Reading Response #8 – Learning and Subjectivity: Queering Education

School’s have significant impacts on children’s lives as they help to develop individual’s identities and shape children’s understanding of themselves in relation to others. For most children, schools are the first place where they are integrated into social environments and required to cooperate with a diverse group of kids. Schools are responsible for teaching children how to interact with others and therefore educators must be constantly adapting to social issues to ensure they are equipped with the appropriate knowledge to share with their students regarding acceptable social behaviours.

It is critical that schools prioritize social and academic success in order to provide students with the tools they need to respectfully function in today’s societies. Under the federal and provincial law, all children have the legal right to feel protected and safe in their school. In order for all students to feel secure, schools must create welcoming and inclusive environments that don’t discriminate against race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or cultural views. By creating inclusive atmospheres, children will develop into accepting young adults that embrace diversity and know how to appropriately cooperate with individuals of various backgrounds.

In today’s society, the LGBTQ community continues to grow and unfortunately so do homophobic attacks. The article TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Programs Miss the Mark brought to my attention the importance of recognizing homophobic harassment as a form of social prejudice rather than standard acts of bullying. In the popular tv show Glee, homophobic harassment appears to be minimal in comparison to other forms of bullying and is labeled as an individual issue which is extremely problematic because homophobia has an institutional background. Homophobic harassment reflects stereotypical ideas of masculine and feminine roles and the concept that if children are not meeting the expected labels of their assigned gender then they are subjective to abusive consequences. Due to its nature, homophobic harassment cannot simply be labeled as bullying where only the actions are punished but rather, it must be approached by teaching acceptance and proper understanding of sexual differences. By addressing the wrong behaviour of homophobic persecution but further identifying the problems with homophobia and educating students about appropriate social acceptance, schools will work towards embracing individuality and providing safe learning environments for all students.

As the semester progresses, I continue to see the importance for me, a preservice teacher, to receive sufficient education on equity and social justice as I strive towards obtaining my education degree. In a few short years from now, it will be my responsibility to ensure all my students feel safe and welcomed in the school environment no matter their identity. I will be exposed to a diverse group of students each year, and it is crucial that I am prepared on how to be supportive of individual differences and how to respect all of my students to provide them with fair opportunities to learn. I continue to wonder if simply becoming aware of social issues and being informed about how to appropriately respond to them will be enough for me to create entirely inclusive and welcoming classrooms. My first year in the education program continues to challenge my identity and permit me to think deeper about social issues that will impact my future classrooms.

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Reading Response #7 – Oh Canada: Bridges and Barriers to Inclusion

Inclusive education is vital in order to move forward as an accepting society that doesn’t discriminate against or segregate difference. By incorporating the value of inclusion into the Canadian education system, our country’s youth will be integrated with students from various backgrounds and learn how to coherently cooperate together rather than isolating those who resemble difference and creating a divide through segregation.

Inclusive education means that all students are welcomed into regular classroom environments and are encouraged to learn, contribute, and participate, in all aspects of school life by being provided with adequate support from school leaders. In order for inclusive education to be successful, both academic and social elements must be addressed and adjusted to create respectful learning environments that provide a sense of community for everyone involved. The article describes that academic experiences include more than just receiving an education through the curriculum’s outline. Further, the article points out that learning through involvements with a diverse group of peers encourages respectful relationships and develops values to be applied towards everyday life. Academic inclusion inspires multiple teaching styles and a variety of topics to be discussed from various points of view, to ensure every student’s perspective and abilities are acknowledged. Social inclusion in the school system includes creating a sense of community and belonging for every student based on mutual respect. It is important for all youth to feel a part of something bigger than themselves which can be provided through comprehensive and welcoming classroom environments. As a preservice teacher, I understand the importance of embracing an inclusive classroom on both academic and social levels.

