Follow-up to OCT 28 SJ post

As part of the ED 808 class I have just finished completing, we were to take action towards a social justice issues important to us. You can read more about this from my October 28th post: Social Justice: Taking action GSAs

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

I though I would share the response I received regarding the letters I sent about gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) in schools. I wrote to Premier Brad Wall, Bill Hutchinson, Rob Currie and Don Morgan – the same letter sent to each person individually.

December 11 – I received a response from Don Morgan, Minister of Education in Saskatchewan. I found it interesting that he states that he is responding to the letter sent to Brad Wall and not the letter I sent him. While his response tells me nothing new (he references many things I researched in order to compose my letter), and no action that will be taken by the government, I do appreciate receiving a response.

December 21 – I received a response from Premier Brad Wall. His response is very similar to Don Morgan’s; none the less, I appreciate hearing back from him regarding my letter.

Letter of response from Don Morgan

Letter of response from Brad Wall

 

 

Measuring

Why indeed is there still so much emphasis on measuring – moving from “what we can measure” to what “we care about”? What is it that teachers care about and wish to measure that they are already not measuring? Measuring and moving towards standardization is the problem. What do standardized assessments really tell you? – that students can regurgitate what we teach them? That if we teach to the test, then hopefully students can past the test? There is no feedback for the student other than a grade. There is not much feedback for the teacher or the school either.

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Photo Credit: cfdtfep via Compfight cc

I remember school goals being: “By the end of the school year, ___% of students will be reading at or above grade level.” The same holds true for math as well. What do these school goals really tell the school – do they reflect the students? Do they reflect the teachers and how well the teach? Do they reflect the way in which students are taught? I hope that there would be more important goals for a school to measure over the course of a school year than reading and math scores/levels.

As Kumashiro (2015) tells us,

[I]t is not possible to say exactly what the students were learning. And therein lies the uncertainty of teaching.

 

Second post for ED 808

Our assignment was to:

Step 1. You are encouraged to revisit Dr. Joel Westheimer & Dr. Bill Ayers’ recorded Skype presentations with our class.

Step 2. Answer the following questions:

Using Drs. Westheimer & Ayers as a starting point, how do you, as an educator and/or citizen, view the role of the education system?

How do YOU connect or make personally relevant the broad social justice themes discussed in your first post vis-a-vis Westheimer & Ayers as well as your own new thinking on the matter?

And finally, How has your position, as evidenced in your initial post on social justice, changed or been further confirmed? Provide concrete examples.

 

I created a my response for this post by using Pixton, an online comic creator.

I apologize for the comic being small, but I couldn’t get the embed code offered by Pixton to work properly. Check it out here (in a size you can read) via the Pixton site.

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I chose to make a comic, in order to not only try out an online program, but to tell my narrative using a different form of communication as opposed to traditional text. Throughout the comic, I believe that I share my views on the role of the education traditionally and what I envision it as, I incorporate ideas shared from both Dr. Westheimer and Dr. Ayers, as well as referencing ideas from my introductory post, and expanding on them as my understandings of social justice have continued to develop.

In regards to the prompt,

How has your position, as evidenced in your initial post on social justice, changed or been further confirmed? Provide concrete examples.

this is the one area that may not be as clear from viewing the comic.

I believe that my position has further been confirmed through insights from both guest lecturers, in that social justice does indeed belong as part of the curriculum. I take the view that it is up to each individual educator to take up teaching about and for social justice within their practice and to their students. Even though our school system calls for testing and accountability, teaching the curriculum and measuring student success, I think that this can all be done through teaching about social justice issues and concern. I think the notion that social justice topics can be taught in schools is an important one, especially when educators face challenges from schools or parents for example when reading stories with LGBT characters, or talking about queer history. While this can be hard for a teacher, if they know that what they are doing is important work, and that they believe their students should learn about social justice topics, I hope they can remain “hopeful” and know that what they are doing matters and can make a difference not only to students in their classrooms, but in working to question and bring change to larger systems and structures.

 

Social Justice: taking action GSAs

For ED 808, we are to,

practice agency in trying to ameliorate, solve, or otherwise begin to improve an issue of your choosing involving a social justice cause. It may take the form of a petition, a letter to a politician, a personal/group action, setting up a website, volunteering some of your time somewhere where it’s needed, or other initiatives to foster positive local, regional, provincial, national, or global change.

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

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After I mailed the letters to the following people:

  • Rob Currie – Director Education, Regina Catholic Schools
  • Premier Brad Wall – Premier of Saskatchewan
  • Don Morgan – SK Minister of Education
  • Bill Hutchinson – Local MLA

I was pointed to these articles, which offer information regarding GSAs in schools.

The first is an article, “Catholic schools ahead of push for gay-straight alliance support groups: Students needs forcing issue, bishop sayspublished October 28. This article is a step in the right direction, however the central problem remains: students are forced to “come out” or to specifically ask for a GSA to be started, and many times, these groups are not approved by school administration.

The next article was a document just published by the SK Ministry of Education – Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity.” This document is also a step in the right direction, but as with the previous article, the central problem still remains. The other area of my concern is what is meant by the term inclusion. While well meaning, this term still “others” LGBTQ youth and I question as to whether the information presented in this document while help the inclusion of LGBTQ youth in our schools. This document does however works to support staff, offering them information to help understand LGBTQ youth, to work to support these students, and links to the SK Curriculum. On pages 28-31, the area (which I am concerned about) that discusses GSAs, I believe not much has been offered holding schools accountable to make sure that GSAs are approved and started. It is recommended that students are questioned as to why they would like a GSA to be started and there is no mandate that an adviser will be made available. Regardless, the document is positive, and I hope schools take the time to read through it and adopt the practices it is suggesting.

 

 

Schooling the World

Tonight in ED 808, we viewed the film, Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden.

If you wanted to change a culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for rural and Indigenous children.

But is this true?  What really happens when we replace another culture’s canon of knowledge with our own?  Does life really get better for its people?

SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply troubling look at the role played by modern education in the destruction of the world’s last sustainable land-based cultures.

Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis,  a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO,  USAID, and the World Bank.

It  examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children “escape” to a “better life.”

It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty – here in the United States as well as in the so-called “developing” world.

And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of ancient spiritual traditions.

Finally, SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millenia.

– www.http://schoolingtheworld.org/film/

I encourage all educators to take the time to view this film – I hope it will help you to reflect on education and the dominance of the West.