The Merits of Curriculum

As it turns out, I am in the process of working with and developing curriculum as part of my Johns Hopkins program. In my course, we have spent the last month critiquing the four aspects of curriculum (written, taught, assessed, and hidden) to determine if the goals of a specific curriculum align with our hopes for that specific curriculum. In the middle of doing these readings and assignments, I came across two resources that are making me rethink our process and goals.

1) Below is a talk that was given by Sir Ken Robinson at the AERO Conference (Alternative Education Research Organization) at the end of last year. The quote that rang true to me was “A standardized curriculum favors conformity and tests students in a very narrow way.” Throughout the last half of the talk, Sir Ken examines the role of curriculum in our school setting and specifically references the problems with a national and standardized curriculum. He warns that “Standardized curriculum takes the art out of teaching.” I have always been fond of the goals and message that Sir Ken continues to extol. This video is a great addition to his collection, and I highly recommend watching it. In my opinion, this video is a great one to make us think about our school system and the integration of the common core.

2) The second resource I happened to run across was a shared to me through twitter, and it rings true as we modify our school and district curriculum. This article (which can be found here) is a great representation of the struggles that face any type of innovation including in schools. In one of my assignments, I had to talk about the plans and implementation schemes that exist in my school and district around curriculum integration. I consider DPS to be a progressive district and I am in a school with Innovation Status, yet some of the methods that are outlined in this article are abundantly apparent in both organizations.

Now that I look back on the institutionalized curriculum at my school, I see a lot of missteps and errors. It is my opinion that the merits of a given curriculum really are the sum of its distinctive parts. In light of the integration of the Common Core, it is more important to me that we look at the Hidden and Taught Curriculum within the Common Core and use those parts to assess the whole. If it is an excuse to force teachers to teach the same things in the same way, we are definitely narrowing our focus (as Sir Ken warns). Uniformity and conformity are not the hidden morals that I want my students to find in my courses! I want my students to learn how to be unique and imaginative. If we look at the items in common between the Harvard Article and the AERO talk, it is easy to see that the same thing that stifles creativity and innovation in the corporate world will stifle innovation, imagination, and creativity in the classroom.

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