Ideological Arts Education

You have been asked to examine the curriculum of the subject area you expect to teach once you graduate. Re-read that curriculum with the frames of literacy presented this week: autonomous and ideological? In what ways are these two frames present in the curriculum that you examined? Which one is more prominent? Following Lihsa Almashy’s example, what changes can you do to connect the mandated curriculum to the students lives.

I am in my fourth year of Arts Education, with a concentration in Visual Arts Education. As such, I paid special attention to the Arts Education curricula (specifically the outcomes and indicators relevant to visual arts) and I believe that the current Arts Education curricula would moreso be considered an ideological curricula. The article states this about ideological perspectives of literacy:

“…more culturally sensitive. Literacy is a social practice, not simply a technical and neutral skill; it is always embedded in socially constructed epistemological principles. Literacy is always contested, both its meaning and its practices.”

And so, if you keep this definition in mind and take a look at the Arts Education curriculum, the first thing to note how few of the outcomes actually deal with creating art. Twenty years ago, the outcomes were largely focused on making art and less so about actually creating things from meaning. One of the three aims/goals of arts education is “cultural/historical”, which is where (as educators) we can bring in more critical content. An autonomous curricula in ergards to arts ed would focus more on creating art without exploring the meaning behind it.

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Addressing First Nations Content in Schools

Consider the following questions:
1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?
2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?

[If I was to respond as a professor to the student from the email, my response may perhaps go something like this:]

The difficulties you are facing are not exclusive to your situation, so rest assured that this is an issue that all Canadians are facing. You are doing the right thing in encorporating First Nations content. Your students’ disconnect is a product of colonialism; they are perpetuating the issues that they are trying to separate themselves from. Consider Dwayne Donald’s quote: “The way you think about the relationship (between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples) has a distinctive bearing on how you take it up in the classroom. …It isn’t an informational problem: If students are given a timeline of residential school history, that won’t necessarily improve relations.” Perhaps you are encorporating Aboriginal content in a way that still seperates it from other parts of your classroom curricula. After you’ve really reflected on how you are bringing Aboriginal content into your classroom, there are several resources you can consider after having really reexamined how you approach aboriginal ways of knowing in your classroom. Remember that Aboriginal ways of knowing are relevant for all Canadians.

-Take a look at David Benjoe’s Native Studies unit available at bit.ly/treatyedsessions under David Benjoe,Link. Mr. Benjoe is a professor at the First Nations university, and during Treaty Ed Camp 2016, he offered his own unit. You can possibly take things from this resource to use in your class, but keep in mind how to present it in a wholesome way.

Literacy as Numeracy

For this week’s blog post, we were asked to read an article by Leroy Little Bear describing differences between First Nations world views and Eurocentric world views.
1. At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

Oh, absolutely there were. In my own experience, people who were not naturally strong with mathematics and perhaps gifted in other ways (and this isn’t taking massive aspects of peoples lives like culture/worldviews/ect into consideration!) had an extremely difficult time succeeding in math classes. As a visual learner, I found mathematics incredibly difficult to internalize. Sure, there were graphs and pie charts and all manner of neat graphics, but none of that held any form of connection to quadratics or polynomials. For me, there was nothing more abstract nor confusing than the string of numbers and letters written on the board day after day. I was expected to accept things as they were; the one teacher who WOULD offer explanations about how these concepts came to be left me more irritated and confused than when I had first walked into this class. These experiences have left me along with most of my friends and family with an embodied distrust for mathematics. So I suppose, at its core, the mathematics classes I was involved with were discriminatory towards different kinds of learners.

Until I’d sat in and listened to Gale Russell’s lecture, I had never really realized that current-day Mathematics oppress groups of people through its absolute rigidity. I was thoroughly raised with primarily eurocentric values, and I still struggled immensely. I cannot even imagine how students whose cultural and worldviews clashed with the concrete rules of mathematics may have felt sitting through these classes if they were not one hundred percent compatible as a learner and individual.

2. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

-“Traditional Inuit teaching is based on observing an elder or listening to enigmas. These enigmas can be clues for problem solving in mathematics. Furthermore, Inuit teachers tell me that, traditionally, they do not ask a student a question for which they think that student does not have the answer.”

-“Traditionaly, it was for three and up that they needed words to express quantities. Their tradition being essentially an oral one, the Inuit have developed a system for expressing numbers orally. They do not have other means of representing numbers, they have borrowed their number systems from the Europeans.”

-“The numbers 20 and 400 are pivotal
numbers, as other numbers are built from these two numbers. The Inuit
have a base-20 numeral system.”

