Kieran Bonner’s Talk

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2016 by onepercentyellow

Today Dr. Kieran Bonner returned to our campus to give a talk on First Questions (Why are we here? What is life for? How should we behave? What does it mean to be human?).  It’s not surprising to have a conversation about this topic on this campus as it is one of the central concerns of a Liberal Arts education.  Dr. Bonner spoke of his history at Augustana and how his time here helped shape his own fascination and engagement with First Questions.

Not all universities, it seems, ask these questions.

Dr. Bonner painted the bleak picture of the University in contemporary society.  Billions of dollars in grant funding were awarded last year solely to projects in science, medicine and engineering.  Universities are questioning the value of the humanities, and some are determining that it is no longer necessary for students to have any knowledge of some of the key historical, artistic and philosophical moments in human history.  These universities argue that it is only the skills offered by engagement with the humanities that need to be retained: writing, reading, presenting and researching skills.

Even in his own school, University of Waterloo, there is a move toward a 2-course package that provides students with all they need to know of humanities.  They get the “hard” skills mentioned above alongside a survey of the history of Western thought.  Of course, a wave of shock and disgust rippled through the room!  How could it even be possible that administrators would consider this sufficient engagement with the Humanities?

The problem is, the humanities do not do a very good job of defending themselves outside of the skills argument.  As a society we do not hold a sense of wonder and exploration of the life of the mind as a high ideal. The young adults entering our university are certainly susceptible to this thinking and are more concerned with the type of job they will get at the end of their degree than they are with the type of education or understanding of life they will attain.  There are those in administrative positions who agree and are making changes to the university as we once knew it.

Dr. Bonner spoke of the gift that students are given when they enter university: a 4-year exploration of thought, theory, beauty, wisdom, and joy.  While it may seem that joy is very far away when we are awake late at night in order to finish a paper, the exquisite moment when insight is born is an experience that transforms lives. Many are too consumed with the very real anxiety of mounting student debt to enjoy the special physical and mental space offered by intellectual pursuits.

It is this discussion of anxiety that I find most fascinating as we look to the Millenials.  Uncertainty is constantly around and every generation believes that the present problems are surely the most complex. I have learned, through both my academic training and my older friends who were present in the room today, that the treasure of sharing knowledge and story is knowing that you are not alone in attempting to solve the Wicked Problems of life.  Somehow knowing that I’m not alone, and that better minds have failed, is comforting.  It allows me to relax into life, and see possibilities that may not have become visible if I were stressing about the Right job, the Right community, the Right…. well… everything.

There were may other points in Dr. Bonner’s talk that I could discuss, but I’ll leave with a thought Dr. Milbrandt put forth: nothing worth learning can be taught (he said it was Oscar Wilde).  While this may be true, nothing at all can be learned outside of relationship, so it is imperative that we strive, through teaching and learning, to prepare the mind for insight by preparing fertile ground for growth.

What do you think?  As I said, I’ve been asking these questions for a long time..



Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2016 by onepercentyellow

This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice. Whatever you speak good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, f there is someone who harbours I’ll thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about I’m will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of maleolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. E everything will be different at the end of forty days, because you will be different inside. P 211 (this is from 40 Rules of Love by Elif…. Can’t remember her last name just this moment, but I’ll put it in)

The heart and mind build well worn tracks in our being.  Our psyche is like a tired animal following the path of least resistance.  For so long I was so angry.  I was hurt and railed at the injustice of inequality.  I expended more energy racing between anguish and indignation I hardly had a chance to see the world around me.  Changing slowly, inviting me to know more – to be more.

For 40 days and nights, I turned toward kindness, forgiveness, and compassion.  I tried to intervene when I remembered the pain or the unfairness by speaking into the world some goodness. As if by incantation, life began to soften around me.  I didn’t have to be so angry at you anymore, and I could begin to forgive myself.



Once upon an English adventure

Posted in EAP Augustana with tags , , , , on September 13, 2016 by onepercentyellow

It’s hard to believe that it was nearly 15 years ago that I first decided to move abroad to teach English as a second language.  Now, as I sit here in my English for Academic Purposes class at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, I think back to those first classes and how much I have improved as an English teacher.

