ECS 203

The Politics of Curriculum Development & Implementation of Treaty Education

Prior to reading Levin’s article on curriculum policy (2008), I was completely unaware of the politics behind the establishment and implementation of curriculum. Levin explains that there are a number of groups who influence curriculum development. There are multiple levels of government involved in the development of curriculum, and individuals in office can have a significant impact on what elements of the curriculum are included. Curriculum development also seeks the input of teachers, administrators, parents, post-secondary educators, and subject experts. Levin states that experts are traditionally given the most authority in developing a curriculum, which can cause issues for teachers because “the product will be something that can be used effectively only by people with high levels of expertise” (page 17). It is important to note that someone being extremely knowledgeable about a topic does not automatically mean they know how to effectively teach the subject to others. Teaching is an entirely different skill.

Thankfully, Levin mentions that curriculum development today often includes less input from experts and more input from public opinion and parent’s views. However, this causes a new problem to arise. If curriculum development becomes too political, than it can cause topics such as sex education and indigenous history to be left out. While it is important to consider the concerns of the public, it is not beneficial to simply discard any curricular topics that spark debate or protest from certain parents. Lastly, Levin explains that despite the long process behind the development of a curriculum, the actual implementation of it is a whole different story. At the end of the day, individual schools decide what elements of the curriculum to focus on and what to leave out. Assessment also plays a big role in the implementation of curriculum, as topics that students will not be evaluated on are likely to be overlooked.

After reading this article, I am concerned to learn how much of curriculum development is political in nature. I am surprised to discover that the development of curriculum seems to be based on whatever makes people with power and influence happy, as opposed to what is best for the students and teachers directly impacted by the curriculum.

Saskatchewan’s Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators outlines the expectations for treaty education at each grade level and the general understandings students should hold by the time they graduate from high school. Treaty education was only implemented recently, within the last 15 years. I personally did not receive much meaningful treaty education until grade 11 and 12, as I had an English teacher who was very knowledgeable and passionate about Indigenous education. That was when I first came to truly learn and understand what the saying “we are all treaty people” means, fulfilling the ‘Treaty Promises and Provisions’ outcome from the curriculum (page 4). My other experiences, however, were not as meaningful. I remember that we would have a few questions in our math textbook that referenced the buffalo, beading, or other aspects of Indigenous culture. This was one way I believe schools tried to easily implement this new treaty education curriculum, but it lacks effectiveness because calculating the number of buffalo in a square field does not provide students with a deep understanding of the ‘Historical Context’ or ‘Spirit and Intent of Treaties’ outcomes.

I imagine there were tensions about what content to include in the treaty education curriculum since, for example, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and the Ministry of Education likely had very different opinions about what should be taught in schools. Having never received treaty education in their own schooling, non-Indigenous members of the Curriculum Sub-committee may not have even developed a full understanding of each of the outcomes being included in the curriculum. In addition, members of the committee would have had different perspectives that may have clashed, especially if some members held a Eurocentric or settler’s perspective on Indigenous history.


  • Thomas Duffy

    Hi Sarah, this was a really well thought out post. Thank you for sharing your experiences; like you I also did not get a true treaty education as part of curriculum but rather it happened through a teacher that was passionate about it. There lies the problem with it: unless they are passionate about important things like Treaty Ed, are they 1. going to teach it in a way that it makes connections to the students and 2. integrate aspects of Indigenization through their teachings because they want to or because they have to? You also brought up a great point about the bare-minimum effort to include indigenous content (I swear I also encountered questions like that in math). How would you go about making a class like mathematics (a very rigid and frankly Western-pedagogy-based subject) to effectively integrate Treaty Ed curricula? You also make a great point about the treaty education experience by the groups who were developing that curricula.

    • Sarah Stroeder

      Thanks Thomas! I am actually a math major, so I have definitely spent a lot of time thinking about how to effectively integrate things like treaty education in my future classroom. I think it is much more difficult with a subject like math, but not impossible. One simple way to demonstrate your belief in treaty education is to include posters or treaty maps in your classroom. I think including treaty education related posters and maps could be a great discussion point in a math class. Some students may be confused as to why you have those kinds of posters in a math classroom and question you about them. This is the perfect opportunity for you to teach your students about treaty education and why it is important to include it in all aspects of schooling.

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