I think a good way to conclude this week’s session is to reflect upon a story told by Mrs. Gale Russell in our lecture. She told the story of how a research group was sent to a place like Kumashiro’s Nepal (though I can’t remember where specifically it was) and were tasked with investigating the local peoples’ stance on numeracy. Ultimately, they were confronted with a sheep farmer and asked how much the farmer would like in exchange for one of his sheep. When the farmer responded with “two tobacco”, they left and returned with four tobacco and offered to buy two of his sheep. However, once the farmer declined, they deduced that the people of this land were inadequate when it comes to math. They did not realize that the farmer did not accept their offer because of reasons they did not know of; they only assumed that he was unable to do simple math and left.

Exploring Philosophies: Will Richardson

With the internet and technologies available, much of the information students are required to memorize and understand is resting in their back pockets. I, as a human being with access to the internet, may type in any question and get some form of a result immediately. If we consider subject by subject, it will become evident that the system in place currently revolves around the memorization of data when it does not, in fact, need to be this way. Will Richardson summarizes this concept quite nicely in the following quote:

“Schools were built upon a fundamental premise that teachers and knowledge and information were scarce. That is no longer the reality.”

When I was still in high school, I remember being told by both of my grade eight teachers that “I shouldn’t use a calculator.” Why would they say that? Is it, perhaps, because when their math-related curricula was written, calculators weren’t available, and that having a calculator on hand would simplify the material to a point where the lessons could be complete in a matter of days instead of weeks or months? Who is to say. In history classes, our phones were also forbidden. We were required to memorize presented material in order to be able to fill in the blanks, reply to short answer questions, ect. I understand that there are some learners who, after having done the habitual “remember-repeat-regurgitate” process, learn the material more effectively. I also understand that, sometimes, the internet’s first few searches are not always legitimate. However, if I were to do a quick search of “What started the war of 1812”, several resources come up.

Perhaps, in this age of knowledge-at-your-fingertips, it may be more beneficial to perhaps change our systems to teach how we could use the technologies at hand better instead of outwardly banning them from class? I’ll explore this more in future posts.

Considering Ralph W. Tyler

In my ECS210 class, we learned about behavioral psychologist Ralph W. Tyler and his contributions to the American educational system. His theory was based on four basic principles:

1: What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
2: What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
3: How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
4: How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Despite these principles being thought up in the early 20th century, they are still being used in classrooms today. Even in my own schooling, I’ve watched teachers organize their plans like this. To understand what that means, however, I’ll explain these principles a little bit better.

Tyler’s rationale is simple; it is lovely in the way that teachers are able to easily structure lessons with a set of outcomes in mind. It is simple, then, after having chosen a goal, to apply it. At first glance, this one-size-fits-all model seems as though it would be a wonderful tool to use.

However, it may not be.

While the rationale is simple, it sets to simplify perhaps the most organic and intricate set of interactions amongst people today into four steps. Additionally, there is no nod towards students’ individuality. It sweeps all students into the same category and aims to drive a point home for every student…despite the fact that different students need to learn different things in different ways.

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What of the children whose strengths lie elsewhere?

Therefore, when these principles were applied in my classroom, more often than not some children do not learn as well as they could. Students that struggle begin to think they are stupid or lacking, when in fact their strengths lie elsewhere. Growing up, many of my teachers seemed to act on Tyler’s rationale. Their classes would be rigid, with children who could memorise and regurgitate doing well and those who could not fell to the wayside. Both of my brothers are remarkably smart; my youngest brother can swap out transmissions in vehicles while only being in grade ten, and my middle brother has a fierce understanding of cultural views and practices. However, both of them are dyslexic. Despite being able to teach even my parents about many things, their marks in school were low. My youngest brother feels that he is not intelligent, and my middle brother as an intense dislike for our Canadian school system. Neither of their strengths are even considered because they have no place in their teacher’s preferred outcomes.

Ultimately, I think the premise of Tyler’s rationale is wonderful…however, if this rationale was to be relevant to modern learners, it needs to be modified a bit. Perhaps a line between 1 and 2 that suggests considering how the lesson could be worked for a more diverse classroom?

A New Year, A New Class

As I enter my fourth year of university, I am faced with yet another class that requires teacher blogging! I cannot express how happy I am to have a blog already well developed. In regards to new content, I will be posting reflections and responses to in-class material.

On another note, I hope to be receiving my home PC sometime this week! Last week, I had to take it to the Computer Clinic because it was crashing often. Initially, I was to be able to pick it up last Friday, but other complications arose and I was forced to wait. Some good news, however, is that I have many drawings that I will be able to draw and colour! I’m looking forwards to this, as I have many new sketches to add to my “personal work” tab.