“Free talking!” Mr. Jung would say when I asked him what I was expected to teach my Korean students.

“What’s free talking?” I asked.

“You know. Free talking!” He said with even more excitement.

I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I decided I would ask the other teachers about these “free talking” classes.  I would learn that the school generally had very little in the way of curriculum and I would be expected to design the course any way I saw fit.  I would try out many terrible lessons, including Tongue Twister Tuesdays where we would recite a grouping of tongue twisters for 50 minutes every Tuesday, musical Fridays where my students were expected to sing along with me as I struggled with learning guitar, and games day where we would play Monopoly or Scrabble for the allotted time.  I would have a one-on-one class for 3 hours a day for 3 weeks in order to prepare a vice-president in LG for his upcoming move to Toronto.  We both fell asleep in class one day!

All this trial and error has refined my teaching style and ability.  I now spend time crafting assignments aimed at fulfilling specific learning objectives and I try to integrate multiple ways that students can engage with the English language.  I hope that my students in EAP 140 can read this post and consider themselves lucky that they are taking class from me now, and can be thankful for all those students who suffered for so long in my classes!



Book review of the Giver

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 by onepercentyellow

Vanessa gave us this prompt today – March 24th

The Giver was a facinating look at a dystopian society, and I have breifly discussed it with a few friends since reading it.  One of my friends thought that the holding of memory and emotion was very similar to our own society.  I was taken aback at first, but now that I consider it, the truth begins to reveal itself.

Within our society we have individuals who hold the weight of remembering.  They don’t necessarily remember those erased details of history that the Receiever of Memory does in the novel, but they hold the deeper wisdom of human kind.  These are the gurus, the spiritual leaders, and the scholars in our society.  They are the Dali Lamas and the Noam Chomskeys of the world.  They seem to look down on society from some kind of meta-level and are able to act almost as prophets for the rest of us. We also have those in our society who hold and process (or at least help the rest of us process) emotion.  In practical terms, we have psychologists and counsellors, spiritual leaders and “those friends” who have a particular gift to calm a worried heart and sooth a weary soul.

Of course these are positive, healthy modes of processing emotion and holding memory.  We also have the more insidious methods that the Elders of The Giver would appreciate.  We have retail therapy, over-prescribed drugs, and illegal vices where we can dump, delete, or delay our emotional reality.  We have media and political mechanisms that erase or alter our collective memory.  We have manipulative leaders that employ memory and information to perpetuate their own power, and we use the concept of Sameness to create divisions across borders.

The Giver, says author Lois Lowry in an interview, has been on the list of the most contested books since its release in 1997.  In our class we asked why this book would be so dangerous.  Of course the consideration of Cold War America came up, but I think the disquiet of the book touches something deeper.  There is a fakeness to this utopia that mirrors our own in the West.  It permeates our collective psyche and we can rarely break through it except by experiencing Elsewhere.  My own travels to foreign lands have led me to question if this society is the best way to build.  While others return from trips saying “Oh I appreciate Canada so much when I go to other countries,” I come back from a trip thinking “thank god it doesn’t always have to be this way.”

The Time Warp

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2016 by onepercentyellow

A creative writing exercise from my EAP 145 class – March 8th

Prompt: Making up a rule from the “older” generation

Young people these days!  None of them know how to communicate with each other when they’re in the same room.  They never look you in the eye and they can’t concentrate for longer than a television commercial.  What a crew!  We must ban the use of smart phones and texting.  People should only be allowed to make calls but not be on the internet 24-7.  Have you been on a bus recently?  Or merely walked into a classroom?  No one talks anymore.  There’s no challenge of seeing another human being – a stranger – and talking to them.


The world of silence where people’s vocal chords have deteriorated from misuse.  Finally the vocal spoken language dies and we only have text.  Then the internet dies and we have to rediscover speech.  gestures and movement again become a primary form of communication but we haven’t LOOKED at each other to communicate for so long that we are nearly unable to understand.  There is a lot of fighting and misunderstanding before we before we begin to interact peacefully once again.

