Upon reading the Ben Levin article “Curriculum policy and what should be learned in schools”, I learned a great deal about the development process behind Western curriculum both in the past and today. The article describes how the process has changed over time; in the past, the public had no say and education officials and experts made the decisions, while today parents and families are given a much larger role. They too are able to help decide what they think is best for their children to learn in school. The input of parents, combined with that of public officials, teachers, university professors, and other professionals and experts, all culminate in these decisions. As a result of the amount of groups and people involved, coupled with the often-controversial nature of the changes proposed, the process of changing the curriculum is rather lengthy and tedious. I honestly find it a fair bit confusing and concerning that these decisions are so controversial and take so long to be made, as this leads to the possibility that outdated or incorrect material is being taught due to it not having had the opportunity to be changed into something more appropriate.
Comparing these insights to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education’s Treaty Education document makes things more clear. The document demonstrates the sheer number of groups and people of various levels of influence involved in the process of making these decisions. It is this overwhelming amount of people involved that makes the process so tedious and difficult, yet ultimately it can be for the better, which makes it worth it. Having so many people would also undoubtedly cause a fair degree of tension among decision makers, due to the sheer amount of disagreements and controversies that were bound to happen over such a topic.
As commonsense is a concept that varies between different cultures and societies, it is difficult to pinpoint a universal concept for what being a “good” student entails. A definition commonly perceived by people is that a “good’ student does exactly what is expected of them by their school. “Good” students show up to class on time and without missing school days, turn in their assignments diligently, and get good marks on homework and exams. Western society places a major emphasis on participation, attendance, and academic excellence. Other cultures have similar expectations of their students, but what they view as ideal or “good” may be vastly different in numerous ways. Franklin Verzelius Newton Painter notes in “A history of education” that education in Asian countries is designed to produce components of the already-established society rather than help build individuals. This, having been written in 1886, is incredibly outdated, but seeing the way Westerners perceived education in other countries is incredibly fascinating and helps understand how Western values and ideals came to be.
Obviously, with this definition of what makes a “good” student, there are a variety of cases in which a student may not be able to meet those expectations. Some students have learning disabilities that prevent them from excelling to the same extent as their classmates, while others may have difficult situations at home that prevent them from getting homework done or coming to class on time. Each case is different, and as a result, it is not fair to not consider a student “good” if they are barred from achieving these ideals through no fault of their own. Students that do not have such disadvantages are able to flourish in a traditional classroom and can be perceived by their teachers as being “good”, whereas those that need special attention or different considerations may not get the opportunities they need to truly flourish.
The model used by Western schools today is most definitely based on older models designed to educate only certain people and create ideal employees. It puts a major emphasis on arriving on time, participating, and doing exemplary work, which are all qualities valued in employees. Back when many students went on to become factory workers, these values were ingrained in them from a young age. Today, with society and the economy having evolved quite significantly, this model is outdated yet continues to be used to produce “good” students in a manner that benefits the privileged and does not give disadvantaged students the opportunity to succeed as well.
Painter, Franklin V. N. “A History of Education.” Internet Archive, New York : D. Appleton, 1 Jan. 1886, archive.org/details/historyofeducati00painiala/page/8/mode/2up.
Kumashiro considers commonsense to be something that is so ingrained into culture and society that it is not questioned. There are countless different things that can be considered commonsense, and the term is widely used around the world. There are some things that are never questioned, and while the specifics can vary worldwide with different cultures, the topics in general are typically universal. This widespread notion also applies to education, as Kumashiro demonstrates. During his time in Nepal, he experienced a very standard and traditional form of education, with textbooks, exams, and lectures all being pre-determined. Being inspired by the American education system, Nepalese education in Kumashiro’s experience heavily incorporated commonsense topics, which caused there to be a certain degree of bias. This was also blended with more controversial educational tactics such as separating boys and girls and physically disciplining students. While the commonsense model may be controversial worldwide, it is the most conventional and therefore most convenient, and as a result it is used in Canadian schools along with schools worldwide. While other methods may prove to be more effective on an individual level, the fact remains that few alternative methods exist that are able to effectively teach a standardized curriculum to large groups of students at once.