On View of Education: Vol. 5 – Curriculum

As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. One person described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. Of course, I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, thus being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was often the voice in the wilderness. I spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. You may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own so I’ve numbered them only for reference.

Today’s Topic: Curriculum
1) Educational curriculum is trapped in the dogma of traditional segregation and academic topics based on times past. Conceptualized applied learning seeks to prepare students for the workplace and life in a global society. Education must selectively abandon topics for the sake of conceptual, applicable knowledge.

2) Educators hiding behind the “they need it for college” banner is nothing more than an excuse to not change, thus continuing to promote the status quo.

3) Only in education do disciplines remain in isolation of one another, whereas in life whereas subjects are integrated. This isolation is like an hour walk in the woods divided into 15 minutes of plants, 15 minutes of animals, 15 minutes of earth materials, and 15 minutes of atmosphere. No wonder students define math (or any given subject) as 3rd Period.

4) Our school’s curriculum needs to be integrated to promote useful information in the world of life; not academia. The educational institution fails to realize that people trained in applicable conceptual frameworks of subject matter and higher order thinking skills will be able to learn the necessary content of the future.

5) Integrated curriculum is an important vehicle for problem-solving, life-based application of content. Life is not divided into specialized time slots as no subject in life is limited to third period. Integration increases student effectiveness and leads to increased use of quality performance-based assessments involving practical situations. Continual use of individual department curricular development support the status quo and the industrial-based educational setting that we proclaim to change.

6) We biology teachers stress the stages of a cell’s live, especially those of cell division (prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase). On the other hand, I haven’t heard any of those terms on the evening news or anywhere outside of my classroom other than a conference of biology teachers. Therefore, which is more important: to teach the details of cell division, its phases, and all the parts and activities or to teach the basic essentials of cell division, then followed by focusing on cancer? If given a choice, what would students select?

7) Innovative textbooks/programs exist – the ones that incorporate content standards, teaching standards, assessment standards, and research about teaching and learning. So, why do teachers and school districts avoid them like the plague?

Previous posts in the series

Reform

Change

Administrators

Teaching and Learning

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28 thoughts on “On View of Education: Vol. 5 – Curriculum

  1. You continue to make me want to stand up and applaud. Where are all the teachers, like you when we need them for our young people. These form a pattern of thinking that are needed so badly in our schools, 15 minute walks in the woods indeed.

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    • Val,
      Many thanks … Not only pick on the teachers, but also the administrators and the public because each of them are their share of responsibility in this.

      Interestingly, two weeks ago you wanted more context, and then last week you mentioned about connect the thoughts in the different posts – which you are reinforcing here … and that point makes me smile. Thanks.

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  2. #2 is interesting, because there have been teachers, who told middle child she would never succeed in college/university for the simple reason she is dyslexic. Yet, here she is now having successfully graduated university and is now is grad school.

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  3. #7 got me thinking about textbooks, in general. Did you notice how they got bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier over time? (Big money and competition among the EdD’s in universities). No wonder the kids didn’t want to lug all those tomes home for homework…it’s a wonder the backpack wasn’t renamed the student bursitis bag!

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    • Cynthia.
      Oh so true!!!! Can you imagine how much biology has grown in the past 40 years? Yep … as its body of knowledge grew, so did the textbooks.

      The big publishers dominate the market … and dominate probably isn’t a strong enough word. Interestingly, in the late 90s-early 2000s the National Science Foundation sponsored events promoting science programs that based on learning research, based on standards, & funded by NSF. Guess how many of the big publishers were present? …. None! … Not one .. zilch, nada! … yet, schools continue to buy the texts from the big publishers, thus avoid the good stuff. Very sad

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  4. As someone who is a full time mature aged student I find the most frustrating thing about structured education to be the push for new textbooks every year, whether the subject matter has evolved or not. It’s all about ‘value adding’ and making money for the publishers and in a lot of cases, software manufacturers. We are very lucky in that we can acquire student versions of programs but when new software is being released and touted as “must have!” and all they have done is move a few sections of the program around and make it ‘pretty’ and the price tag most certainly doesn’t reflect the ‘new’ features it has students (who are usually more highly represented in the ‘penniless and poverty stricken’ genre than the ‘I think we will have foise gras for our after school snack today’ genre…) perpetually poor, and when coupled with crippling school debt (which our government has just introduced in order to keep gouging out some sort of class system here in Australia) you have toxic conditions where it is very difficult to achieve ‘quality educational outcomes’ and where teachers are being fired and rationalised in order to ‘keep the country in the black’ you have to wonder where it’s leaders are trying to direct the flow don’t you?

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  5. Frank without people to stand up and be themselves we would all become the clones others would mould us into being.. So well done for standing up..
    Personally I do believe we have to move with the times.. and incorporate and learn some ‘Earth Skills’ too .. And not spend too much time learning about History but about the present and future of this planet..
    And apologies if you taught history! Its just that it is fine learning all the data.. but useless if we have no life skills to help us survive ..

