Memories of bias

Based on my upbringing in the the Regina Catholic School system, the question of ‘how to read the world’ is usually entrenched into the students early on. As with most things young kids are definitely impressionable and those bias that exist can manifest into those young minds. Those kid can then exert those bias onto other, which if they are their own peer(s), then they are reflected back and reinforced to continue.

I have a large science background and in high school I attended many a class based on some scientific subjects (ie. biology or chemistry). Bias in the form of western scientific thought through the English language is the only means of curriculum transmission. No thought of other ways of knowing or passing knowledge. This is especially true on the near complete lack of Indigenous content during my high school experience.

For a long time, up till recently, new courses I am involved with have brought out a different way of understanding how people can learn and teach. As a BEAD student I never before had thought of differing teaching methods or methodologies and finding out the inner workings of the craft has shed some appropriate light on the subject matter.

My bias are clear. I have a bias in favor of the methods I was taught growing up in high school. Getting away from a transmission focus-based teaching and adding other competencies into science can be a initial step towards bettering my practice of teaching. Interfacing Indigenous content where possible can also be a significant step as its incorporation I find is lacking. Treaty education helps and benefits all people and striving to teach towards reconciliation is key. Something I was not taught but am eager to teach.

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When 1 plus 1 equals 1: rethinking mathematics for indigenous populations

In many cases math class is, or was, essentially the exact same for everybody. Counting and measuring were all integrated in a base-10 system drilled into our heads from the moment we can speak and articulate with our hands.  Mathematics is not a ‘universal’ language but rather a cultural construct used by different people over different times. Which is not to say that a base-10 structure of mathematics is wrong but it is the disposition that everyone can easily learn to use that way of thinking.

As mentioned, different cultures learn to use numbers in somewhat similar ways but with alternate foundations. Counting for the Inuit is done in a base-20 model in which 20 and 400 are very important numbers. As a way of thinking of it easier for me, a number say 30 is just 3 sets of 10 or in the Inuit system a set of 20 and a 10, which would a half set. There is still the same number but the groupings of numbers is differentiated through language.

Inuit language is not only the key to understanding the Inuit methods of math but also a indicator of time and space itself. Time is seen in a spatial sense in relation to the animals and weather/ climate around the community and the corresponding area in the year. The Western sense of years, seasons, and months are fixed and imposed on the rest of the world with the exception of some religious calendars. Unique words with the aforementioned suffixes are seen for even the perception of symbols on the landscapes of the northern Tundra.

In English, different words exist for different things but that is in stark contrast to how Inuit language is spoken. Language and addition math are used in conjunction when using simple words like ‘hole’. In Inuit, many differing objects like pineapple and lace use the original Inuit word for ‘hole’ because the language is derived by adding suffixes of words together.

Better understanding the Inuit can only ensure that they get quality education in mathematics. They seem to particularly excel in spatial awareness and deriving meaning from the environment. Tools and expressions that they, in turn, use to form their understanding of mathematical knowledge. Very interesting concepts.

 

we are all treaty people

In essence, teaching about Treaties brings about a shared understanding. Coming together to commonalities so that perspectives can be voiced and understood being the main goal. Learning about the history of Canada cannot be properly done without interfacing Indigenous content. Cynthia Chambers describes learning about Treaties as a matter of learning each others stories and furthering the relationships between the various peoples of this land. That is why everyone should be taught about Treaties as it encompasses us all even if not everyone of different ancestry is present.

For curriculum understanding I would find it worthwhile to interface Indigenous content and aspects of Truth and Reconciliation into the classroom setting. In class discussions about the resources and land that we occupy, class work either individual or group, bringing in elders and story-tellers, and cultural practices like round dances and smudging among other things can all be used as a springboard to help students to learn. But not only to learn about different people but to learn that they too belong and are welcomed within these circles.

