we focused on European ways of learning. Our teahcers, however, knew that a lot of the different math and scientific content we were supposed to learn came from Arabs during the Islamic Golden Era. One would think that in an Islamic private school, this sort of thing would be more emphasized, and they attempted to. There was a lesson in physics, for example, where we’d pick a Muslim physicist and talk about their contributions to science. However, this sort of lesson was not really complicated to understand and learn as students. This might have daunting for the teacher, though, because she might not have wanted to seem like she was trying to school or appropriate us on our own religion. I find that the “truth” that mattered were the uncomplicated ones. The teachers only featured non-white/male/heterosexual content as long we didn’t have a problem with it. If we did, they simply didn’t mention it.

As teachers, it can be difficult to incorporate content that is difficult for students and even the teacher to swallow. At the same time, one must acknowledge issues and not try to put rose-tinted lenses over the eyes of their students. The students will eventually come to the real world and will have to confront these issues, and is better if they do so in a safe classroom than out in public where they are expected to act/respond in certain ways.

Policy, Curriculum, and Culture

Politics is about power. Since not all can have what they want, the question is who does get what they want and who does not.

Levin, 2008

According to Levin, the school curriculum in heavily influenced by politics, and politics is influenced by a number of things. This is an interesting fact, since many teachers refuse to be political. However, by being a Canadian citizen and teaching other Canadian citizens, teachers automatically engage in politics. They insist students must be obedient and listen to the adult standing in front of the class, and this authoritative experience will turn students into uninquisitive, obedient citizens. They will grow to immediately obey the authoritative figures in a totalitarian society because that is all they know. Teachers practice their own political beliefs all the time, so for a teacher to state that they are removed from politics is wrong. Politics shape our worldview and people inherently look at situations, and their classes, through their worldview. To us, however, this belief is not called politics. It is simply “commonsense”, as Kumoshiro puts it.

The school curriculum is developed and implemented through the influence of the culture it’s raised in, according to Levin. Throughout his article, “Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools”, he talks about how the public influences politicians to create policies about the school curriculum. This public is influenced by their own culture. For example, a teacher is raised in Canada and grew up in a school culture that supported the mathematics and sciences over the arts, they teacher will go on to value the scientific and mathematic subjects over the artistic. People are shaped by the cultures they grew up in, some of these cultures are from schools, home-life, work, at concerts, in restaurants. etc. How they behave in all these settings will socialize them and force to them to have certain outlooks on education. Culture impacts the people, and the people decide on what they should learn.

The public, however, might be wrongly influenced by ignorant sources they shouldn’t trust. For example, social media shapes the political beliefs of the public. What the algorithm shows, or doesn’t show, to people crafts the type of experience and view they have on certain political parties. Remember that social media algorithms are made to show you what you want so that you keep scrolling on their websites and give them money. Many business owners, themselves, will use these tactics to try to get you to believe in a certain policy. For example, they may fund or push for programs that support their own markets. The public can, evidently, be deceived.

One interesting, and surprising, detail is how powerless Levin portrays politicians. When one imagines politicians, they view someone who is corrupt, greedy, and has an overwhelming amount of power to do what they please. The public can be manipulated by the politicians. While this may be so in many cases, most politicians find it difficult to manage public views. Many people are ignorant about political topics, and don’t wish to do large amounts of research to understand the whole picture of the topic at hand. There are also people who believe that their primary job is to oppose the political party no matter what. They also are under huge time constraints. Some decisions may take years to unpack and solve, but the public wants immediate results. At the same time, they lose interest in topics quickly, and won’t face the consequences of pushing their views onto the government. This is interesting because members of the public view themselves as powerless and oppressed against the lawmakers in black suits. Levin makes readers look at policy from the perspective of someone who was once a politician, and states that the power resides within the view of the people. This is causes reflection and humility in the reader, if she/he/they are a member of the public.