Inclusive education has been discussed for many years but prominent progress is yet to be identified or implemented because ideas presented are different in comparison to how classrooms function and challenge the beliefs that society has relied on for many years. Teachers play a dominant role in developing the dynamics of their classroom which means they must receive proper training and education in the field in of inclusive teaching practices in order to advance notable change. As a first-year education student, I found it puzzling that diversity was the prestige concept discussed in year one courses. That said, I am becoming more aware of the significance of preparing teachers with accepting mindsets in order for them to thrive in classroom settings and adapt to various groups of students and their unique needs. Formulating the new generation of teachers with adequate training in inclusive education will encourage change within the school systems and lead towards producing a more inclusive culture. It is exciting to know that society’s youth will be taught to cohesively cooperate with a diverse set of abilities at the learning table. I am excited to be part of the teaching generation that has the resources to impact the course of education in Canadian schools, but find it problematic that teachers today have not received appropriate training.

Due to my previous schooling experiences, I am left wondering how inclusive classrooms can be established to ensure every student is receiving equal opportunities to learn. How can I adapt to the various learning styles and needs of my students while still ensuring each individual is receiving a sufficient education to be academically and socially successful in their futures? How can our society redirect itself to encourage independence among students with disabilities rather than diminishing their chances through isolated programs?

Reading Response #6 – The Ignorant School Master

What is knowledge? How do people learn? How do education and knowledge compare? These are the questions frequently asked by many people that rarely end with precise conclusions. Joseph Jacotot, a French philosopher, developed the method of intellectual emancipation and the idea that all people are equally intelligent as an attempt to try and answer these questions.  Due to an accidental discovery, Jacotot inferred that “knowledge is not necessary to teaching and explication is not required for learning.” At first, these ideas appeared unrealistic but by including his real-life example in his explanation, Jacotot makes strong arguments as to why explication and knowledge are not essential for a teacher to educate his or her students.

Jacotot did not speak Flemish but still accepted the challenge of teaching his students the French language through the means of Telemachus by asking his students to learn French literature with the guidance of the translated version of the book. His students were successful by firstly picking out words and then connecting them into sentences and finally studying the meaning and grammar as they progressed through the story. The students’ triumph proved to Jacotot that it wasn’t his knowledge or explanation that was required for his students to learn but rather their individual wills and desires to gain knowledge. His revelation motivated him to continue to contemplate how people learn and he realized that his discovery wasn’t a new idea but rather something that had been practiced since the beginning of time but never introduced into formal education. Each and every human has learned many things without explanation throughout their lifetimes, but no one speaks on the ability to be self-taught because our society teaches that we must depend on masters of a subject to teach us the information we seek. Jacotot explains how this belief hinders our learning because we are taught to believe that we can’t understand anything until it is explained to us and therefore we don’t try and comprehend anything without receiving an explanation first.

Jacotot has opened my eyes to new ideas about what is essential in order to learn and obtain knowledge. He has proven to me the importance of will in order to be successful and has taught me that I am capable of teaching things I don’t personally know as long as I possess the drive to help others. It comes down to the requirement to care, firstly for myself, in order to develop personal willpower, and then for my students, who will advance their own desire to learn by seeing how much I care rather than how much I know. If we are all equally intelligent and capable of learning and teaching, the question then becomes how can I, as a future educator, motivate my students to discover and express their intelligence without hindering their independent abilities through elaborated explanations? How can I ensure my students are meeting curriculum standards while still encouraging them to firstly think for themselves and not depend on my knowledge? How can one depend on their personal intelligence and will in a society that believes everything we know must be taught by a master of the subject? The problem remains that our society does not collaboratively agree that everyone is equally intelligent and therefore explanation remains valued more than individual willpower.

Reading Response #5 – Courage to Teach – Parker J. Palmer

Parker J. Palmer’s writing vividly brought to my attention the importance of knowing myself and expressing who I am in the classroom. He emphasized that in order to know ones’ students and subjects, one must know there self intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, and allow those paths to intertwine. In today’s objective and western society, people are constantly in search for the right technique to perform a job but Parker explained that good teaching is not a technique, but rather, it comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. Palmer’s ideas are detailed and descriptively defended forcing me to deliberate them and challenge myself to understand and accept the reality that there is no concrete method required to be a good teacher.

