Kumashiro & “Commonsense”

Kumashiro talks about and defines common sense in multiple ways. It is all about what everyone considers “normal” and the expected practices, created by social pressures. He also explains that common sense gives us some sense of comfort because it helps make sense of our everyday lives. According to Kumashiro, it can offer an insight into content and ease as we find comfort in familiarity and repetition. On the other hand, norms privilege certain groups and identities. Kumashiro discusses that common sense tells us what schools should be doing and discusses how protests against common sense are dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or inappropriate. What one person considers “common sense” or their personal “normal” will be similar to people from the same communities, orientations, races, and religions. Now expanding from one’s own “normal” to the next can be polar opposites. It would appear that we do not have a say in what our own normal is. These ‘norms’ are dominant and are social constructs.

Kumashiro’s experience in Nepal is an example of differing common senses, in this case, culturally. In Nepal, there were certain times that different activities were performed, including when one uses the shower, washes dishes and filled water jugs. Kumashiro realized that the water source is located at the centre of the bazaar. This would be considered different or strange to someone from North America. Most people here have access to water at all times within their homes. You can shower before you start your day if you wish, and you can wash dishes and or laundry when it is convenient for you. Kumashiro explains how in Nepal, people use rice or lentils in their cooking and that cooking without them means you don’t know how to cook. In this example, if you do not cook with rice or lentils, it is assumed you do not know how to cook. This is not the case in North America. In Nepal, it is “common sense” to solely teach out of the textbook and prepare for end-of-term exams, whereas in the North American, it has become “common sense” to incorporate other teaching methods and learning. Kumanshiro time in Nepal was centred around the product orientated curriculum. The students were taught and expected to memorize the concepts that would be at the end of year exams.

We need to be aware of the difference of cultures, customs and daily lives in order to teach students in ways that tend their own particular needs, instead of being stuck solely on our ideas of common sense. As future teachers, we will be leading classrooms full of students from various backgrounds who bring their common sense to the group.

Kumashiro taught his classroom how he was taught and believed these methods would fit in any school. These lessons from the Peace Corps failed when they assumed their ideas were the only way to teach, considering the superior process. This teaching method also implies that America provides a better education, assimilating the students to American ways. The students in his class believed he was teaching improperly because he did not follow the usual lecture, practice, and exam program used in Nepal. It appears that the typical curriculum model used in Nepal would be lecture-practice-exam. Kumashiro brings in a different method to the classroom, which could cause students may have felt confused, unworthy or degraded because they could not relate with Kumashiro.

I believe this reading and lesson will help us become more conscious, open-minded and genuine teachers.

This post is written based on the following articles:

One Comment

  • Jennifer Culleton

    I love that you talked about the example of cooking and the differences of what was considered being a good cook. It is so interesting to look at the world with new eyes and try to see past some of those things that have been ingrained in us because of our social forms of “common sense”.
    What model of curriculum did your school/schools use?

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