Week Five

Citizenship education was never a subject of focus throughout my time in school. There may have been some conversation on what citizenship means, or how people are able to become new citizens, however there were no conversations surrounding the idea on what it means to be a good citizen.  After reading Westheimer’s paper and going through the three categories, my education experience connects the most with the personally responsible citizen. Generally, we were taught “good” from “bad”. Learning that following the rules/laws, helping others when in need, being kind, being responsible, etc., were all “good” behaviours. As I got older and made my way through high school, I became introduced to a couple of teachers who set participatory citizen influences.

Being taught personally responsible citizen values creates mindsets to worry about oneself (to an extent). From my perspective, teaching students the values of the personally responsible citizen influences a “someone else’s problem” mindset, or a dismissive mentality. Take the example used in the article of donating food to a food-drive. The underlying intention of donating food is to be a good person and help others in need; however, after donating a couple cans of food, that person most likely carries on with their own life and forgets all about the cause. This can be related to what Mike Cappello stated in the podcast: “if we say the words right, we get to be seen as good people” – when talking about acknowledging treaties. We are entering a time in history where it is getting harder to ignore or dismiss social injustices. In the YouTube video provided for this week, Joel Westheimer argues to bring politics into schools, and suggests that children need to learn “that we all don’t agree on things”, and I agree with his argument. In order for students to become justice-oriented citizens, relevant social and political issues need to be addressed within the classroom.

Week Four

It’s troubling to hear about the difficulty and lack of respect shown towards treaty education in some classrooms and schools; however, I believe there are a several discussions that can be made to make the experience better for everyone involved. What needs to be addressed first is the comment from the Coop on the importance of learning Treaty Education – no matter what the student population looks like. This situation directly reflects the issue on how Canadian-Aboriginal relationships are perceived in Canada, and the disconnection between the two (Dwayne Donald). Even though there are no First Nations, Metis, or Inuit students in the classroom, if we choose to ignore the topic of treaty education, we are continuing to subtly affirm whose history and voice matters (Claire Kreuger). The consequences of sweeping the history of treaties under the rug not only repeats and maintains a colonial-dominant narrative, but also neglects the opportunities to decolonize and reconcile Canadian-Indigenous relationships. Dwayne emphasizes that “decolonization can only occur when we deconstruct historic divides and colonial past.” It seems bizarre to think of treaty education and Indigenous perspectives in a binary way: Treaties impact everybody – it is not an “our history vs. their history” discussion, rather a collective form of history that is every Canadian’s responsibility to recognize. From a colonial perspective, ignoring treaty education and Indigenous perspectives would seem like an acceptable choice when there are no Indigenous students in a classroom, however, these are actually perfect opportunities to discuss Indigenous studies/content and how treaty histories still affect all Canadians today – no matter what ethnic background an individual is. Dwayne also talks about the contrast between the lack of culture and abundance of culture between European settlers and Indigenous peoples. The importance of learning about Indigenous perspectives is to erase the idea that some Indigenous students have “learning difficulties”, when the truth is that settler ways of knowing, and Indigenous ways of knowing differ vastly in many ways, and this contrast reveals itself in colonial classrooms. The notion that “we are all treaty people” is vital for the curriculum being that they were originally created to largely benefit (and to continue benefiting) the settlers: “The trick of the treaties is that they both recognize Aboriginal title and extinguish it in a single sleight of hand” (28, Chambers). The treaties are a commonality between all Canadians, and once again, should not be perceived as a binary concept.

