Literacy is formally defined as the ability to read and write but analyzing curriculum as literacy illuminates many problems with this limited understanding. Firstly, this hidden message behind this definition implies that one can read and write in the dominant language of the society and thus, living in Saskatchewan if you can not read and write in English, you are seen as illiterate. Secondly, the definition fails to address that people can be literate in other subject areas. In lecture, we discussed various examples of being financially, musically, physically, socially, or technology literate which demonstrates the depth to the term literate that is often forgot. Further, we discussed how beyond being able to read literature, everyone has a way of “reading the world” that has been shaped by their personal experiences and unique identities but yet we often fail to acknowledge our personal biases.
Examining the experiences of my upbringing and schooling point to a number of stories that I was implicitly taught which have developed my biases and coloured the lenses I use to “read the world”. Growing up I believed the Canadian Grand narrative that portrays surface elements of what it means to be Canadian such as being passionate about hockey but fails to acknowledge the history of our country. Throughout my schooling, the notion that Canadian history began in 1867 was constantly reiterated showing ignorance to the people who lived on the land prior to European settlement and confederation, and telling the story that “true” Canadians are of European descent. I also grew up believing in the good and bad racism binary and never believed that I was a racist. I developed racist stereotypes through the tv shows that I watched which consisted of dominantly white casts and the city that I was raised in. I moved to Prince Albert at the age of seven from a small white farming community where I had only ever interacted with people who had white skin. I was immediately taught that some areas of Prince Albert were considered safe while others were not and reflecting on this idea shows that the “safe” areas of this city were dominantly populated by white people while the “unsafe” areas were occupied by First Nations. As a young child, I was impressionable and thus, I became to believe the stereotypes that white people had money and were not dangerous and that First Nations people were poor and scary. Another common myth that I grew up believing was the idea that all people have equal opportunities and that people who are poor simply don’t try. Lastly, I engaged with the girl/boy gender binary and developed understandings of internalized gender roles. Being a twin, I thought it was adorable when my twin and I had matching outfits in contrasting colours and thus, I failed to understand the problematic nature of becoming absorbed by the socially developed gender categories. Due to my experiences as a child, I have blurred lenses concerning gender, classism, racism and being Canadian that guide the way I “read the world”.
My experiences above illustrate examples of single stories that I was taught throughout my schooling and demonstrates how the lens of white, European, wealthy, males was the truth that mattered. I developed an ignorance towards Canada’s true history and believed the myths about classism because that’s what was being taught and never did I receive opportunities to consider these topics from the perspective of Indigenous people or individuals living in poverty. Students are taught to believe the information shared by their teachers and thus, it is my role as an educator to ensure that I teach from various perspectives and provide my students with opportunities to consider material from points of view differing from their own. I hope to teach my students to acknowledge that they have personal biases and instill in them a willingness to challenge oppressive perspectives.
Through my journey in the faculty of education thus far, I have learned about the importance of unlearning the biases we develop from our personal experiences. I believe that the best way to do this is to first acknowledge that I do have biases and then reflect on why they exist. I cannot change my personal experiences growing up but I can move forward in allowing myself to feel uncomfortable and discussing the socially constructed ideas, normative narratives, binaries, oppression, discrimination, and rebuttals created by the identities that I have come to understand through my upbringing. I am a white, middle-class, Canadian female and by appropriately owning these identities and acknowledging the privileges and oppression that each of those identity features offers me I will begin to unlearn the biases that I have developed in regards to them. Beyond owning up to my personal lenses that I use to view the world, I must also be open to learning about perspectives that differ from my own views as I strive to work towards a more accepting and diverse lens that accounts for a variety of perspectives. As a pre-service educator, I am committed to being a life-long learner who is willing to feel uncomfortable and ask myself the tough questions when I notice myself having bias thoughts.