————————————WARP BACK——————————-

And if these kids continue to be hunched over their phones they will lose the ability to stand straight for themselves.  Wobbly-spined question marks is no way to live a life.  What a weird world.



moocmooc: critical pedagogy week 2

Posted in MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags on January 27, 2015 by onepercentyellow

While I didn’t get any writing onto this blog for moocmooc week 1, I’m happy to share some reflections on week 2’s readings here.

bell hooks – engaged pedagogy

The discussion of liberatory education is not new to me.  I have been studying Friere, liberal arts, open education, cMOOCs and other contributing thoughts for some time.  I was also fortunate enough to complete my undergrad at Augustana, a small, liberal arts university that is teaching-centered and dotted with educators who are grounded in critical pedagogy and experiential education.

Having started my degree at a conventional university, I understand what we’re pushing against, but for much of my educational experience, I have felt the wave on my side.  Why, then, have I felt so reluctant to swim out into the great ocean of academia as a teacher rather than a student?  I suppose this is the difference between riding the wave and being the wave.

I’m not sure where this metaphor has emerged from, but it feels good, so let’s run with it.

At the risk of providing too much background information and making this post longer than anyone would care to read, I’ll tell you where I’m at.  I’m a masters student in the MAIS program and am currently working on my final project in which I would like to host a cMOOC on a critical examination of the digital world.  Over the last 5 years I have been digging deep into the digital world, searching for the meaning and affect of this revolutionary space on my own and our collective Being.  As I approach my final project, I would like to share those questions (and some of my own reflections) on this space in an open dialogical space, but I must admit, I am afraid.

I am afraid of merely providing content.  I am afraid of dictating my own reflections without being able to join others in the emergent qualities of the conversation.  I am afraid that all this meaning that I have encountered is irrelevant and that no one will want to engage.  I am afraid to fail.

As I read bell hooks, I began to have hope again that this engagement may be more about my own self-actualization as a teacher than it is about the content of the course.  This is a moment I have waited for.  It’s taken years and a humility as a student that I had to actively cultivate.

I think this is where the practice of hooks and Freire comes in.  The teacher in the teacher-student must recognize her place as the ocean.  She has spent years deepening the knowledge well – reading, writing, watching, discussing, contemplating, swearing (#F%&#(F paradigm shifts!).  She is sought after by student-teachers seeking to understand the currents of thought connected to one another throughout history.  The ocean takes joy in the swimmer, the surfer, the scuba diver who is brave enough to enter the water.

While the metaphor is entirely new to me…. and would take time to develop, it helps me to consider the balance of power and ability.  The ocean has the power to make waves and the surfer has the power to stand upon them.  The teacher-student helps explore the deep currents and the student-teacher joins in navigating them.


On an entirely different note, I question how this happens in a second language classroom.  I have been asked to work in this field, though I have had my doubts as to my ability to foster an emergent classroom where so much is truly by-rote.  I suppose I’ll leave with that question, and bring it to the #moocmooc twitter conversation tomorrow.

If you’ve made it to the end of my ramble, ramble on, friend.


Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being” by Joe L. Kincheloe

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2014 by onepercentyellow

Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being”:

Using Indigenous Perspectives to Consider Conflict

The author of this article, Joe L. Kincheloe, served as Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education at McGill University and was the founder of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. From this foundation in critical pedagogy, his chapter proposes tenets of critical ontology to penetrate the identity construction of would-be educators and researchers. He uses Indigenous epistemologies as foils to the Cartesian construction of self, society, and reality, and pushes scholars to engage with the Other as a way to critically examine the Western construction of selfhood.

(Click HERE for a wonderful video in which Kincheloe elucidates some of his pedagogical beliefs)

Engaging with Kincheloe was easy for me as I also subscribe to the values of critical pedagogy (that being exposure of inequality in the dominant paradigm through examination of and action on the emergent nature of reality, or conscientization). The reading made me question when and where my own critical consciousness awakened. I wish I could say that it was when I first went abroad and lived for 4 years in Asia, but I know that my first foray into the land of the Other was not marked by reflexivity, but by exoticism. I found the cultural differences fascinating, engaging and interesting, but had very little to say about the contributions these cultures made to my understanding of the world and myself. It was not until I was introduced to Sociology, Linguistics and Literary Theory and then participated in a study abroad program to Cuba that I began to see differently. When I returned, all I could do was shake my head at all those who claimed the greatest gift travel could offer was knowing how wonderful Canada is when you return.

