Curriculum as Citizenship

What examples of citizenship education do you remember from your K-12 schooling? What types of citizenship (e.g. which of the three types mentioned in the article) were the focus?

Throughout my schooling, I remember that the Korean flag was always hung up in the classroom and we sang the national anthem every morning. Also, until grade 2, we stated the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. This has engrained nationalism into students’ heads. From Grade 5, students became able to vote and run for the school election, which taught us that we were citizens of the school, while allowing students to learn how to involve in the society, as well as exercise the rights.

Also, each and every one of student was assigned a duty, like sweeping the stairs and hallway, managing the blackboard, etc. During the middle school years, volunteer work was mandatory; students were required to visit a shelter for people with disability on Saturday after school every twice a week. Donation or charity events were often occurred and students were highly encouraged to participate or contribute to it.

Now that I look back, my schooling tried to focus on all of the three types of citizenship in various ways.

Personally-responsible citizenship: This type of indicates citizens who fulfill their social and civic responsibilities, such as pay taxes, vote, etc. This is the most common vision of citizenship promoted in schools through community service projects and volunteerism. As such, most of experiences I gained through my schooling are related to this.

Participatory citizen: Citizens in this category would feature knowledge of strategies and skills for public engagement and action and play an active role in community organizations. I don’t recall experiences in this category during K-12, but I have seen many of my friends participating rallies in various purposes, such as protest against the increased tuition fee.

Justice-oriented citizen: This category of citizens would question the root causes of social problems and put efforts to make a difference in the society, as well as work towards equity. I don’t think I was able to be in this category yet. However, I think that pursuing the journey of becoming a teacher is training me by providing diverse notions that challenge the status quo, and will allow me to become a justice-oriented citizen one day.

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Hey Curriculum, Do You Hear Me?

Before you do the reading ask yourself the following question: how do you think that school curricula are developed?

I think that curriculum is developed according to what children should learn, like fundamental things in terms of both academic and non-academic. Now, who gets to decide what is important and fundamental to learn? Several different viewpoints can be included here, but the majors would be higher government officials, such as the ministry of education, teachers who have in-depth experience in teaching, students and parents.

 

After doing the reading, reflect upon:

How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

As Levin (2007) explains, the process of curriculum development involves with a group of experts, including government officials, teachers, principals, senior administrators and elected local authorities. The group is organized by the ministry of education. The current curriculum is reviewed and suggestions are made and agreed upon in regards to what could be changed for the new curriculum. Then, a draft might be made first, and a final version of the curriculum is created by adapting few more suggestions and making changes. As this process is complexed and crucial to next generation and the society as a whole, it could take even several years to finalize.

 

I did not realize that post-secondary staff would have impact on the process of formalizing curriculum. I learned that as the University decides what the requirements are for the admission, high school gets influenced accordingly as they would have to assist the students to meet those requirements, hence the University can exercise influence on the curriculum. Also, in Korea, we have certain high schools that offer different courses to take as majored areas, based on the school’s values and etc. – for example, my city had certain schools specialized in fine arts, tourism, business, and so on – but I did not think about this as the school contributing to the curriculum. But now that I understand the relationships between the universities, high schools, and curriculum, it makes sense because not every university has same requirement, therefore not every school should offer the exact same courses. If it was, I think, it would have hindered the growth of students’ possibilities and limited them to certain career paths for their future and individual interests.

 

What surprised, concerned and frustrated me was how the student’s viewpoint is taken in a trivial part (or is there even a spot for student’s perspective in curriculum?) and deemed unimportantly, although they are the ones who get the hugest impact and have to deal with it anyway. At the same time, it was also disappointing to learn how much politics is involved in the curriculum. Levin (2008) argues that “elected government are subject to pressures and constraints based on voter preferences, election timing, and the view of key interest groups” (p. 9). The pressure of the public on government officials who make decisions on education policies could influence the curriculum in positive or negative ways. As such, after all, the government would do what makes them more popular and give them more power, because “for politicians, what people believe to be true is much more important than what may actually be true” (Levin, 2008, p. 13).

 


Reference

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Available on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.

Are You A “Good” Student?

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the common sense? Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student? What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these common sense ideas?

 

If I were to define what it means to be a ‘good’ student according to the ‘common sense’, I would say that a student who is diligent, obeys what the teacher says, repeats and practices what he/she was told in the class. Hence, the student is able to learn what he/she is ‘supposed’ to learn according to the curriculum that suggests a clear guideline of “what books students need to read, how many and what types of essays they need to write, what vocabulary words they need to memorize, and the for final exam, what themes from the books they needed to understand and be able to develop in short essays (Kumashiro, 2004, pg. 19).” This indicates that the idea of common sense here does not allow students to have an opportunity to express their thoughts in class, while keeping them from experiencing a diverse spectrum of creativity, imagination, as well as critical thinking. In this circumstance, it is likely that the process of learning is not up to the students to decide. Rather, it tends to be a process of embedding the knowledge, which I personally think is a less efficient way of learning comparing to those of learning process that encompasses the process of experience or exploration of knowledge.

 

I believe that the students who are familiar with the standardized classroom. In other words, those who are used to the traditional education system would be seen as ‘good’ students, as they are more likely to get better grades on the standardized exams or assessments, which will result in being successful in the classroom. Role of the teacher here, would be offering teacher-oriented lectures, traditional tasks, assignments, and exams that are considered as a ‘suitable’ or ‘appropriate way’ to evaluate the students. Eventually, the classroom would become more like a ‘factory model’, as mentioned by Katia in the second week’s lecture. With less difference in thoughts and more uniformity among students, the teacher is put at ease and the traditional system can remain the same, as the ‘common sense’ does not have to change.