Treaty Education Camp was a very good experience to be apart of. The Keynote speech helped me understand some of the issues regrading government land appropriation for mineral and resource extraction. Aspects like this went towards my Earth Science 30 critique. I found that the comic/ science fiction/ video games media presentation with infusions of creative writing and story telling through the lens of Indigenous thought was very good as well. These types of media are nearly ubiquitous in modern culture and the students may like to delve into interesting reading or media presentations with Indigenous twists.

What is important for your students is that they take away that Treaties are not just about Indigenous peoples it is about, what Chambers states, ‘old-timers’ and ‘newcomers’. We are all Treaty People so celebrating this element can further our progress towards T and R.

It’s not just a place … it’s a home

The concept of decolonization throughout the article is seen in some ways. The act of elders taking students on river voyages to allow traditional ways of knowing. Reconnecting with the land is in a way connecting with a cultures ancestral home. Resistance to any form of common sense and forms of dominant ideas is a form of decolonization in and of itself. All these indicate forms of reinhabitation and decolonization in the article. Aspects important to the Mushkegowuk nation, of northern Ontario, involve community, family and land. Elder to youth lessons are pivotal to a successful connection within the community.

Within science, inclusions of indigenous thought are very uncommon along the indicators. Even in some cases the indicators only account for how to moral dilemmas in acquiring certain rights for minerals and resource extraction off of reserve land. Incorporation of indigenous traditional thought on the use and processes of the land can be included with elders coming into the class to guest speak especially for the earth science curriculum.

The issues with curriculum

Before reading the article, it was my believe that an education committee was highly involved with trained professionals at the helm. They hand pick subjects and topics for the curriculum.

After reading the article, I realize that the committee is primarily not made up entirely of education professionals. Some business and industry leaders can have a say in what is taught. While students and teachers have no or little say in what is taught. Issues involving what is also added in the curriculum between various controversial topics like sexual education or religious studies. This is what makes it very political because it will eventually connect with some form of policy by the government.

 

Additional issues regarding commonsense – Shiro

What does it mean to be a ‘good’ student?

In short … conform to societies desires for you to sit and learn and to speak when spoken to.

What students are privileged by being ‘good’?

Students that are otherwise benefited, likely unknowingly, by maintaining the current learning and teaching methods. Those marginalized would be of differing sexual orientations, genders with gender behaviors, people with different cultural traditions and race.

What is impossible to see/ understand/ believe because of the ideas presented?

If everyone conforms to be a ‘good’ student then no one will question the ways in which they learn, challenge stereotypes, or more importantly the status quo. Providing understanding that is conducive to that of oppression and possibly unsettling feelings about critical theories about society are better then just building up fluffy things they already know.

Which of the Gardner intelligences are you?

The famous Dr. Howard Gardner, an American psychologist, once said, “Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences.” In this quote, Gardner states that even though we all learn and think in some different ways it is how we learn that can be molded to guide us along the way.

For educational purposes teaching or guiding your learners has to intrinsically be a personal act. Since you would have to know them to some degree to know how they learn through one of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Those intelligences include:

  • Existential
  • Linguistic
  • Logical
  • Musical
  • Spatial
  • Kinesthetic
  • Intrapersonal
  • Interpersonal
  • Naturalist

Which one of these do you fall under? I am intrapersonal.

https://www.literacynet.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html

Having the knowledge of all of your students intelligences within this model is hard enough to comprehend and even harder still to plan a lesson around it by seeking the same outcomes. The teacher would likely have to retain a general approach in order to seek the outcomes in a timely manner. Injections of special ways to introduce other intelligences in certain lessons may be beneficial to allow different pathways for learning the content. Students needs are categorized based on learning preferences in this model. This may lead to personal bias against students of say a musical background if the teacher had no musical talent whatsoever (aka me).

In my memory of school a general method of teaching was about 90% of the lessons. That being transmission-based learning with slight group work components for assignments/ projects. Of course, always a written test at least for the selection of classes I had taken.

Would you find it difficult or easy to teach in a setting that took into account differing intelligences?