I have always loved Mathematics. It was my favorite subject for most of my school career. I loved the puzzle that was math and I craved the feeling of solving math problems whether it was addition in 1st grade or quadratic equations in high school. However, I think part of why I loved math was I was told from an early age that I was good at it. Thinking back, my class was divided into those that were good at math and those that were not. This division happened by grade two and held strong throughout my school career. The students that were not good in math in Grade Two were not good in math in Grade Twelve. After listening to Gail’s presentation and her belief that we are all mathematical, I wonder if my classmates were really not good at math or did they struggle because they had the belief early on that they were mathematically inclined.
This week’s article was interesting as it demonstrated that there is different ways to think about math. One of the key features of math that I was taught was there was only one correct way to do it and only one correct answer to a question. This article about teaching mathematics in an Inuit community challenged that assumption. I found it interesting to think about using base 20 system instead of a base 10 because that changes the way that I look at math, and challenges the idea that there was one way to count. It is also interesting to note that the Inuits have about three words for every number depending on the situation. It is interesting to think that numbers and our view on numbers changes depending on the context.
I’ve had a scary thought this week as I realized I have never thought about the single story I have been told. Thinking back to my schooling I realize that I absolutely was only told one story. In English class we read stories written by white, upper-class men. In math class we learned the same formulas created by old, white men. In Science, we learned the Western ideologies about scientific method and logic. In history we learned the colonial story of how Canada was created. I didn’t even have the benefit of Treaty Education to add another story to my experiences. I was never told that there was another way to look at these subjects. I was never told that there was any other stories.
This weeks discussion has also made me think about how lucky I have been to have been able to see myself in the literature and media I have been exposed to. I am not only well represented but I am positively represented. There is no shortage of female protagonists with blonde hair and blue eyes. And the characters that look like me are very rarely the “bad” guys. This is something I have hardly ever thought about before this semester, but it is something that I am glad has been brought to my attention. How would my self-image have been affected if I never read books that I could identify with? Or worse, how would I have been affected if the only characters that looked like me or had my story were villains?
My childhood has given me the story of invisible privilege and has encouraged me to read my world through this lense. My parents were very concerned with raising responsible, kind, compassionate children. My teachers seemed to have the same goal. Therefore, I heard an uncountable times that all people are equal. It was never brought to my attention that other people’s experiences in the world would be different than mine. My childhood was not particularly diverse and therefore I really only heard one story about people who were different then me. And that story did not come from people with diversity. Instead, I learned the stereotypes of many groups in my society. Many of these stereotypes are not positive.
Luckily for me, I have continued my education to postsecondary where I have been told many more stories. I am being taught how to question the single story I have been told. I think the biggest “take-away” I got from this week’s article was the importance of questioning. Questioning the story, whose story is it, what does it allow, what doesn’t it allow, who is oppressed by it; who benefits from it? The key isn’t to silence any story, but to question it and listen to other stories. Because there is never just one story and listening to only one story is what gets us into trouble.
I think my most memorable example of learning about citizenship in school was learning about government in grade three and four. And grade five and six and again in seven and eight. And these lessons on government were the most mind-numbing, boring lessons I experienced in school. As an active and enthused learner, there was very few times in school were I was so bored I had to fight falling asleep, especially in middle school. However, I have very vivid memories of Mr. O’dell explaining the levels of government while I tried not to blink for fear I wouldn’t open my eyes again.
My experiences with learning citizenship in high school were more positive. I was an active member of my school’s SRC and our High School Rodeo Association’s student board and learned plenty about government and organizations through these experiences. My dad was active on many boards and our local municipal government, so he taught me plenty about the important roles of citizens in democracy. In school, we also attended We Day a few times and sponsored a child in Africa. I remember being frustrated by how little we did and how much praise we got for it. Our community was very proud of our involvement in “changing the world” which I thought was exaggerated. We really only donated a couple of dollars a month to an organization that we were pretty sure was supporting a child on our behalf.
My experiences of citizenship in school prepared me to be a responsible citizen, maybe even a participatory citizen, but it did not prepare me to be a Justice oriented citizen according to this week’s article. I was never encouraged to seek out and think about the injustices that exist and I was not taught how to “effect systemic change.” I was never taught how to think critically or encouraged to “see beyond surface causes.” Instead, I was taught to follow the status quo and to feel good about donating a few dollars to save the African children that needed our help.