 

As I described briefly above, the idea of being a ‘good’ student when it comes to the ‘common sense’ makes it impossible for students to have their own thoughts as they would be trained to think in the same way as what they were told in the classroom. This, again, eliminates an individual’s opportunity to develop critical thinking, creativity, imagination, as well as ability to work collaboratively, as they would experience insufficient opportunities to work together with peers. Further, it would be hard for these students to become open-minded humans that recognize the beauty of diversity among people and within the society, because this standardized and traditional way of schooling does not enable them to learn about it.

 


Reference

Kumashiro, K. (2004). Chapter 2: Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student. In Against Common Sense. (p. 19). Retrieved from: http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=10708&loc=17

Unpacking My Educational Philosophy

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

I cannot remember exactly when and where I read this quote first time, but since then, this always has been stuck in my mind as one of my favourite inspirations. As a future educator, I think that the idea of education encompasses not only academic, but also all other development areas in children, including social, personal, physical, moral, and cognitive, and is responsible for becoming better citizens. Throughout schooling, it is inevitable that the students would learn that the world is unjust, contains countless biases in various aspects. However, Mandela’s state has enabled me to believe the power of education and its possibility to make a difference in the next generation while contributing to the children’s development process and learnings, which more likely is built upon the healthy relationship between students and the teacher.

 

To me, curriculum is still difficult to define. However, I believe that school is a place where education occurs, and the idea of education, as mentioned before, does not necessarily mean just academic context. Education is a strong tool that helps students develop unique perspectives of looking at life, and plays a significant role for all individuals in the society. Education is a very critical investment and a hope to eliminate prejudices, reduce all inequalities while creating a sustainable community and peace for all, no matter what. Also, in order to achieve these goals, the best ‘education’ relies on both parties of teacher and students, and the opportunity to access to education system must be provided to all.

Questions to the ‘Efficiency’ in Curriculum

Respond in your blog to the following writing prompt: Curriculum development from a traditionalist perspective is widely used across schools in Canada and other countries. Can you think about:

A) The ways in which you may have experience the Tyler rationale in your own schooling?

As I was born and raised in South Korea, my entire schooling has done by following the Korean curriculum. Although various differences can be found in the education system between two cultures, similarities certainly exist as well, and I believe that Tyler’s rationale is one of the similarities. As argued in Schiro’s article (2013), Tyler’s rationale values the purpose of school and the schooling process for the desired purpose, while finding the most efficient and effective ways to achieve the purpose. Throughout my schooling, I remember that regardless of the subject, outcome of the class is always written on the top of the board in every lesson. Sometimes students were even asked to read out loud the outcome before the class starts. The lesson would include mini quizzes in regular basis in order for students to be ready for the midterms and finals. By looking back, I think that even though these classes may have been effective to achieve a certain ‘goal’, they were more like ‘training’ than ‘learning’ to me.

B) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible?

As discussed in the lecture, Tyler’s rationale can be seen as a ‘factory model’ because it features standardized teaching and learning, as well as teacher-orientated classroom rather than student-oriented. This would hinder the students from growing an ability to think critically and differently, strengthening creativity, while lacking socialization skills with less experience in working collaboratively with peers who share different background and ways of learning. Eventually, the students would be kept from accepting and embracing the diversity in the society.

C) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible?

Tyler’s rationale does suggest some structure and organization as a basis for curriculum development and implementation. It allows for rules and regulations regarding mandated subjects that must be taught to everyone. The guidelines can be utilized as a helpful tool for teachers, to ensure that they stay on track and follow similar methods and practices to that of their fellow teachers.

 


Reference:

Schiro, M. (2013). Chapter 3: Social Efficiency Ideology. In Curriculum Theory: Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns. (2nd ed.). SAGE.

Is Commonsense Really Common?

Kumashiro would argue that the idea of ‘commonsense’ is what everyone should know, which is the default answer that most people would agree on. However, what is deemed as commonsense can be different according to one’s perspective, as it all depends on one’s culture, values, gender, race, socioeconomic class, experiences, background, and many more. That being said, commonsense cannot be universal. People are used to their own ways of thinking and routines, and they would think that those viewpoints and behaviours are considered as commonsense. Although it is not truly ‘commonsense’ to them, newcomers are expected to learn what is ‘commonsense’ in the new culture they reside in, whereas those commonsense is known by locals and seen as ‘norms’, as the locals have been raised with those ‘norms’. This implies that it might be easier for newcomers to question the commonsense because the locals consider it to be normal, while not even considering to question. Also, commonsense is practiced repeatedly, which makes it hard to recognize and challenge it, as it comforts people.

 

It is important to pay attention to commonsense because it helps us feel comfortable to question our ways of thinking, and intentionally allow this to happen. Due to the fact that those ways of thinking that we are used to, the ‘norms’ in other words, “privilege and benefit some groups and identities while marginalizing and subordinating others on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age, and other social markers” (Kumashiro, 2009. p. XXXVI), it must be questioned and challenged with various viewpoints. By challenging what is seen as normative, we would become able to broaden our views toward the differences among people, and feel comfortable to accept those differences while embracing the diversity, which is a key to pursue anti-oppressive education.

 


Reference

Kumashiro. (2009). The Problem of Common SenseIn Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI.