Curriculum as Numeracy

Oppression and discrimination are caused by an attempt to standardize everything and discourage diversity. My experiences of learning mathematics were somewhat oppressive because creativity was not valued. Only one right answer was allowed and students were expected to use the methods taught by the teachers. The successful student is defined as the one that can accurately solve math problems in a given time; in other words, good performance on tests. As a result, the focus was on the answer but not the process of problem solving. It is during the process of problem solving where creativity of each student can be shown. Each student might come up with different ways to solve a certain problem and all the methods should be valued by the teacher.

In Inuit mathematics, the importance of their culture and community is taken into account when teaching the students. For example, they have base-20 system and they use their own sense of space that is practical to their environment. While we use paper-and-pen exercises to learn mathematics, Inuit students learn it by observing an elder or listening to enigmas. This approach of teaching mathematics allows diversity and creativity. They also get to learn mathematics in their own language for first three years in school. They have mathematical terms in their language that would make more sense to them.

Curriculum as Literacy

Immigrating to Canada definitely had the biggest influence on how I “read the world.” I went to an elementary school with very diverse student population where I was exposed to different cultural perspectives. This made me learn to view things from different aspects which prevents “single stories” and its consequences. Despite my oppression as a non-White person in Canada, I am still privileged due to my economic class, sexual orientation, etc. These privileges make it very difficult to live without biases against others because we want to feel comfortable by only seeing thigs through certain lenses. It is not enough just to be exposed to the diversity in order to unlearn the biases. In the diverse environment, we need to start by accepting that we are privileged in some way and recognize the beliefs that come from those privileges.

Because I went to a Catholic high school, a lot of things were taught from White people’s perspective. The textbooks barely had Indigenous perspectives or other cultures’ beliefs and values. This led to many students having stereotypes against other race, especially Indigenous people. Throughout my schooling, Indigenous people’s truth certainly did not matter as much as the White people’s until I took Native Studies 30. This was the only course in high school that carefully examined the Indigenous people’s perspectives and where their truth mattered. We were taught valuable lessons about Indigenous people from their perspective which helped us realize that “single stories” can be very dangerous.

Curriculum as Public Policy (Levin)

The school curricula are developed, revised, and implemented by many parties through complex process. Different groups of people that can provide different points of view on curriculum take part in the process in order to agree on the curriculum that can best guide students in their learning experience. While expert opinion matters, the public also has great influence on curriculum. The goal is to create a curriculum that include important information for students to learn in each grade level. One thing that surprises me is the number of different parties that influence curriculum development. This includes politicians, parents, teachers, principals, subject matter experts from schools and universities, postsecondary institutions, and even business groups. The rationale behind this is to ensure to find a balance between each party’s specific need and desire from the curriculum.

The first couple pages of the Treaty Education document acknowledges many people that contributed to the development of the curriculum. It is clear that many different perspectives are included in the process including experts from postsecondary institutions and Indigenous people. This helps students to learn what is believed to be the most important for them. The curriculum document also indicates specific goals that need to be met by the end of Grade 12. However, there is still controversy on the amount of time that should be spent on subjects like Indigenous Studies. There might have been tension due to such a limited time to teach Indigenous Studies while there are plenty of topics to discuss.

Treaty Ed

The purpose of teaching Treaty Ed or FNMI Content and Perspectives is more than simply teaching students to acknowledge that we are on Indigenous people’s land. We need to engage students with Canadian history that led to current situation through Treaty Ed. Even when there are few or no First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, Treaty Ed matters because the process of reconciliation requires adequate knowledge and responsibilities from non-Indigenous people. In order to improve our relationship with the Indigenous people, it is important to face each other despite the historical divides. We also need to be aware of the benefits and responsibilities that result in sharing the land and honour the history of land.

We are all treaty people because we share this land. It also means that it is our responsibility to remember what has happened in the past and act accordingly. With the idea that we are on Indigenous people’s land, we need to respect them and their resources. We need to understand each other so we don’t harm anyone and believe that our actions in the present can improve our future.

Learning from Place (Restoule et al.)

The project aimed to bring Elders and youth together to learn about the Mushkegowuk Cree meaning of the land and the importance of paquataskamik to the life in Fort Albany First Nation. During the project, the participants observed the significance of Albany River to the Mushkegowuk people. The river is more than just a resource: it is physical, emotional, and spiritual significance to the Mushkegowuk people. For example, one’s deceased family members are buried near the river. The river is also used for fishing, hunting, camping, and children are raised on it. The river contains life, growth, and it brings the people and communities together. The Albany River teaches us what it means to live well with others in our total environments. Another part of the project was to promote the use of original names and Cree concepts to the youth. According to some community members, the Residential School had impact on the decreased number of people who speak Indigenous language fluently. It is important for them to continue to sustain their identity through defining values to their life in their own terms. Recovering intergenerational relationships and promoting traditional beliefs are part of decolonization in the project.

As a teacher, it is my responsibility to address different ways for students to learn from the history of our land and environment. Students must learn to respect and value different identities and concepts of land. This process is possible through teaching students about the importance and necessity of reinhabitation and decolonization.   

What Does it Mean to be a Good Student? (Kumashiro)

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

According to the commonsense, a “good” student is the one that gains knowledge that is favoured by the teacher and the school, in a specific way as instructed by the teachers. No matter what the student’s knowledge was prior to starting school, the commonsense approach in education works to teach students in a way that only values certain knowledge and beliefs. “Good” students in terms of commonsense are limited in many aspects as they are the models desired by the teachers, schools, and the society.

Because students are limited to certain knowledge and ways of teaching, only those who conform are privileged by it: it is very often the students that come from the dominant culture or the ones that embody the status quo. When students are taught and treated with commonsensical ideas, they do not seek the need to feel uncomfortable and then disrupt the norms. As a result, students and teachers keep reinforcing the oppressive status quo. This creates an environment where only certain group of students are privileged and considered as “good” students. Learning through crisis plays an important role here because it is crucial to recognize and challenge the oppression that affects many students everyday.