So with this intimate knowledge of critical ontology, one could dream I have “cultivate[d] humility without which wisdom is not possible” (Kincheloe 198), but the waking reality is far more steeped in Western ideology than I care to admit. I recently realized this when I came into a heated discussion with my boyfriend’s brother (I’ll call him Tom) over topics ranging from economics and politics, to the value of socialism and community, to extractive industry and the philosophy of work. I left the conversation exhausted and was frustrated with myself at my inability to communicate my point effectively. As we both retired, he mentioned the community group he is a part of and the work they were doing on land use in the area. As I went to sleep that night, my own entrenched Cartesian dualism struck me hard. Why did I feel the need to push him into my own way of thinking? Why did I refuse to concede any of his points? How had everything become so black and white?

On my second reading of Kincheloe, I decided to take direction and investigate Indigenous modes of conflict resolution. Perhaps other cultures could assist me in further extracting myself from the Western individualist perspective. While I have only scratched the surface in this research, I have a couple preliminary considerations to offer here.

Conflict resolution in Ni-Vanuatu society uses storytelling and metaphor to avoid personal attack while exploring contentious issues. Further, they use song, poetry and silence to allow space when debates become heated. I had considered this tactic that night as I lay awake in frustration. Why had I not asked Tom earlier how his worldview manifest in stories of his life? Would this have revealed his involvement with the community land-use board and offered a different metaphor to examine the situation? Of course I also wondered why I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut!

In the Mi’kmaq society, the web of relationship is more important than the assertion of absolute righteousness. Harmonious relationship with all our relations (including the animate and inanimate natural world) is of utmost importance. The most striking image from this reading is the sacred circle, a symbol common to many Indigenous groups. “The traditions of the circle suggest seasons, lifecycles and eco-spiritual forces that both govern and protect human life and ecological balance” (Bowers 295). When conflict occurs, it is never the individual who stands trial, but his or her entire family, their extended community, and even the land. A circle cannot be formed with only two individuals present. If we are to consider our own moments of conflict, multiple relationships are pulled into play as we confide in our closest friends and allies and rally our strength to continue the push toward “right”. Perhaps if our society asked all those people to come to the town square to satisfy these conflicts, we would be more willing to approach each other with the humility that denotes wisdom.

My questions to you:

On page 195, Kincheloe speaks of the potential for Western life to appear as bizarre to someone from another culture. Share an experience where difference has revealed your own bizarre norms. Alternately, watch this scene from God Grew Tired of Us and comment on the notion of freedom presented.
In my example above, it can be argued that I privileged my own values of critical ontology over Tom’s belief in a dominant Western narrative. Is Kincheloe’s reading meant to only dismantle Western ideals and hold up the value of Other ways? In this same vein of questioning, I’d like to highlight Timothy’s response in Week 5 where he is “irritated that all aspects of colonialism are assumed to be horrible, catastrophic, and never in the best interests of the colonized.” How can we extract the positive contributions from the colonialism? What are they?
Thanks in advance for your responses!

Works Cited

Bowers, Kisiku Sa’qawei Paq’tism Randolph. “From Little Things Big Things Grow, From Big Things Little Things Manifest.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 8:3 (2012): 290-304. Web 5 June 2014.

Kincheloe, Joe L. Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being: Forging a Postcolonial Curriculum.” Curriculum as Cultural Practice: Postcolonial Imaginations. Ed. Yatta Kanu. Toronto: U of T, 2009. 181-202. Print.

Walker, Polly O. “Storians: Building on Indigenous Knowledge to Enhance Ni-Vanuatu Mediative Capacity.” Conflict Resolution Quarterly 30:5 (2013): 309-328. Web. 4 June 2014.