Inspirational Quotes

Advertisements

Unlearning your biases

I attended a Catholic missionary school for the first 12 years of my education even though I come from a Muslim family. In school we studied alongside children from many different religious backgrounds Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Jews. The school did not try to impose Christian values on us. We were taught the golden rules and we realized that people carry different beliefs and traditions which contradict each other, yet we are all living in one community that has learnt to coexist peacefully, most of the time. Growing up in a multicultural urban society, we learnt not to carry bias for beliefs and traditions. However we had common themes within society for bias on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, marriage status, abortion, female independence and many other topics. This included how women were supposed to dress, behave and live in society.

After marriage, I was exposed to more liberal ideas especially from my husband and these related to women’s rights, but I only considered those that I found useful and relevant for me. Being exposed to radical views certainly changed my opinion on women’s right to education and work.

Arriving in Canada was a cultural shock when I was exposed to many more progressive ideas related to women and other historically disadvantaged groups. I also got exposed to issues like racism.  I realized that some of my bias from childhood was not in conformance with Canadian society and started to correct myself on these issues. These included issues on marriage or lack thereof, re-marriage, abortion, gay rights and many such topics.

As a woman coming from a non-white immigrant background with extremely liberal and modern values, I bring this perspective to my class. However I also understand that my role as a teacher is not to brainwash my students to believe in my values. I realize that I need to pass on to my students the ability to think on their own, to critique and understand their environment and find solutions to issues they face independently rather than relying on dogmas. This requires them to be exposed to other viewpoints and ideas.

Math Education – Differing Concepts

Over the course of development of various civilizations, the concept of numbers and math has changed. Europe had the Roman numeral system which was used mainly for counting. However in other parts of the world there were developments that impacted everyone. The Sumerians and Babylonians first started using zero as a starting point for counting. This was later incorporated into a system in India that developed around fractions and math. This system spread across Asia and later reached Europe in the 13th century and was referred as the Arabic numeral system. This system later exploded after the 15th century into more complex systems like graphs, Calculus and became the basis of modern scientific advancement like computers, GPS and space travel. A global standard has emerged around the Base 10 decimal system. However even today, there are many different measuring systems in use by different countries. This creates challenges when communicating internationally. Eg. Imperial used in US, Metric, Myanmar or Indian system.  

My personal experience of Math in school was not pleasant. Other than basic additions, subtraction, multiplication and division I did not see any real world use of most of the things I learnt in Math class. Hence my interest and expertise in the subject remained low. The method of teaching during my school days was also just figures on a sheet. This contrasts to how my kids are learning math today where there are asked to do the same functions in real world simulations.  Eg. I would see a question framed as 56 / 8…. whereas my kids would see the question as 56 candies shared by 8 kids. As soon as this changed to more complex topics my kids would struggle to understand things like calculus in real world simulations.

I still cannot see the reason for kids being forced to struggle with complex calculus questions when they may never need to use it in their lives. I understand that there are fields of education that depend on this learning but most kids can do without. This applies not only to kids from aboriginal background but also non-indigenous kids. On the other hand I also realize that aboriginal kids are starting off with aboriginal math which is on base 20 compared to the decimal system used later. One can see how this may cause difficulties in learning. Just because someone is not good at math does not mean that they cannot excel in another field. As an educator, I would encourage all students to focus on the positive that they can take away from the education they receive, to enhance their personal lives.

Educating on Citizenship

There are 3 types of citizens that are envisioned to support an effective democratic society. (a) the personally responsible citizen, (b) the participatory citizen and (c) the justice oriented citizen.

During my student days in India, most of the focus of education was on things that would set up the students for a career but there was a very small component on training personally responsible citizens. Additionally some students participated in extra-curricular activities like student body elections and other initiatives on an interest basis that would prepare them as participatory citizens. Only a very small stream of students would get involved in the justice oriented learning and they would end up in specialized studies like political science, law or join civil administration services. This contrasts to my kid who has studied recently and was obligated to compulsorily attend ‘volunteer’ programs as part of his diploma.

Even though personal responsibility receives the most attention, it is noted that democratic leaders and dictators would both welcome this approach since it creates a docile citizenry that goes about its own business as individuals and allows the leaders to do as they please or at the least maintain the status quo. This approach of individual responsibility also obscures the need for collective approaches to problem solving. This is not to say that all collective approaches will be in one direction. Often different collectives within the citizenry will want to move in conflicting directions. Sometimes they may all move in a non-justice oriented manner.

Hence during the education process, additional emphasis needs to be provided of the participatory and justice oriented approach such that the students not only have the ability to question why, but also have a sound understanding of critical analysis, social justice and historical evolution. It is also clear that certain aspects of this study only becomes meaningful for those that are personally living within communities that are affected by the topic.

Importance of Treaty Ed

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, and Inuit peoples?

Would we decide not to teach sexual diversity or race issues if there are no members of those groups in school? When the question is framed in this manner, are we approaching Treaty Ed as a means to sensitize non-indigenous students of the presence of indigenous students and people and their way of life as “the others” in Canadian society. Looking at the treaty map for Canada it is very easily visible that the 70 historic treaties in Canada signed between 1701 and 1923, including the 11 numbered treaties signed between 1871 and 1921 with indigenous peoples, cover almost all of Canada.

The approach that we want to take is to make everyone aware of the history of Canada since the decision of Europeans to initiate their expansion across Canada by entering into treaties with various indigenous groups. The intent is not to make one group appear like villains who stole from a hapless group which may drive a guilt behavior and consequently refusal to want to even discuss this topic. Understanding the culture of the indigenous people helps to see what they were looking for when they entered into treaties. Treaty is an agreement between two groups to share something while living together peacefully. In return for the benefits of the treaty, the non-indigenous peoples were able to exploit the agricultural land, natural and mineral resources and create new settlements expanding the colonization of Canada. The Indigenous peoples were to benefit from the Crown’s resources, such as medicine and education as well as be allowed to continue with their way of life in reserves demarcated for them. They would also share in the growing economy of this new world along with the non-indigenous peoples. It was meant to be a mutually beneficial deal between two proud, honorable and equal peoples. However in practice most of these promises were either, consciously or unconsciously, not kept or re-constructed in ways that did not help the indigenous peoples. Knowing these facts provides everyone the opportunity to acknowledge the wrongs and move forward in healing the wounds of the past.

We are all treaty people

In this sense whether someone is from one group or another, we are all treaty people. We need to know our history to be able to live harmoniously together as one people. Acknowledging the past and the cultural differences is one of the first steps before we learn to respect them and treat all in a fair and equal manner. In fact I believe that Treaty Ed needs to be compulsory for all Canadians including new immigrants. In the case of new immigrants, before they are eligible for citizenship, they need to complete Treaty Ed and understand that they are joining as members of the non-indigenous people including taking responsibility for honoring the terms and accepting the burdens of the ‘white man’s errors. This is essential as they are making the choice of coming to this society and wanting to become a member of the ‘treaty people’.