There are tensions in how Levin’s article interacts with the Treaty Education Curriculum. For example, the curriculum writes: “The Constitution of Canada recognizes and affirms the existing treaty rights” (“Saskatchewan Treaty Education Document”). However, the treaty rights have been existing for centuries. Why is it suddenly affirmed and recognized? It may have to do with the way Indigenous issues have been almost trending these past couple years. Now, everyone wants to acknowledge this land as Treaty 4 territory, the original lands of the Cree, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and the homeland of the Metis nation. Of course, Indigenous groups have been fighting for acknowledgement for centuries. For them, this is no trend. To make is so would be to patronize and neglect everything they have sacrificed, and all the hardships they worked through, and the traumatic incidents that they were forced to swallow and forget. Levin states that the power is within the people. Do “the people” not include highly marginalized groups such as the Indigenous peoples? I think what Levin might have meant was that power did not dwell among the public. Rather, it is held by the loudest and by those who can strike the most fear and anger in others. Levin said that the educated opinion rarely is the popular one, and many are misguided. Perhaps, the crude perceptions of Indigenous peoples in history are the misconceptions Levin mentions. Nonetheless, I can imagine a marginalized person being a little offended by Levin’s insinuation that politicians lack power. In their experience, they lack power compared to the “average” white, heterosexual, male/male-influenced citizen. The public do not wield influence. The strange culture (shaped by business owners, advertisements, individual experiences, social media, TV shows, books, friends, rivals, etc.) that prioritizes and privileges certain individuals over others is what drives the “popular opinion”, and this drives the curriculum.

On Returning

As part of the project, youth and Elders travelled together on the traditional

waters and lands, exploring history, language, issues of governance, and land

management.

(Restoule et al. 2013)

Identity is often shaped by our experiences, and our experiences are shaped by the people we know and the culture we grow up understanding. The place you are born and raised has a massive influence on your outlook on life. Someone born in a first-world country in freezing temperatures will understand the world differently than someone born in a third-world country with searing hot temperatures.

Indigenous peoples are bound to their land. Their spirituality is formed by where they are born, and their morals are heavily tied and influenced by their spirituality. For example, they believe in Mother Nature and Turtle Island, meaning that they will be more environmentally friendly and sustainable in order to honor the land. This is the case with the Mushkegowuk Cree. They are tied to the river, and have an emotional and spiritual relationship with the river. This river is called Albany River, but the original Indigenous name is paquataskamik and Kistachowan Sipi.

The Indigenous peoples has suffered tremendously from colonization. Europeans, for example, committed cultural genocide on them when they opened up residential schools. Not only did they force them to not practice their cultural customs and native language, but they also dislocated them from their lands by placing them in these schools. This made Indigenous people geographically displaced. They didn’t really have a home after that because it was brutally stolen from them.

Restoule et al. wishes to replace the Indigenous people in this article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”. In their study, we see the Mushkegowuk Cree returning to their historical river. In this manner, by reinhabiting the river, they return to their roots. This reminds me of a documentary called Dakota 38. The documentary is about the people of Dakota returning to the land that they were forced to exit. They return on the backs of horses, and they do this because horses are important to the Dakota people. The Mushkegowuk Cree do the same thing because they, too, journey to a place that their ancestors walked, built families, built their houses, created childhood memories, and experienced death. When they physically return to the land that is rightfully theirs, the take back that history and form a sense of identity. They have something that is personally theirs, and a heritage that they own with pride.

Many of the Mushkegowuk Cree experience decolonization in other ways as well. For example, we see how they actively try to protect the environment. This declares a sense of responsibility, which means that the river’s is theirs. If something belongs to you, your are responsible for protecting it. This is a form of giving back their land.

Another way is how they the Elders interacted with the young people. By doing this, they were “bringing together Elders and youth so they could learn from one another about the role
and meaning of the land to social well-being” (Restoule et al. 2013). This sort of intergenerational experience of returning is meaningful to both age groups. They can learn from one another, and understand how the other age experiences the return. The younger children also learn about their heritage and culture from what the Elders remember, and the Elders can experience what it is like to pass down your wisdom to the next generation. In this way, they are healing from colonization. This rehabitation of the river is what sparks the memories and wisdom of the Elders. After all, they recall their family members being buried there and them experiences birth and loss as well.

As future educators, we can learn a lot from this. We fully understand, or better how place impacts people’s worldviews and what they value. It tells a lot about their customs and social psychology. Teachers are not simply human versions of text-books. They are there to help students build a sense of place and identity in the curriculum. By doing so, we can make the curriculum more relevant and personal. We also understand how important nature is to Indigenous peoples, and why we must work to conserve the environment. To Indigenous people, the first educator is nature. Then, it is their families/friends/Elders. Then, it is their teachers. Together, we make children wonder at who they are and what they wish to accomplish. We can’t hope to do this if we don’t understand the background of our students. It also our responsibility as Treaty People to be aware of what was done to Indigenous people and be culturally sensitive. In this manner, we can optimize our ability to educate in a way that leaves a positive mark on Indigenous people.

