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The Myth of Common Sense

Every culture has a set of norms that they ascribe to. They believe that this is the way it is or perhaps it is an ideal as to how things collectively should be. Kumashiro defines in his article The Problem of Common Sense as “something everyone should know”. In his article, he challenges this phenomenon also called a normative narrative and outlines why it could potentially be damaging. For example, he discusses why in the U.S. (although it is applicable to any other country) this idea of things needing to be done a certain way can easily lead to a superiority complex. While in an educational context he challenges the curriculum directly and how it can further this view, he also challenges what is not included in the curriculum because it implies an ideal as well.

When Kumashiro began teaching, he started in Nepal. He was there to innovate the schools and to critique their system. In his own teaching style, he attempted to bring a more modern approach; an approach that is focussed less on a testing model and more on experiential learning. to his surprise, there was pushback because the students felt disadvantaged that they were not being taught in the traditional way. They were concerned about not being prepared for testing in the future and that they could not predict the homework. This model presents the teacher as an explainer of the pre-approved knowledge mandated by the state.

Some additional points that I found striking from the Kumashiro article is that common sense does not challenge what society could be, it just says what it should be and that societal pressure is implicit. It implies that a ‘good’ and ‘efficient’ teacher sticks to a certain standard and teaches according to common sense. Making challenging the norms difficult. It also makes us feel comfortable because it is predictable which also makes challenging the norms difficult.

Overall, I find that curriculum seems to have an issue that can be found in the scientific community. Sometimes scientists over time forget that there is very little fact and most of what we know is only a theory for the moment. A new piece of information can come along and change everything. So it is with the curriculum. Everything is taught as concrete, unchangeable fact when if fact, the curriculum is a living organism that is subject to change over time. Knowledge changes and society changes but education has trouble reflecting this but what is there currently is taken as fact and not as a theory. Each new teacher also brings knowledge because they see the curriculum through their world view and their life experiences. All of this is prompted by the Smith2000 article, on page 7-8 when they discuss how education relates to the scientific community.

The Canadian curriculum traditionally has a teacher as the knowledge keeper model. It implies that the teacher knows everything and the student must keep up with the knowledge. The curriculum still favours mathematics, sciences and literature over “softer” subjects like music and art. While there is effort in changing the collective way of knowing and bringing anti-oppressive curriculum into the classroom, actions speak louder than words and much of the education’s action still imply a traditional way of teaching. It implies that knowledge and teaching process is measurable – which automatically creates a hierarchy of knowledge. It also favours certain languages over others (most schools are taught in French or English and students are expected to know and follow the language rules). This is good in the sense that it creates a baseline and it is reflective somewhat of the general views of the populace but it falls short in helping the populace to grow and reflecting the experiences and knowledge of the minority. It also allows for dangerous normative narratives o be perpetuated.



1 Comment

  1. Anastasia


    I enjoyed reading your blog post and how you included points that you found interesting to read and that had stuck out to you. I agree that common sense does not challenge what society could be! Your post got me thinking about the ways individuals view the curriculum and how we all can have different definitions for it. We both picked up that Kumashiro was feeling disheartened about not knowing the ways to teach the children in Nepal. If you were to teach in a different country, would you want to work in one that had similar views to our ‘common sense’ or would you like to see yourself in a completely new model of the curriculum?
    It was nice to read about the issues you saw within the curriculum itself and how you related it to the scientific community. How do you think we could help improve curriculum to include the “softer” subjects as well as still focusing on maths, sciences, and literature?

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