A good student, according to “common sense”

Traditionally, a “good student” is obedient, quiet, and they do their work. They respect authority and meet the expectations of the teacher. Kumashiro had met students who did not behave in this traditional way, but does that mean they are not a good student? Does it mean they are not deserving or capable of the same learning as their traditional “good student” counterparts? Kumashiro says that it is the responsibility of the educator to adapt to the needs of the student. These “common-sense” ideas privilege those who are white and usually male, those who have secure and supportive home-lives, those who do not have physical or mental disabilities, and those who embody the status-quo. When a student is behaving in an unusual way, it is traditionally seen as disobedience. Educators must adapt their expectations to what they find is most beneficial to the student, which might look different than the needs of the “common-sense” student. Understanding someone’s behavior isn’t always easy, and accommodations are often necessary for a more enriched learning atmosphere. Furthermore, the classroom will never be perfect as it is a place of varying learning styles and habits. Students express themselves in different ways, and some have difficulty expressing themselves at all.  Because of the diversity within the classroom, common-sense ideas in education are detrimental to inclusive praxis in pedagogy.

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Four models of curriculum

Four models of curriculum described in the article are,

  1. Curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted

An approach to curriculum theory and practice which focuses on syllabus is only really concerned with content.

  1. Curriculum as product

Curriculum as product is an approach to curriculum that is based in rationality and relative simplicity. “Curriculum as an attempt to achieve certain ends in students.”

  1. Curriculum as process

“What happens in classrooms.” (Catherine Cornbleth 1990)

“The attempt to describe what happens in classrooms.” (Stenhouse)

Lawrence Stenhouse made the analogy of curriculum as a recipe in cookery; “A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment.“(Stenhouse 1975). “Outcomes are no longer the central and defining feature… content and means develop as teachers and students work together.” “The focus is on interactions.” “A process approach to curriculum theory and practice tends towards making the process of learning the central concern of the teacher. This is because this way of thinking emphasizes interpretation and meaning-making.”

  1. Curriculum as praxis

“In this approach, the curriculum itself develops through the dynamic interaction of action and reflection.” Praxis is informed, committed action. It can be recognized as practice that focuses on collective understandings, a commitment expressed in action to the exploration of educators’ values and their practices, and educators to explore their practice with their peers.

 

I can explicitly recall the first three models of curriculum being present when I was in school, and I can surmise that curriculum was praxis was at play as well, however, I don’t have an overt memory or example of it. There is an importance to each approach because of the different types of learners as well as the strengths and preferences of the educators.

Kumashiro and Common-Sense

Kumashiro’s introduction is interesting. His time in Nepal definitely challenged what his notion of common sense was, from mundane tasks to big picture ideas. Even though he was brought to bring an outsider’s perspective to the school in Nepal, he was scoffed at and confronted over the fact that he had a different approach. Even the Peace Corps had reinforced “American” values and “common sense”. I found the testimonial experience to be an insightful and layered illustration of his professional epiphany regarding common sense.

On the surface, common sense seems to be something that it omnipresent and neutral. Kumashiro shows that what is common sense for one may be novel or alien to another. He elaborates on the idea, noting that schooling is not neutral, either. We must learn, to the best of our abilities, which ideas in schooling are in fact rooted in a certain perspective? Challenging the “common-sense” is difficult because it is engrained into the curriculum, and these “normal” ways of teaching are seen as “professional” and “effective”. It is also comforting to stick with the status quo because we have been taught that it is moral or normal.

The customs teachers adhere to must be in flux while being well-informed. If not, we risk privileging some and marginalizing others. The systemic privileges are built into the education system; into the curriculum. Kumashiro finishes his introduction by listing four overlapping approaches to anti-oppressive education:
1. Improving the experiences of students who have traditionally been treated in harmful ways.

  1. Changing the knowledge that all students have about people in this world who have traditionally been labeled “different”.
  2. Challenging the broader (and often invisible) dynamics in society that privilege certain groups and identities and marginalize others.
  3. Addressing reasons why anti-oppressive education is often difficult to practice.

 

I want to thank you for the resource, and the introduction to the concept of anti-oppressive education. A big takeaway for me was that anti-oppressive education is premised on the notion that its work is never done.