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Diving Deeper into the Curriculum – Reading Response #5

Before Reading Response:

How do you think that school curricula are developed?

When I think of the development of the school curricula, I imagine a group of older, white men of middle to high class, coming together and discussing what aspects are important to learn in order to shape the student for the future. The focus falls upon the “core” subjects: Math, English, Science, and History. Additionally, I think that the curricula developers created a specific vision of what an ideal student would/should be, and that education is an experience that shapes the student into the pre-determined end goal. Within each subject area there are key concepts that students should learn and understand to function as a better member of society in the future.

After Reading Response:

How are school curricula developed and implemented?

One key aspect that I failed to mention in my before reading response is the deep rooted connection between policies and politics and education. As the article states, “[p]olicies govern just about every aspect of education—what schooling is provided, how, to whom, in what form, by whom, with what resources, and so on” (p. 8). If we look at classrooms as microcosms of the larger society, we can see how classrooms are highly structured and shaped by politics and policies.

According to the article, “[m]ost curricula are organized around at least two levels of objectives—very general or broad goals and then much more specific learning activities and objectives” (p. 14). To me, this nicely reflects the outcomes and indicators that are in the Saskatchewan curriculum. One very important quote that I would like to highlight is as follows: “[c]urriculum documents and policies may also endorse or support, explicitly or not, particular teaching and learning practices” (p. 14). Since the curriculum is based within politics, the dominant voice that is hidden within the curriculum is that of the dominant group in society and within politics. Namely, a middle-class, white, mainly male voice projects through the curriculum: MALE, PALE, and STALE. This is why it is of utmost importance to be critical of the curriculum. Just as history is bias and can be told through different lenses and favours particular people, the curriculum is written through the dominant perspective; and thus, will benefit the dominant learners in society. In a more specific sense, groups of experts and government representatives come together and examine “the existing curriculum, gathering data as to the strengths and weaknesses of current arrangements, considering various ideas for changes, and trying to arrive at consensus on recommendations for the new curriculum” (p. 17).

What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum?

As previously mentioned, my initial before reading response completely overlooked the role that politics and policies have on education. I think that it is the normative narrative and dominant story to believe that classrooms are independent structures and have completely free will. However, it is a fantasy to believe that educators, and the school as a whole, is apolitical. Schools are structures created by the church and government; thus, their actual physical development are political in nature. To go further, to grip onto the dominant story that schools are apolitical is an act of ignorance and denial. Educators need to have an understanding of the context that surrounds them, even if they wish that schools were not directly connected to policies and politics. In order to question what is taught, how it is taught, who it is taught to, and who teaches it, we must understand the context in which schools are created and the overarching goal of schools as a whole.

Before reading this article and discussing it in lecture, I never thought about how universities influence the curriculum based on their entrance requirements: “[p]ostsecondary institutions often have a powerful influence on school curriculum, especially in secondary schools, through the setting of entrance requirements to their institutions” (p. 16). There are a lot more influence and players in the creation of the curriculum than I would have thought there was!

Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

One concern I have is that some teachers are trying to take an apolitical stance. Since education is inherently connected with politics and policies, it is impossible to pretend to be outside of politics. A second concerning point that the article raised was the competition for time in schools. All people will believe that there are certain subjects that should be emphasized more than others. The subjects that are deemed as “extras” and “not core subjects” are the areas that are cut the most. These subjects just happen to be most often be subjects where students are encouraged to explore their creativity and question what they know, such as drama, art, and physical education: “debates take place about the relative importance of science or economics or the arts or physical activity in the competition for scarce school time” (p. 15). There is an incredible amount of value in these subjects; however, the competition for time is limiting students access to explore the benefits of these creative subjects.

Another concern I have is that curriculum and education will only benefit the majority, dominant group of learners due to the people who create the curriculum: “curriculum processes do not necessarily provide very much direct opportunity for input from various interests. As usual in political processes, those bodies that are better organized and financed or whose concerns are more deeply felt will tend to be much more active and may have disproportionate influence” (p. 16). Ultimately, since the dominant group is deciding what is important to learn in schools and how to learn this information, the beliefs and culture of the dominant group are the ones that prevail. As discussed in lecture, we need to continuously examine and critically think about who will benefit from this agenda, and who will be put at a disadvantage? Furthermore, since politics and education are closely linked, the racism, oppression, and dominant narratives will be perpetuated in the schools because of how the curriculum process is set up.

What concerns do you have after reading this article?

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