knowledge construction

My second semester allowed me to graduate from ECS 100 and move on to the next step in my educational journey: a course called ECS 110 – Self and Other. Our first assignment was to read “The Canon Debate, Knowledge of Construction and Multicultural Education” by James A. Banks. I found this article very interesting as it provided me with new viewpoints as well as enforcing ideas that I had previously touched on in ECS 100. 

It is all about how we construct knowledge, the five types of knowledge and how utilizing these types of knowledge can lead to a better understanding of how different ethnic and cultural groups perceive the world, allowing for students to be involved in a multicultural education.

The piece that stuck most with me really solidified the fact that who you are, where you come from and how you were raised affect your knowledge. 

“Concepts such as “The European Discovery of America” and “The Westward Movement” need to be reconceptualized and viewed from the perspectives of different cultural and ethnic groups. The Lakota Sioux’s homeland was not the West to them; it was the center of the universe. It was not the West for the Alaskans; it was South. It was East for the Japanese and North for the people who lived in Mexico.” (Banks, pg. 9)

The article discussed that our society mostly views things from a Western viewpoint. This quote displays this very well. We always think of North America as being barren and uninhabited before Christopher Columbus landed here, but really, it was the home to many different civilizations. What we consider to be “The West” is only truly west from Europe, where our ancestors originated. 

I think this is an important topic to be taught to students. Of course, this format may be over elementary school aged children’s heads, but it can presented in a more child-friendly way. For example:

What does a mouse hole mean to a mouse? Home, protection, where there family is, etc. 
What does a mouse hole mean to a cat? A pesky place that their prey can run into where the cat doesn’t fit, which prevents them from getting a nice, mousey meal. 

There are tons of different spins on this that you could use! It really makes you take a step back and think about how others perceive the world in comparison to your own views. As a Christian, a cross is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice but to a non-Christian, it may just mean a big, red symbol seen on the side of an ambulance (something we discussed today in my Religious Studies class).

Whatever a child’s background may be, teachers need to allow students to embrace their own knowledge from home or the community, but also push them to try putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. Let the classroom be a place to explore new possibilities and think about why we think the way we think. What made us think that? How would someone else think of it? Just enforce that there are no wrong answers. 

I am so excited that all of the issues and topics I discuss can be linked in other ways to previous classes I have taken. It really makes me feel confident that by the time I convocate, I will have a vast and working knowledge of diversity and relationships within a classroom. 

James A. Banks
The Canon Debate, Knowledge Construction, and Multicultural Education
Educational Researcher June 1993 22: 4-14, doi:10.3102/0013189X022005004

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