A “Good” Student Defined Through Common “Sense”

“Was I bad today?”

“M, you are not bad. It’s just your behavior that sometimes needs to be better.”

“I’ll be better tomorrow,” M would say apologetically. And each time we had this conversation, I would leave with a sense of profound sadness that something was not right.

Kumashiro (20-21)

I think that in our society, a person’s goodness is directly related to their obedience. A stereotypically “good” child is one that listens to their parents. After all, their parents did birth and raise them. We won’t mention how expensive it is to raise a child. This “benevolence” must be rewarded by the loyalty of the child. Besides, they’re growing older, too. A citizen is “good” if they abide by the laws. In this way, they apparently ensure the safety of the society.

The “good” student in class is the teacher’s pet. They listen to what the teacher says, learns the material that the teacher hands out, and participates in their discussions. By answering their questions, the teacher feels fulfilled and productive. Most people agree that this relationship dynamic is oppressive. Yet, a “good” teacher is one that listens to the students. They are democratic and often “goes with the flow” in terms of class decisions. However, we see this teacher to be positive rather than unhealthy. The main reason for this is because teachers are the ones in power. Democracy has usually been about giving a voice to those who are usually silenced. This democratic “good” teacher is actually good because they give students the freedom to claim and control their own education (as is their right). A “good” student, on the other hand, follows the person in front of the room who has the power to change their grades. Often, these students might end up associating their grades with their self-worth, and believe complete obedience is fundamental and crucial to becoming a successful “good” adult. It’s not.

Obviously, some students have the privilege to become “good” while others don’t. If you have a mental illness, you might end up disrupting the class. Only bad students disrupts classes. If you are white, you are most likely to be viewed as “good” rather than if you were black. A girl is usually seen as “good” while a boy might not be, and this might have to do with the amount of restrictions already presented to little girls when they are born. They are told what to wear, how to do their hair, to not get their new dress muddy, to act “ladylike”, and be a “big sister” to the other children. If you have a supportive family, you are much less likely to cause extra stress to your teachers. If you dress nicely, if you can afford classroom materials, you are a “good” student. To put it into simple terms, those already privileged in our society (white, middle-class, able-bodied/minded), you are good. Being anything outside of these folds make you problematic, and being problematic would give your teacher a headache and label you as a “bad” student, as they have the power to do so.

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A “good” student is perfectly obedient. Like a “good” citizen/child, a “good” student rarely “makes history”. They do not advance the system, or push boundaries. Once upon a time, Martin Luther King Jr. was not a “good” citizen for his “problematic views” of racism. He believed black people where equal to while people, and demanded that notion to be exercised in the daily society. In the Pixar movie Brave, the main character Merida struggles to be a dutiful, obedient, “good” daughter. If we restrict the Merida’s and the King Jr’s of our classes, we lose out on the opportunity of raising future leaders. We must erase the conceptions of the “good” student because it is detrimental to both those privileged to be “good” and those who are not. We lose out on future artists, geniuses, activists, etc. Potential exists in all student. If a teacher is able to see and grow that potential, they aren’t “good” teachers. Their regular teachers doing a good job.

Critical Summary

“In a hyperdigitized, globalized twenty-first century context, it is ironic that, even as East-and-West, the global North-and-South get ever closer, evermore obviously interdependent, it seems to get harder and harder actually to cross borders and engage differences of culture, history, race, religion, and nation.”

Asher 1

I knew from the get-go that this article would make for an excellent critical summary. I feel like the effects of colonization are not fully understood as it could be.

Nina Asher’s article “Writing Home/Decolinizing Text(s)” draws in on aspects of feminist theory, as well as how Western society has adapted to living in a post-colonial world. Both of these aspects reflect harshly in the education system, so it is worth picking at. Asher makes the case that colonization is, in some forms, a masculine trait. I think it relates to toxic masculinity rather than masculinity overall (since some masculinities are healthy and well-adopted by males and females) but that is just my personal opinion. Asher writes her article in story-form as well, so it will be an easy and interesting read. I would rather read a story than a list of statistics, though the latter is often helpful.