As a first-year university student in the faculty of education, I have been looking forward to learning how to be a teacher. Through the first five months of my post-secondary education, I have come to the conclusion that no one is going to provide me with direct guidelines on how to be a teacher because these do not exist. Rather, my worldview will be challenged, societal issues will be brought to my attention, and I will develop a greater understanding of myself, others, and the relationships between us. I will learn how students learn. As the intentions of the education faculty become clear to me, I realize that they relate to Parker’s teachings because their motives include helping me understand my identity and integrity to ensure I am equipped with the knowledge to be a teacher. Regards to identity, I am encouraged to comprehend all the forces that unite to form who I am including internal and external factors. Integrity directly relates to identity as it describes the wholeness I feel when I appreciate all aspects of my identity colliding. In order to be a good teacher, I must instill my personal identity within the subject matter and avoid distancing myself from my students. Being connected to my identity will only benefit myself as a teacher if I exhibit the courage to make myself vulnerable and share my personal self with my students through course material.

It is evident that identity is a crucial aspect to becoming a successful teacher, but how is that enough? After being raised in a structured school system where I have been repeatedly taught to ignore my subjective self and focus on objective and distinct information that can be memorized, it is difficult for me to envision being personal in my classroom. I grew up believing that formal writing in English cannot include personal references and pronouns such as “I”, and that exam questions can only have one correct answer and our world continues to operate with these traditional western worldviews. I understand the importance of incorporating personal ideas in education, however, in order for students to be equipped for their futures in today’s society they still need to learn measurable, static, and repeatable information. Change in education has sparked but in order for children who are taught through observation, personal experience, and intuition to be successful, the world needs to adapt to the diverse ways of knowing that would be a result. I believe a balance must be achieved to encourage individuality while still obtaining rational knowledge and therefore the question becomes, how can traditional and diverse ideas be incorporated together?

Reading Response #4 – Jagged Worldviews Colliding – Leroy Little Bear

Leroy Little Bear’s writing opened my eyes to the many differences between Aboriginal and Eurocentric customs and values. Firstly, the Aboriginal culture weighs heavily on the concept of totality and looking at things as a whole rather than individual pieces. This is shown by Aboriginals recognizing the importance of extended family rather than just their biological relatives. In contrast, Eurocentric values are linear meaning they recognize and rank individuals which has created hierarchical power and structure. This stems next to the Eurocentric value of singularity and specialists in comparison to the Aboriginal Value of generalists. In the European culture, it is thought that there is “one true god, one right answer, and one right way” which develops specialization and the need for every member of society to focus on one particular field. This allows the people to be ranked because some fields of study such as law and medicine are valued more than others such as plumbing and mechanics. The Aboriginal belief in generalists means everyone is responsible for being independent and learning to be “jacks of all trades” which allows them to overcome periods of trouble without needing assistance from others or interfering with each other. The weight Aboriginal cultures place on honesty permits them to have positive social control systems rather than policing which is depended on in European culture. If every member of society is honest, then they are committed to their other values such as strength and sharing and dedicated to being part of the “spider web of relations” meaning they will act to benefit others. Part of the positive approach of their social control system includes immediately recognizing “good” behaviour which allows for order to be maintained because individuals are motivated to respect their values and act accordingly. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Europeans operate with negative social control systems who require police officers to punish “bad” behaviour. The police force is responsible for determining right from wrong for the entire society making social control externalized rather than internalized which is seen in the Aboriginal culture.

The contrasting customs and values between Aboriginals and Europeans are not so black and white today. Due to colonialization, which attempted to destroy the Aboriginal culture, aspects of their belief system were lost and challenged while new ideas were introduced to the Europeans. Leroy explains worldviews today to be jigsaw puzzles which blend collective views of the world together causing cohesion to be lost as every individual then consciously interprets the world and knowledge differently. The question then becomes, how can we still unite and work together as a community in harmony if every individual has now been exposed to different beliefs and values and further interprets them distinctively from others? What values can we mutually agree to prioritize in order to maintain unity and strive toward equality? What values are important for me as an educator to address in my classroom to ensure students are receiving fair educations?

Reading Response #3 – Muffins for Granny

The film Muffins for Granny outlines the complex layers of residential schools and their effects on the direct victims and their family members still to this day. Over 130 residential schools were in operation across Canada with the first ones opening in the 1840s and the last on closing in 1996. The film shared the stories of many residential school survivors’ memories of the harsh realities of their experiences, along with how they are coping with their past today.

