Posted in ECS210

February 7th – Curriculum & Politics

Before doing this week’s reading, I would have thought that curriculum was developed by our provincial government based on industry demands and requirements for entry level jobs or entrance into post-secondary schools. After reading the article “Curriculum Policy and The Politics of What Should Be Learned In Schools”, I know now that is not the case.

It turns out that while yes, the curriculum is developed by the provincial government, most of the time it is not based on industry demands or the entrance requirements of the average post-secondary institution. It is in fact, largely influenced by experts in the chosen fields who may have a greater understanding of the base concepts of their field, but have very little idea of what is practical and what is required of students beyond their secondary schooling. Often, the idea of what needs to be taught can also be biased by non-experts. Levin also describes the herd mentality that affects most political decisions and therefore schools, and says that what is right is not often what’s chosen. The decision that’s made is the one that’s screamed the loudest by the general population, who most often are not experts.

I was really surprised to find out that entry level job requirements and post-secondary entrance requirements aren’t often what is considered. In Education we usually discuss the benefits and pitfalls of standardized testing, and the concept of preparing students for the “real world”, whatever that means. But where do we draw the line between what is necessary and what is beneficial for students? Most students feel they would benefit from learning basic life concepts like taxes, but knowledge of how to do ones taxes is not an admission requirement for standard entry into post-secondary education institutions. Thus far, we have discussed how schools are politically charged, that the implied curriculum is important to consider, and how to shift away from the narrative we are used to. Most teachers, fresh out of school seem to be geared towards changing the world one student at a time. While that’s a noble goal, it’s not quite realistic. There is still the “meat and potatoes” of teaching, if you will, to learn. It’s interesting to move on from those topics and consider what academics mean to the school system, and it’s funny that this seems like such a small part of what’s actually important to know about curriculum.

Obviously, school does exist for a purpose outside of the social conditioning we have discussed in this class. The original point of school was to prepare students for life in a factory. While things have changed over the years and we don’t necessarily believe there is one specific path all students can or should have to follow, academics are still the main focus of schools. There needs to be some standards on what is taught in order to feed industry requirements. Yet again, we must ask ourselves whose standards we are listening to when developing curriculum for each subject. It seems from this article as though many people have a voice over what needs to be taught and that none of them seem to be the right person to focus on.

I like the idea of a focus group with a teacher, a parent, a regular civilian, a high school student, a post-secondary official, and some industry influencers that was discussed in the Ontario calculus issue. I think having multiple inputs is good, but having an actual discussion and bouncing ideas back and forth like that is an excellent idea. I also think that it’s important to acknowledge that there is no way there will ever be a one size fits all curriculum which seemed to be the crucial point of this article. An education will always be incomplete because the amount of time we have students in school for is simply not enough to meet every single expectation. As someone who has been through schooling, I do agree that we should be teaching more practical skills like taxes… but if there’s hardly enough room in the math curriculum to cram in the things industry and post-secondary schools are demanding, I don’t see any way we could be adding more. Just as we consider education and curriculum from a social justice point of view where we wonder whose views we are favouring, we should do the same for the academic portion of school.

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.

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Author:

20 year old secondary Education student at the University of Regina. Focused on writing, literature, art, and education for social justice. Former culinary student and lover of (vegan) food.

2 thoughts on “February 7th – Curriculum & Politics

  1. Hello, Hannah!
    I wanted to respond to the question that you asked in your blog: “where do we draw the line between what is necessary and what is beneficial for students?”. I do not think that there can be one answer to this question because no one school is the same. I went to a rural high school and there were not a lot of courses offered that were different from the maths and sciences. However, there are other schools that offer classes like Life Skills, Entrapenuriship, Career and Work Exploration, and Personal Finances (often these classes are electives). So, what can be beneficial to the students may depend on the schools that they go to and the classes that are offered. If the student has the option to take these kinds of classes, I think that is their responsibility to enroll in them instead of taking a spare or a class where they can get “an easy A” in order to get the information they deem is necessary. Additionally, like Mike mentioned in class yesterday, students will not get anything out of classes if they do not invest in them. So, students may feel that a class is unimportant, but that is because they do not have the motivation to learn. I am interested to hear what you think.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Allicia

    Like

    1. Hi Allicia,
      I also grew up in a very small town and see your point about how what’s beneficial for one student isn’t for another. In my case, majority of the students who lasted to grade 12 intended to go to post-secondary school, so having an expansive amount of classes was essential (thankfully this was able to be achieved by online classes!)

      Your point about student participation being needed to make the class important and meaningful to them is definitely valid, but I like to believe the best in people. I also like to believe that if the class is taught well that it should engage most if not all of the students.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Hannah

      Like

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