Week Three

  1. School curriculum and education policies are dependent on a number of things. The internal and external influences of curriculum decisions and policy making much reflects those of political and government decision making.  For one, depending on what the dominant societal values are, who the higher authority figures are plays a large role on the shape of the curriculum and education system policies – Are they dismissive towards change and want to stick with traditional methods? Are they open to new research and different perspectives? Do they give attention to the demands/expectations of the people? Education and curriculum decisions are made not only through individuals in the education cabinet, but the decisions also have multiple other political influences before a final decision or policy is made. A decision is never made from one view point – and some concerns and perspectives take dominance over others. Individuals who are directly involved in the education system, like principles, teachers, etc., normally have a say regarding the curriculum. There can be biases in some inputs – An individual may believe that their interests/area of study is worthy of more focus in the curriculum. The location of the curriculum plays a role in what decisions are made as well – subjects and areas of study that are needed for the current workforce demand will be pushed – Take the example of the industrial revolution: We saw the curriculum as a product become the dominant education model.  In today’s age, we may begin to see more technology/science classes being pushed in our curriculum as our society moves into a different type of workforce. 

I’m not necessarily surprised at the information given, however, the article was an eye-opening read. One thought and concern about how curriculum decisions are made is how emotion and personal beliefs can easily lead curriculums in a certain direction. It feels like we are sitting at a crucial time in history where we can choose to be progressive, or stick to more traditional methods and subjects.

Week 2 – What Does It Mean To Be a Student?

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense?

Students are expected to act and behave in specific ways which reflect the expectations of the school system and teacher.  According to common sense, a student’s goal is to fit the mold of a predetermined “end result” of learning established by the school system. If students (especially for younger students) have moments of heightened emotion or energy, these behaviours will be labelled as “acting out” or “misbehaving”. Students are expected to follow along with being told what to learn, how to learn it, and learn the correct way to display/prove what they’ve learned. To be a good student according to common sense, the “best” students learn every text/material that is provided and are able to recognize definitions presented to them. The “best” students use the desired vocabulary and formats that the teachers arrange for them. A “good” student will critique and explore the materials/texts provided in the particular way that they’re instructed to.

Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?

Students whose out of school experiences revolve around societal “common sense” beliefs and morals. Students who identify with dominant social “status quos” (ethnicity, culture, class, sexual orientation, etc.) and can identify with, and feel comfortable learning the texts and materials in class – If a student is content with the materials being learned in class (it doesn’t go against or confuse their own “common sense” beliefs) they do not feel the need to question or criticize what is being taught, thus, they will more easily be complacent to memorize the definitions, read the books, and write the required essays.

How is the “good” student shaped by historical factors?

The “good” student is shaped by reinforcing times of history. The “good” student was shaped for the needed workforce and religious aspects of the time. The good student is shaped by Eurocentric desires of punctuality, task-oriented, and not to question what is in play.

Week 1: The Problem of Common Sense

  1. The article describes ‘commonsense’ as knowledge that everyone knows in a society. Some examples used are knowing that a school year runs from Fall to Spring, knowing that the three main meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even daily hygiene routines like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. The importance of paying attention to ‘commonsense’ is the fact that our western ‘commonsense’ knowledge is not universal. Our knowledge of common sense creates a barrier and limits our perspectives on different ways of knowing/living. If we don’t pay attention to the common sense, especially as educators, we will continue to affirm some oppressive ways of thinking.
  2. Kumashiro encountered a “lecture, practice, exam” curriculum model in Nepal. The lessons were textbook-based with limited room for student participation or alternative/critical thinking. The pedagogy was described as an environment where the teacher is in complete control of the student’s learning experience, and the students simply consume whatever the teacher writes on the board with no questions.
  3. Our Canadian school system ‘common sense’ model focuses on learning separate subjects throughout different times of the day. Generally, there will be one teacher, sometimes with an assistant, guiding an entire class. Teachers are seen to be the ‘knowledge holders’ who unveil this knowledge to the students based on an organized academic schedule – “learning is planned and guided”. Students are generally encouraged and praised for their participation, and are often asked to work with their peers to problem solve or discover learning opportunities. Some advantages of this model is having a structured and organized system where students are able to have some input in their learning experience. Even though structure and organization in a school system can be great, a completely planned learning schedule with pre-determined learning outcomes can restrict a student’s authentic curiosity of a subject/topic, and can limit the ways in which a topic is approached and taught – all students learn differently and at different paces.