Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Curriculum Wars

During a workshop, I was asked to write down my own definition of curriculum. I was stumped. All I could think about was the idea that Doctors decided that woman should lay down on a hospital table to give birth - not because it is better for the woman and child, but because it was better for the Doctor. That image and other quotes from John Taylor Gatto were floating around in my head. "Dumbing Us Down": What does school do to children?

From a recent post on Granted, but… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins;

Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong. Really.

  • If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced?
  • If learning requires a didactic march through content, why are movies and stories so memorable – often, more memorable than classes we once took?
  • If a primary goal of education is high-level performance in the world going forward, how can marching through old knowledge out of context optimally prepare us to perform?
  • If education is about having core knowledge, and we are more and more teaching and testing all this knowledge, why are results on tests like NAEP so universally poor, showing that over decades American students have not progressed much beyond basic “plug and chug”?

So, what is curriculum to a child? Would they choose the same subject areas and plan the same "developmentally appropriate" goals as we do for them? I think that no matter how open, flexible, skills-based, student-centered we think we are... we are still backward planning from "being a good working citizen" down to the "best job" down to university application, down to test-taking skills, down to report cards and bribery tactics, down to kindergarten. All educational systems are starting to realize that something is broken. So far, they have responded by either creating more layers of control or by re-labeling traditional ways.

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