ECS 210 (Summer 2020): Blog 2

o   What does it mean to be a”good” student according to the commonsense?


According to F.V.N. Painter’s A History of Education, a ‘good’ student is a Christian male who attains his highest potential through knowledge passed down by his civilization. This outlook ties into the ‘commonsense’ model of education by focussing on the historical conventions of the group rather than the personal capabilities of the individual. ‘Good’ students quickly follow and reflect the methodologies and behaviours of their teachers and parents. They raise their hands to answer a question, finish their homework on time, open doors for others, etc. While such ‘good’ behaviour is not socially harmful, the attitudes that underlie how it is taught can emphasize difference. Kumashiro discusses this tradition through the concept of ‘prior knowledge’. As he theorizes it, prior knowledge is a kind of template or worldview that, once created in school, is difficult to change. Teachers’ underlying racist, sexist, or ethnocentric attitudes can easily be transmitted to students as legitimate worldviews. As a result, seemingly ‘good’, ‘commonsense’ knowledge can in fact function as damaging ‘prior knowledge’ and contribute to social tensions and discrimination.


o  Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?


Kumashiro sees ‘good’ students as those who can quickly adapt to the systems and methodologies of the school system. Students M and N were two individuals who had trouble integrating into the repetitive and orderly nature of the classroom. As a result, they suffered when it came to doing essays and assignments, and in following simple instructions. On a broader level, women, disabled, and non-white groups conformed less easily to the ideal of the ‘good student’. Kumashiro would argue that there are structural and ideological reasons for this pattern that tie into Painter’s elitist, ethnocentric outlook. For example, Painter states that Chinese people are hampered by their nation’s tradition of rote learning. Labeling people on the basis of racial, religious, and socio-economic qualities almost always denigrates them relative to the group that is considered ‘normal’ or ‘standard’.



o  How is the “good” student shaped by historical factors?


The ‘commonsense’ model is rigid and change-averse. Because it is regarded as ‘natural’ and ‘normal’, its problems are often missed or simply not seen. Kumashiro argues that while ‘crisis’ is commonly regarded as something best avoided, in fact it can be helpful in disrupting the deeply-embedded, historical nature of the commonsense model. ‘Good’ students might be inclined to turn a blind eye to discrimination because confronting it is uncomfortable and seemingly radical relative to the established system. White privilege has served whites well, just as sexism has been ‘good’ for men. The ‘good’ student will likely be hesitant to acknowledge that goodness is not available to everyone on equal terms. Historical factors of entitlement are deeply embedded and thereby difficult to challenge.

Painter: Painter (1886). A History of Education 

Kumashiro: Kumashiro (2010). Against Common Sense, Chapter 2 (pp. 19 – 33) – “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student


  1. Hi Jacques! This is a very insightful post! I found your answer to the third question very intriguing as you took a different approach than I. I completely agree with you that the commonsense model is change averse and that it does not respond well to conflict. I was reading recently how the commonsense model is so deeply intertwined with the concept of hegemony, and how the hegemonic ideal that “all conflict is bad” continues to be perpetuated through the commonsense model and hidden curriculum. As you pointed out, this ideal continues to privilege some and to put others at a disadvantage through the avoidance of conflict and discomfort.

    On another note, what factors in today’s world do you think might be shaping or shifting the commonsense ‘good’ student of tomorrow?


    1. Hello Brennan,

      Today, social media has a powerful influence on popular perceptions of ‘good’ students. It creates role models. Is this good or bad? For my part, I think that social media has helped diversify ideas about ‘who’ can a good student. We are exposed to a great variety of good students in terms of their cultural, social, geographic, ect. backgrounds. At the same time, social media probably also lessens diversity and difference by privileging the English language and Anglo-European ideas and values. For example, the languages of some ‘good’ students are dying out and their unique cultures are becoming diluted because the Net is largely dominated by corporations and advertisers from a few rich countries.

      Thank you for your message.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s