About the Author

Kelly Young

Kelly Young, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Education and Professional Learning at Trent University, where she teaches courses in English language arts curriculum methods and classroom management.

Books by this Author
Contemporary Studies in Canadian Curriculum

Contemporary Studies in Canadian Curriculum

Principles, Portraits, and Practices
tagged : curricula
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Introduction: Principles, Portraits, and Practices in Contemporary Canadian Curricula

Darren Stanley and Kelly Young

The impetus for this collection comes from our conversations exploring schooling and Canadian curriculum theory and practice. We conceptualize our book through three interconnected and overlapping approaches addressing the topic of contemporary Canadian curriculum studies in terms of principles, portraits, and practices. By principles we include dialogues that consider ideologies, conventions, assumptions, and beliefs about Canadian curriculum. By portraits we include discussions and approaches that consider the relevance of landscapes and place, stories, profiles, and depictions of Canadian curriculum. By practices we include methodological approaches, conventions of curriculum enactment, and performances of Canadian curriculum.

Further, we divide our book into three broadly defined sections: Canadian Curriculum and Social Identities, Canadian Curriculum and Culture, and Canadian Curriculum and Indigenous and Ecological Perspectives. This book is unique in that it offers a variety of perspectives, inviting the reader to engage in a conversation about the multiple dimensions of the relationship between contemporary Canadian curriculum theory and practice in terms of social justice and ecological and Indigenous perspectives.

In the first section, Canadian Curriculum and Social Identities, we begin with Dennis Sumara, Brent Davis, and Linda Laidlaw’s chapter, as they develop a thesis that curriculum studies work in Canada might be characterized in terms of some persistent and consistent theoretical commitments, ones that they suggest might have been prompted in part by the nation’s history and by popular commentaries on national identity. They draw on ecological and postmodern discourses in an effort to conceptualize and describe a relationship between Canadian culture(s) and the development of theories of curriculum within the Canadian context.

The question of possibility for Canadian curriculum studies, through the metaphors of nocturne and fugue, is the focus of Hans Smits’s chapter. Nocturne suggests the difficult – perhaps dark – terms, in Hannah Arendt’s historical view, that challenge purposes for curriculum. The notion of fugue suggests the complex and contradictory forms that curriculum can take. The challenge for a “Canadian” curriculum, it is argued, is not in terms of identity, but in terms of a creative and ethical way of enacting our responsibilities as educators.

Humans make sense through story, but how we can learn through interrupting story? How does trying to write in another’s style offer different interpretations? In Rebecca Luce-Kapler’s chapter, she explores how close writing challenges the syntax of narrative and brings the attention of the curriculum theorist to the details of the text. We learn that it is in the interruption – the uncomfortable – where one comes to know what it was we missed or were not ready to hear. Close writing as an ethical practice interrupts normative experience and brings one to appreciate the complexity of experience and to recognize moments of possibility for learning.

In Tasha Riley and Sharon Rich’s chapter, they juxtapose the story of a young woman discovering her whiteness and difference with the development of an understanding of co-learning as a curricular construct. They use the story to demonstrate the ways in which curricular theorizing can be complemented by an understanding of who we are and of the ways in which we act in the world. In this chapter, the authors explore curriculum as a story that unfolds and helps us to understand who we might become as teachers, co-learners, and as human beings. They juxtapose a story of self-discovery with a story of creating a co-learning and reflexive classroom curriculum to indicate the ways in which the personal informs the public to create new spaces for learning.

Geraldine Balzer examines the service learning program of one high school in her contribution to this text. She contextualizes the story of the program of Academy High School by first presenting a brief history of the service learning movement, the benefits of participation in service learning, and its connections to social and ecological justice. Balzer introduces narratives, created from the interviews and journals of the researcher and participants, to provide a personal glimpse into the transformative impact of the service learning experience. To be sure, international service learning seeks to empower communities, connect peoples, and facilitate personal and physical border crossings. And, while not perfect, the program Balzer speaks about facilitates the transformation of Canadian youth into globally aware and caring citizens of the world.

In the second section of the book, Canadian Curriculum and Culture, we begin with David Smith’s chapter which addresses the current global financial crisis that marks the end of the legitimacy of neoliberalism, or market determinism, as a basis for education, including curriculum and pedagogy. What source of value and valuing might guide the education of the future? Three characteristics of global wisdom traditions are discussed – meditative sensibility, a kairotic understanding of time, and the unified field of birth and death – as an antidote to the pathologies of market logic. This discussion follows a genealogical tracing of how the market has been understood by both its supporters and detractors and an examination of the specific economistic roots of much educational practice today.

In Anne Phelan’s chapter, she considers how politics as a form of culture within a profession suggest a space of tolerance, respect, and difference. It is a space wherein teachers, coming from a plurality of standpoints, can engage one another and their leaders in discussion about educational matters. Such engagement, she argues, enables educators to produce a strongly articulated sense of shared professional and social-political purpose. Is it possible to cultivate such a political culture among educators who are inevitably caught between their own judgments and authoritative constraints of policy, professional culture, and school leadership? Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, she explores the individual teacher’s will as both an anti-political and political force in the teaching profession.

Consumer identities and how they are fostered and subverted among early years culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children through early years literacy curricula is the topic for Luigi Iannacci’s chapter. He develops ecojustice-informed curricula that provide teacher educators and teachers with principles and practices that may forward pedagogies that resist furthering consumer rituals and identities. Narratives constructed from field data are offered as a way of demonstrating the current context and to facilitate follow up discussion intended to conceptualize this curricula. He adds to the recent growing body of work in early years literacy research grounded in sociocultural theory and reconceptualist curriculum theorizing as it informs early literacy and as such, draws on ecojustice perspectives to develop an analytic lens and curricular principles.

