Addressing Gender, Sexuality and Race in Our Identities

We created an autobiography for ECS 210 and we are now looking back on them and reflecting on what we included and what we did not.  We were asked: “What does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constituitive of your identity?”  I did talk about the privilege I receive from being white and also from being Aboriginal, but I did not mention my gender or my sexuality.  Now that I think about it, I’m quite shocked that I didn’t mention the fact that I was female in my paper.  I have been a feminist for a few years now and I feel empowered being a woman. I think this comes directly from my assumption that these facts are “common sense” based on how I write and the dominant narrative.  This sounds absolutely horrible, but the message of this “common sense” model is definitely not what I intended to put across in my paper.  This is very interesting to think about because Kumashiro writes, “the goal is not to rid our classroom of harmful hidden messages since such a goal is unattainable” (pg. 41).  I feel the pressure already of saying the wrong things or portraying an oppressive idea through the hidden curriculum, but Kumashiro is suggesting that our students need to develop a critical lens to make sense of these hidden messages.  This allows students to think deeper about what they are being taught and it also encourages them to bring up questions that you may not have thought of before.

Name: Ashley

Gender: Female

Race: White, First Nations

Sexuality: Heterosexual

These are not typically the things we find out about people when we first met them.  This partially stems from the fact that a lot of us do not share our life stories right from the beginning.  I have to feel comfortable around someone before I share personal things about myself.  This might be a result of the fact that I feel better in my comfort zone and that I’m reluctant to go outside of that zone.  Kumashiro writes,  “After all, our hidden lessons demonstrate how it is that oppression can play out in our lives unnoticed and unchallenged, and our lenses of analysis demonstrate why it is that we often desire making sense of the world in only certain, comforting ways” (pg. 41).  This quote stuck out at me while reading this because I need to really think about how I make sense of the world and why I choose to live in more comforting ways.  The only way I will truly become comfortable is by doing the things that make me uncomfortable.

How do you identify yourself to others? How do you encourage students to use this critical lens that Kumashiro mentions?

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What is Common Sense and Why is it Important?

10026_CommonSense

This week in ECS 210, we were asked to respond to the following questions: How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’. Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?  Kumashiro talks about and defines common sense in multiple ways.  In the end, it is all about what everyone considers “normal” and the expected practices, fuelled by social pressures.  He also explains that common sense gives us some sense of comfort because it helps make sense of our everyday lives.  This might be comforting, but norms privilege certain groups and identities.  Going further with social pressures, he discusses that common sense tells us what schools should be doing, and not what they could be doing.  He also talks about how protests against common sense are dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or inappropriate.  In this way, I feel like common sense is ruling our lives–it is almost like we don’t even have a say in what we feel is normal.  These ‘norms’ are definitely dominant and are social constructs.

So why is it important to pay attention to this idea of ‘common sense’?  I think there are endless reasons on why we should be more conscious of this term and on how we should think of the meaning of this term.  Kumashiro’s experience in Nepal is an example of differing common senses, culturally.  He liked to clean and realized that water was only located in the centre of the bazaar.  He also realized that different needs (showering, dishes, water jugs, etc.) were tended to at certain times of the day.  I think this tells us that we need to be aware of the difference of cultures, customs and daily lives in order to teach students in ways that tend their own particular needs, instead of being stuck on our own ideas of common sense.  This is also relevant when the students in his classroom told him that he wasn’t teaching right because his ideas were not strictly lecture-practice-exam.  It is very important to recognize these differences, also, because the Peace Corps had a failure to critique their own assumptions about how the U.S. were superior compared to Nepal.  Although it was not a goal to be oppressive, it definitely came across that way.

Since we are on the topic of oppression, I want to address how ideas of common sense and normalcy contribute to this.  When teachers in the Peace Corps went to places like Nepal, they would put off the message that the American way is the best way.  They were pretty much trying to assimilate these students into American culture, without even knowing it.  With this idea of common sense, students could think that they are unworthy or abnormal because they don’t relate to these ideals.  That is the scary thing.  You think that you are doing great things like bringing different approaches of teaching to other parts of the world (the main goal of Peace Corps), but you could also be oppressing others.  What bugs me about all of this is the fact that we have made it okay to oppress and discriminate because it is ‘common sense’.  Oppression is not recognized because common sense has convinced us that schools are neutral and non-oppressive.  This is absolutely ridiculous because this article has proved this idea to be the opposite.  I think that we need to carefully think about our goals and intentions because they may end up in a negative situation.  With this knowledge now, I think that we could become more conscious, open minded and genuine teachers.

Kumashiro says that values and priorities are embedded in approaches to teaching and learning.  Does this mean that our values are to oppress and to push our own ideas of what’s normal onto others?