For my final learning module in PME810, I am asked to journal about my connections to an online community about an area of practice in which I am interested. I wrote previously about the lack of a suitable online forum/blog/discussion group for my area of interest.

I’m left with this “what would I do” proposition instead of “what I actually did.” And – just to throw another wrench into these course/assignment requirements – I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to pretend to write a post on a non-existent blog, I’m going to use this site as the forum. You are all invited to participate in the discussion.

On to it…

I have been asked to educate those in my professional community about the conceptions of curriculum, educational philosophies, curricular designs, planning, instruction, and evaluation. Specifically, how do the above terms relate to the teaching and delivery of indigenous issues?

Let’s start this examination with a viewing of 500 Years in 2 Minutes starring Wab Kinew (one of two candidates vying to be the next leader of the Provincial NDP party in Manitoba). What can this short video teach us about an appropriate curricular design and implementation?

I’m drawn to the concept of the wampum belts “that depict two canoes travelling down the river in parallel paths, neither one interfering with the other.” Our educational system is typically not one to support the parallel growth of anyone – students, cultures, or ideas… no, we have a set of core curricular outcomes and expectations for baselines of knowledge about the world which some curriculum designers decided would best meet the needs of our students. Further – we need to reform our system such that both canoes can travel independent of each other – not to allow the colonial boat to obstruct the paths of indigenous peoples.

Educational Philosophy and Curricular Conception

We should approach teaching and learning about indigenous issues from the curricular conception of Social Reconstruction. Our society is failing. We have racist, divisive, and dangerous elements in our society – poised to cause physical, emotional, and institutional harm.

A sad example comes from the terrible news of this past weekend in Charlottesville – where violence and the deaths of three individuals resulted from Nazi, fascist, alt-right, and white supremacists who gathered to “oppose the removal of a confederate General’s statue.” There was also racist and hate-based graffiti found in Winnipeg yesterday. (On a personal note – this is my neighbourhood – I am a block away from Wellington Crescent. I am sad, angry, and worried about our friends in the US and my friends next door.)

Our society has long exploited and alienated many groups – how much is our educational system to blame? Should we use these recent racist events as the impetus to revolutionize our educational and cultural systems of information transmission? It would be shameful to need such evil to necessitate change – but this evil and hatred is not new… but our responses must be.

It is not enough to approach indigenous issues as a traditional subject. A baseline of information required to be understood by each student is not enough. There is an expectation of knowledge, but no call to action. The traditional conception of curricular will not do – we must approach indigenous issues are society’s issues. Education for societal reform should be the goal. To meet the TRC’s Calls to Action – we must do two things: 1) Educate our children about the truths of the past; and 2) Equip them to take action to reconcile those truths. By investigating what is broken, we can learn how to fix the problem.

Design, Planning, and Instruction

If Social Reconstruction is the conception – then a problem-based curricular design with a Reconstructionist theme is the mechanism. We will analyze, the social, political, and economic elements affecting indigenous peoples in Canada. A guided inquiry structure is the most pertinent method of reaching deep into many diverse and complicated issues: utilizing visual, textual, and audio media, interviews and guest speakers, and analysis of laws, statutes, and historical documents as a starting point – personally meaningful inquiries authored and explored by the students is the mode of instruction.

The culminating project may be that of individually important products – from essays to artwork, songs to presentations… or a collective effort – perhaps a book (not unlike Because of a Hat).

Assessment

The underlying presumption is that yes, indeed, there are problems in our society which need to be resolved. Our students, colleagues, and community members must endorse the labelling of problems before we are to work towards solutions. Barring disagreement, assessment is both incredibly complicated and relatively simple.

The true assessment of social reconstructionist curricula comes years or decades later – when society reforms itself to address the problems which motivated the change in educational direction. For the short-term, students and program assessment is simple: have attitudes changed and are students motivated to continue making changes? If the answer to both questions is yes – we have been successful.

Thoughts? I’d love to read them. Ideas? I’d love to hear them. Suggestions? I’ll gladly consider them. Thank-you.