Through recovery of an understanding of the topos, especially of imaginary and physical landscape and our history within it, we may find a place to begin the difficult work of reaching into and across the territories of difference, And thus….write a topography for curriculum theory, one that begins at home but journeys elsewhere.” Cynthia Chambers 1999
This will be my third spring teaching Internationalization of Curriculum Studies, and I decided that it was time to move this course from behind the iron curtain of Blackboard Learn to inviting students to create personal blogs. A personal web space where one can situate oneself, share ideas and interact with others beyond a specific border in many ways performs the spirit of the field of Curriculum Studies.
Curriculum Studies is an intellectually dynamic and ever changing field. For curriculum scholars either here in Canada or abroad, situating and defining the broader international field of curriculum studies and its development remains a historically situated and contested “complicated conversation.” Therefore within the context of this course our study of certain international educational issues will be contradictory, contested, and sometimes paradoxical. As a result, each week we will try to reconceptualize and complicate our historical, present, and future understandings of the differences between various international educational movements and interdisciplinary discourses, which in turn inform curriculum studies.
Our introductory readings are Cynthia Chambers (2006) “Where do I belong?” and Steven Talbert (2009) International Travel and Implication. After completing the readings, as a class we are working to construct our online biography on a blog. Thus our first online activity is to create an online biography or profile after thinking about what the authors have to say about the concept of travel in relation to their identity. Through this venue I am hoping to open the question about what has been our "lived experiences" of traveling either across Canada, to Canada, or other countries around the globe? While I have asked students to write about what passages from the readings provoke them to think about those lived experience, I’ve shared mine below.
Where do I belong?
My mother and father’s wedding at my Grandparent’s home in Brooklyn 1962
I’ve read the Chamber’s piece “Where Do I Belong?” Canadian Curriculum as a Passport Home a number of times but it just dawned on me during this reading that I was one of those people who experienced travelling across the US/Canada border without a passport. I was a kid though so, at the time, I never really noticed. Born in Brooklyn, NY and then moving to the suburbs of New Jersey, I grew up as an American but every summer travelled to cottage country north of Toronto until finally my Canadian father who had moved to the US because my mother was homesick for her family. Having had enough of working in NYC, he moved the family to Toronto.
While it didn’t feel that way at the time, in many ways the timing was perfect because at 16 years old I found myself in a Grade 10 History class where I became fascinated with the teacher’s preoccupation with the topic of Canadian identity. This seemed like such a strange topic to me, as American identity had never been spoken about in my previous years of schooling; yet the pledge allegiance and star spangled banner seemed to be part of my very being. That I would later write my MA thesis on the how this struggle with defining a Canadian identity had an impact on how regional Canadian literature, especially texts set in rural settings, was undervalued was no coincidence. After my MA I completed my B. Ed. and taught literature for about 10 years. Reading Chambers now, I see how central her question, “Where Do I Belong?” might have been to my graduate research asking about the significance of stories of place across the expansive nation. Chambers’ questions opens up how such stories embody a curriculum of identity that allows for the deep engagement with social and cultural difference rather than the homogenizing American ethos.
My mom with her parents at their pizzeria in Brooklyn
In retrospect, it would appear that I have been travelling the path to curriculum studies, which I now find myself teaching, for some time precisely because it looks at how home is the place where, as Chambers notes, “the past is continually in the present.” This always complicates where we are now. Following Chambers, I have turned to using life writing as a form of inquiry to look at my family history in relation to the larger history of immigration and how we continue to live that history. What are the everyday lived moments of a geneology that involves immigration and how do we return to it in our daily living. For me, some of these everyday lived moments include a story about my grandfather’s immigration from Italy and my mother’s persistent sense of cultural self-loathing of being Italian and not “truly” American.
I hope you too will find the field of curriculum studies offers you a space to explore the self reflexive space of your lived history in the context of genealogy, migrancy and transnationalism.
Me! March 2015 Brooklyn journey