Beyond the brutality of taking kids away from their families and stripping them of their aboriginal cultures, it was brought to my attention some of the specific hardships that many students faced. Upon arrival to the schools, aboriginal children were stripped of their cultural clothes, had their long hair which was symbolic in their culture cut off, and were given a number which would represent their name for their time at school. The children were taught that the Ojibway language was the devil’s language resulting in them staying silent until they learned English in order to avoid punishment. Several of the schools were overcrowded meaning aboriginal students were forced to sleep on the floor, and if groups of friends were caught developing escape plans together they would be separated from each other forever. Violence was physical including strapping as a form of punishment, verbal including phrases told to the aboriginal students such as “you won’t go anywhere in life” and sexual as the priests raped the young girls. The title of the movie became clear when the grandma’s story of eating the muffin wrappers that were thrown on the floor by the white students was shared and proved the inequality of treatment and the hunger of the aboriginal students. Each vivid detail spoken by the survivors created a dark image in my mind and tore at my heart due to their cruel and harsh nature.

The students who survived residential schools left very different from how they were when they arrived and began abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with their horrid memories. One of the survivors discussed attempting suicide because he felt that burning in purgatory would be better than living life as a survivor who had been ripped of his culture. Many of the survivors feel hate and anger towards the government and suffer from nightmares, anxiety, and panic attacks, and live their lives in fear due to the brutality they were exposed to at a very young age. The repercussions of residential schools have caused survivors to be distant from their family members creating challenging family dynamics in homes today.

Initially, it was scary and challenging for survivors to share their stories but with the truth being surfaced and a sense of hope being restored, survivors have become more courageous and find strength by revealing their memories. The survivors acknowledged the importance of telling the truth and being kind to everyone which is a lesson that we all must value in order to move forward. It is puzzling to know that the Statement of Reconciliation did apologize for the abuse but did not justify the destruction of aboriginal culture. It breaks my heart to discover the devastating details of residential schools and makes me question how the white government got away with it for over a century, why they felt that it was acceptable to treat people with no respect, and why the stereotype that Canadians are “nice” can exist when this is in our history.

Reading Response #2 – White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Prior to post-secondary education, I understood what it meant to be fortunate and I recognized some ways that I was privileged with the opportunity to obtain an education, and participate in extra curricular activities but, I did not think that I had unique privileges due to my skin colour. My primary and secondary schooling experiences rarely focused on the idea that white people benefited from unfair advantages in everyday life which made me believe that my societal standing depended on my own decisions and contributions and not institutional power. This naïve understanding has corrupted many white Canadians including myself to believe that if we don’t participate in racist actions, we are not involved in racism despite benefiting from established advantages present in our everyday lives.

It is apparent that white power dominates over people of colour and this situation is deeply embedded in the fabric of Canadian society. Through reading Peggy McIntosh’s article, I have come to realize that as a white individual living in Canada, I am associated with racism, not because of my personal actions or comments, but because I benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by the whites in our country and I am protected from race related stress. I have learned that despite my limited perspective on racism due to being a member of the dominant group, I must acknowledge that I have white privileges and am responsible for promoting respectful relationships and diversity. It is evident that disagreeing with whites’ exemption from racial discrimination and the concept of white privilege, is not enough to see change because of systems and institutional power that have permitted whites to have dominance for centuries. As a future educator, it is my responsibility to take action and address this institutional racism by learning about racial realities through authentic interactions and accept my racial comfort as a privilege and not a right.

Exploring examples of white privilege, including being taught about the existence of my race in grade school (#7) and buying flesh coloured bandages that relatively match my skin tone, (#26) has opened my eyes to the side of racial discrimination that was previously invisible. The disadvantages of systematic racism have been clearly stressed in society as a downside and therefore it only makes sense that this must parallel with systematic privilege as an upside. Despite accepting that both systematic oppression and privilege exist, many people still believe in the myth of meritocracy that suggests everyone is equally capable of being successful and that people who have power earned it for themselves. This is extremely problematic because it causes individuals to take responsibility for their situations when in reality it is a cultural issue controlled by political systems and institutions. This causes me to reflect on the other systems of oppression and privilege that are present in society that are not being taught from both perspectives. Is the same thing happening regards to ageism, classism, ableism, and heterosexism? It is important to accept that in cases of oppression, a different group is being privileged as a result and once gaining this understanding, the question becomes how can I act to make a difference in the right direction.