In her chapter, Sheila Cavanagh uses queer theory to analyze the recent public debate about the 2010 Ontario sex education proposal. The proposed changes to the Health and Physical Education curriculum were retracted by Premier Dalton McGuinty due to a public campaign launched by socially conservative religious groups. Religious leaders raised moral concerns about the introduction of topics like gender identity and sexual orientation into the curriculum. She considers how the anti-sex education campaign is structured by linguistic tropes conjuring up images of bodily disorientation and irrational ideas about childhood sexual innocence. She argues that education is about how we position ourselves in relation to others socially coded as different or non-normative.

In Darren Stanley’s chapter, he explores how a particular kind of language is required to frame and understand landscapes. He argues that such a language can be drawn from the contemporary, transdisciplinary framework known as “complexity theory,” which offers a way of understanding a wide range of diverse phenomena. While the field of education may reflect an indefinite plurality of disciplinary perspectives and concerns, a complexity theory framework extends well beyond the usual concerns and activities of individual and collective knowledge to embrace a notion of embedded “bodies of knowledge.” Although these bodies of knowledge include biological subsystems, the biologic body, social collectives, the body politic and cultural bodies, local ecologies, and the biosphere, at the dynamical heart of each of these bodies is a collection of principles, portraits, and practices that underlie a view of learning and learning organizations.

In the third section of our book, Canadian Curriculum and Indigenous and Environmental Perspectives, we begin with Marie Battiste’s chapter, in which she provides a background, context, and perspective that may inform current decision makers in a revisioning of curriculum, beginning with an overview of the obligations and commitments made to First Nations in the treaties, and more recently as Aboriginal rights to education have been affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and finally affirmed in Canada in 2010. She considers the ways in which federal and provincial school systems have not translated these constitutionally protected rights into current models of education, but rather the discursive modes of analysis have led to various models of education that focus on students’ perceived deficits and that ignore systemic racism and structural failures of the educational systems. Eurocentric approaches to curricula reform in most educational systems continue to have a conceptual bias that ignores the system and structure and relies on the dispositional self of individual children as central to understanding their educational failure and tragic circumstances.

In Nicholas Ng-A-Fook’s chapter, he explores the ways in which we, as curriculum theorists, educators, and teacher-candidates, reread the Ontario curriculum and often continue to narrate historical slights and insults that disinherit indigenous knowledge and language by ignoring the potential pedagogical value they might have within contemporary educational contexts to help us commit our eco-civic relational responsibilities to the land. Taking indigenous thought seriously as a form of curriculum theorizing asks us to consider alter/native intergenerational teachings of place. In response to such teachings, he shares narrative visions of how curriculum theorists, teacher-candidates, and indigenous communities can collaborate together to create, develop, and engage participatory social action community service learning projects. In turn, he examines how such social action curriculum projects provide curricular and pedagogical opportunities for teachers and students to develop paraxial narrative strategies for rereading colonial narrative artifacts scarred into the very material fabric of the land, as an aesthetic form of métis/sage-ing.

In David Jardine’s chapter, he explores the ecological and pedagogical images hidden within a tale of the author’s returning to the place he was raised and going for a birding walk with some old friends. He takes his reader on a “birding lesson” and imagines mathematics conceived as a living discipline, a living topography, a living place, full of ancestors, full of tales told and tales to tell. He then imagines mathematics education as an open, generous invitation to our children into the intimate ways of this old, mysterious, wondrous place.

Andrejs Kulnieks, Dan Roronhiakewen Longboat, and Kelly Young’s contribution considers how conceptions of curriculum have historically been theorized through a scientific model since the early twentieth century in relation to and development of environmental education. They then turn to an analysis of contemporary environmental education curriculum policies. Specifically, they examine recent environmental educational policies developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education that are embedded in a scientific inquiry model in relation to our personal beliefs that all education should lead toward environmental learning. To this end, they consider core principles such as the ways in which language often impedes an understanding that the earth is a living being. They conceptualize environmental learning by turning their attention to successful examples of models of Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy that can inform all aspects of environmental education to move toward a more holistic approach toward education.

In Nicole Bell’s chapter, she speaks to the need for the education system to address the needs of Indigenous students, in particular their identity needs and the cross-cultural educational needs of non-Indigenous students in understanding the perspectives, experiences, and histories of Canada’s First Peoples. She draws upon medicine wheel pedagogy to demonstrate that a distinct learning environment needs to be created for the transmission of Indigenous knowledge and worldview. The learning environment needs to be multifarious, circular, longitudinal, and integrative. She argues that educational spaces need to be inclusive of the experiences, histories, and voices of those on the “margins,” including Indigenous people. While the new Ontario Curriculum has attempted to include First Nation, Métis, and Inuit content into the curriculum, it is offered through an “added-on” approach that does not serve the cultural needs of its Indigenous students.

Leesa Fawcet and Steve Alsop explore science, schooling, and education. They draw on selected literature in science technology studies and feminist postcolonial theories to offer some acts of resistance through local environmental knowledges as sciences. They chart these meanderings using a series of nautical metaphors, building on the archetypical ghost ship the Mary Celeste and discuss science and education both within the curriculum and its cultural influences on the curriculum. They draw on selective literature in science and technology studies (STS) and feminist postcolonial theories to offer some acts of culture jamming through local situated environmental knowledges and practices as sciences. They posit that contemporary curriculum questions cannot easily escape discussion of science and its effects on the curriculum, but some of the curriculum discussions in the sciences relating to situated environmental knowledges might offer insight and opportunities to act.

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