Should Curriculum be Seen as an Achievement?

I read Mark K. Smith’s article on curriculum theory and practice, and I am definitely drawn to his description of curriculum as product, or the idea that curriculum should be used to achieve specific ends within students.  The reason this one stood out to me is that it is a perspective widely used across Canada and many countries around the world in regards to education; that students need only to learn specific facts, pass certain tests, and achieve expected grades to give them skills that they will need to successfully transition into the workforce.

Within my own life, one great example of this was when I took Grade 12 level mathematics courses.  None of my Grade 12 teachers were accredited, and so they taught us only what we were going to need on the departmental finals, to insure that the teachers taught us specific objectives as they related to the Provincially set curriculum guides for each subject.  There was not a lot of ‘wiggle room’ for the teachers to add that which they may also have found to be necessary for our learning within the topic.  There were many things that the teachers, or the students I might add, have changed or even just added, but they were unable to do so because of the rigidness of the curriculum, despite the fact that we were only being taught to the test.

Of the possible weaknesses with this kind of view of curriculum, the rigidness and lack of creative possibility is the greatest.  Making school very task oriented is what makes students so bored by it, and just like that a whole generation of learners is lost because the were never taught how to learn based upon their interests, desires, abilities, etc. except where they coincided with the curriculum.  I believe that the best ways to teach students are to get them interested, and so that means that there maybe needs to be a loosening of the curricular leash, and more responsibility entrusted to the teacher to make sure the students are learning.

There are many benefits to having strict curricular objectives, though.  Some of the benefits include the standardization that post-secondary institutions are able to draw upon, that the Ministry of Education is able to judge how students are learning, and by giving specific, identifiable goals to students who need that target to aim for.  This way of seeing learning is not necessarily better or worse than another, it just may be better or worse for certain students based upon their needs, wants, and abilities, because in the end education should be about the students.

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What is Common Sense?

Recently I read through the article The Problem of Common Sense by Kumashiro, and in it, the author raises many interesting points as to how ‘common sense’ influences schooling all around the world.  Kumashiro defines ‘common sense’ as presumptions that students, teachers, schools, and societies make about education; how students learn, how it should be taught, what needs to be taught for students to succeed, etc.  More specifically, the author focuses on how ‘common sense’ has negative repercussions such as reinforcing stereotypes, allowing certain students to succeed while allowing roadblocks to others, and assuming that all students have the same basic needs in regards to education.

It is very important for us to recognize ‘common sense’ as a concept, because then we will start to notice some of the presumptions that we have about education, and things that might need to be improved or changed to the betterment of all students.  Finding out which things we presume about education  also makes us ask why we hold these presumptions, and if they still accurately reflect societal values, and even if we believe those values to be right or wrong.  Education is constantly changing, and if we want it to change for the better teachers need to critically examine what we hope to achieve and how we intend on achieving it in the most successful way.