ECS 210 (Summer 2020): Blog 1

Response to Kumashiro’s “The Problem of Common Sense” and Smith’s “Curriculum Theory and Practice.”

 

  • How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

 

Kumashiro sees ‘commonsense’ as something that is “routine and commonplace” in schools: it so deeply ingrained that it often goes unquestioned. Even though ‘commonsense’ practices are widespread, they are not necessarily the optimal way of teaching. In fact, Kumashiro argues that habitual methods are often rigid, stifling, and difficult to oppose. He associates ‘commonsense’ education with four types of oppression. First is direct oppression through speech, action, and exclusion. Second is an associated categorisation of people that highlights ‘differences’ between them. Third is a marking of social status that disadvantages the weak. Fourth, the ‘commonsense’ approach disadvantages non-traditional learners. Kumashiro stresses that it is essential to assess ‘commonsense’ approaches with a critical eye so as to recognize its shortcomings and effectively develop alternative approaches.

 

  • What type(s) of curriculum model did Kumashiro encounter in Nepal?

In Nepal, Kumashiro encountered a very standardised method of teaching. The textbooks, practice questions, and tests were all previously established, meaning that the resource teacher’s job was mainly to orchestrate predetermined lectures. Kumashiro noticed that Napali schools were using the United States education system as the basis for their own. As a result, much of the teaching was based on the ‘commonsense’ model. Teachers taught daily lessons and assigned practice questions, which the students completed, and this continued through the semester. The classroom was set up so as to separate boys and girls, and students who misbehaved were physically disciplined. Kumashiro found that his attempts to be creative and innovative were undermined by the highly structured nature of the educational model. Students expected to be taught a certain way, and resisted experimentation with new approaches.

 

  • What type(s) of curriculum model is the “commonsense” model in our Canadian school system? What might be the benefits and drawbacks to this model?

 

As mentioned in Smith’s “Curriculum Theory and Practice,” an industrial model of education looks at the whole rather than the individual. As a result, teachers see their students as the product of ‘modern’ organised knowledge. This essentially boils down to the ‘commonsense’ model, which prioritizes what is conventional rather than what is best for each individual student. In Canada, many students feel alienated by an educational system based upon standardised tests, presentations, and the top-down lecture format. Unfortunately, there are few viable alternatives. Stress balls, rocking chairs, and individual spaces can only provide so much help to students with learning disabilities. Nevertheless, the Canadian system does have many admirable qualities. Standardisation fosters student confidence in the transferability of their knowledge and skills across geographical regions and the country as a whole. It encourages them to think beyond local options when applying for college or university. For similar reasons, standardization also benefits institutions of higher learning and employers in that they know what they are getting from their applicants. Educational programs that vary widely from one another based upon the creativity of individual teachers would make for a much more varied playing field. Additionally, if too much emphasis were placed upon the creativity of individual teachers, some might not be up to the task; it might not play to their strengths. Thus a delicate balance needs to be struck between standardization and individual creativity and adaptability. While I do agree with Kumashiro that education is based too much on ‘commonsense’, I think Smith has a point when he says that education must be something that should approached in a ‘scientific manner’ such that individual experimentation happens within a broad, structured system.

 

Kumashiro: The problem of common sense (From Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI). 

Smith: Smith – Curriculum Theory and Practice

1 Comment

  1. Hi Jacques,
    I was intrigued while reading your response, especially regarding the admirable qualities in our Canadian school system. I think it’s so true when you pointed out that employers and post-secondary institutions have a solid sense of what competencies an individual should have when leaving highschool or applying for a job.
    I also agree with you when you discussed the idea of teachers having more control over creativity in the classroom. Even though this could potentially open many doors of opportunities for some teachers and students, it would be unrealistic to think that every teacher would take full advantage of that option – like you said, it may not play into every teacher’s strengths. As much as I like the idea of teacher’s having a wider range of what goes on in the classroom, I do agree that there needs to be a balance between structure and individual creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

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