The only problem I have with the article is that it was written in 2009. Obviously, attitudes towards colonialism has changed. More people have acknowledged it recently, and social justice is being more exercised. It would be interesting to compare Asher’s article with a more recent one to see how they compare and whether Asher’s ideas still hold true and to what degree. The article she writes has to do with southern U.S.A. I think it would be helpful to compare it to Canada, and see what might be different of similar between the two educational systems. In her article, she claims she worked with students who didn’t really know what the Vietnam War was. I knew from grade 8. Though we didn’t learn it in depth, we watched a documentary about in in our class. We understood how that impacted the ’70 anti-war activism, and how we (as a society) remain generally anti-war because of that. Perhaps the curriculum in the U.S.A is slightly more problematic than Canada’s, and might require more room for growth.

While writing a critical summary, I will have to limit my own opinion. I might find this difficult since I am well-aware of the effects of colonialism and how it shapes the curriculum before I even read the article. Nonetheless, I am still excited to summarize/synthesize the information in a way that makes sense. This is a topic I am invested and interested in, so this will be an exciting assignment.

Nina Asher (2009) Writing home/decolonizing text(s), Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 30:1, 1-13, DOI: 10.1080/01596300802643033

Curriculum

“Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities” (1918: 42).

The Tyler rationale is the curriculum made in the assumption that all children are naturally equal in terms of intelligence and learning capabilities. Although this is problematic now, this view made a lot of sense to people back in the day.

Ways I Experienced It

He believed in what is the modern-day syllabus. He was intent on the idea that we can form a path for children to succeed. He relied heavily on the product of the lessons rather than the lessons themselves. A lesson was “good” if students did well on the test provided, which served as the product of the teacher’s lessons. I think many of us have experienced the Tyler rationale in our school years. I particularly see them in effect in math classes. Many of the questions were not adjusted to suit students capabilities in my school. We would all do the same twenty questions. We were also given many tests, and they would indicate whether we did a good job or not. It was also almost completely written into stone about how the course would be like. There were not adjustments to that. The teacher might jump around the units but they would do so it if suited them.

Major Limitations

There are many problems one can find in the Tyler rationale. It’s very strict in a sense that there it wasn’t necessarily expecting the curriculum to change over time. It might have made sense at that time to shape the curriculum like they did, but it doesn’t make much sense nowadays. There is, “…no social vision” ( Smith 3) and was built in the assumption that, “…behavior can be objectively, mechanically measured” (Smith 5). It matched a behaviourist image of how people learn, that one could objectively control how they behaved and learned. Nowadays, I find that many teachers take a more of a humanistic approach rather than the behaviorist approach.

Benefits

There were some positives in the rationale. It created what I recognize to be the current way of structuring lesson plans. He mentions a seven step plan which includes diagnosing what students need, organizing content, and organizing them. We do this with the current Saskatchewan curriculum – we have objectives and indicators, choose the content, and organize it into units and individual lessons. The rationale was also shaped to prepare students for the workforce at the time. Smith says, “…[there was] detailed attention to what people needed to know in order to work, live their lives” (3). For example, students sit in rows to match how people sat in factories because they assumed that’s where they would choose to work and would prepare them for it. However, this leads back to a main problems of applying the rationale today. The workforce does not need factory workers, as they have been replaced by machines. Instead, we need children who can innovate and think critically. A humanist approach can solve this, rather than a behaviourist. The workforce demands for children to think creatively, not conform. Indeed, Western society as a whole has decided that conformity was not always useful since it would mean conforming to a society that was inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. In some ways, we can still apply it. For example, teaching kids Practical and Applied Arts or putting a focus on Workplace and Apprenticeship subjects would help “live their lives”. They are practical subjects that teach children how the world around them works and would overall help them become more self-reliant adults. Again, the idea is good but the way Tyler applied it is outdated.

In general, I would largely agree that viewing the curriculum as a process is far more productive, in an ironic way. It doesn’t suit the demands of the society we live in today. We are spiraling into an era of technology and innovation. Also, with the rise of environmental problems like climate change, the future of the world rests squarely on the assumption that today’s children are creative but critical thinkers.