    I was lucky, I was brought up in an all girls school, secondary modern.. Not the posh end of education, as I failed my 11yrs Plus exam..
    But in our last year at school age 15 we learnt how to run a home, budget, cook, clean, grow food, we also would have learnt through out our 4 yrs how to sew make clothes, and bake.. Ok I am going back to the 60’s when I left school..

    I never did get algebra, or find a use for it in my everyday life.. I loved Science, and came top, I also came near the top in History and Geography.. I loved English but was a slow started and have a Huge thank you to my English teacher who introduced me to novels.. 🙂 And Music I took the Speech Day prize.. 🙂

    I loved School… it took me away from home.. and chores.. 🙂

    Nice to be back visiting Frank..

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    • Sue,
      Thanks for sharing your story. No worries about your history comment because that wasn’t my discipline .. .thus why (at times) pick on science because it was my discipline.

      It took time, but I learned to believe that school isn’t for everybody … and every subject isn’t for everybody. However, useful context increases applicability for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Science I loved.. It really makes a difference when the teacher connects to their students and teaches a subject they are passionate about.. But also in ways that engage their students to be inspired and motivated.. We had one such teacher.. All our teachers were female.. and She was passionate.. We were at school when the Moon Landings took place.. It was made even more real to me, as my Dad let me stay up into the early hours of the night to witness it on our black and white TV set.. 🙂 There is a shortage of those studying Science here in the UK.. when students were asked why.. most said it was boring..
        Science is so much more than test tubes.. its about Biology, Earth, oh and so so much more.. So pleased to meet another teacher of the subject I loved, xx 🙂

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        • A great share. Much of science is like a new language .. .especially biology, which introduces as many (if not more) new words than the foreign language class down the hall.

          Why? 1) it’s in the book, and 2) the teacher was probably taught that way. So yep, students would be bored because they don’t see much application to life.

          Science majors also short in the US.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Until they start using the whole body of knowledge to teach the whole child, it’s gonna wobble. Teaching isolated subjects may be easier, but foolish – Knowledge is interconnected and needs all the relationships connected. If they did that the “get them ready for college” would be accomplished as well as real life.
    But it takes well grounded in content teachers who can be flexible and pick up cues from students and run with them. Hopefully teachers who have had jobs besides teaching and realize what the actual world is like for most. (should be a mandate for certification. Would be nice if teachers had to have undergrad degree in content area (not education courses. And with at least “B” average in content areas) before applying for teacher training.
    “Loving kids” is not a good enough reason to teach. Always knew ones who said that would have trouble, get disappointed, and probably not last. It’s a tough job and a critical one.
    Sitting kids in windowless boxes for hours is not good for kids and learning either – that, another tale.
    Cheer Frank.
    Oh #7? The other offer free testing booklet with answers and all sorts of extra materials – even puppets and stuffed animals, colorful posters – a program author to speak. …free food (“How come there’s not shrimp? X publisher brought us shrimp”…sad but words form secondary decision maker.) Don’t look under the rock -textbook publishing is a dark industry – not on the kids’ side anymore.
    (leaving now…I usually avoid commenting about edu. Waves! Parents were science teachers – pig hearts and cows’ eyes in our fridge waiting for their time)

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    • Mouse,
      You’ve mentioned a lot here, so will do what I can.

      In terms of publishers, oh yes … I know the big boys can buy a district … and even a state! Interestingly, much or the extra stuff (if not most) have little to nothing to do with learning, … but teachers love stuff, especially if the stuff is useful busy-work … and we know busy-work isn’t meaningful learning!

      In terms of content related degrees, here are two points from my experiences. First, my Bachelor’s degree in Education involved being a Biology major … and that was many, many years ago. In Ohio today, K-8 teachers have content concentrations, which is helpful.

      Regarding knowledge, what humans know (the body of knowledge) is going extremely fast …. and texts react by adding chapters/content. Meanwhile, carefully crafted programs and lessons practice (what I call) “selective abandonment” … .after all, one can’t cover everything. The trick is can one accomplish covering more by focusing on less. I say Yes!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Today’s Curriculum Topic is my favorite so far, including the many insightful comments by your readers. A big reason I liked college more than high school was because as a music major I didn’t have to study so many different subjects and could concentrate on courses designed to prepare me for a career in music. The problem was that it was like skipping undergraduate school and going directly into law or medical school, resulting in big gaps in my educational background. Looking back, I’m grateful that my high school had a strong college preparatory program where I was forced to take “an hour walk in the woods divided into 15 minutes of plants, 15 minutes of animals, 15 minutes of earth materials, and 15 minutes of atmosphere.” Otherwise, what would I know about any of those subjects now, or have had the means or curiosity to find out on my own?

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    • Tim,
      Thanks for the interesting reflection. It’s not that the segmented walk doesn’t have a place, but I question it as a prime focus. When it came to integration, most educators wouldn’t (or couldn’t) go beyond the tradition pairings of math/science and social studies/English. Nonetheless, an immersion into any field is done at the consequence of broadness … however, cross-curricular connections are powerful.

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  8. Here! Here! Make the curriculum relevant to real life and connect disciplines so that what kids learn in English is applied in Social Studies and Science. The same complaints you have about primary and secondary education hold true for most undergraduate college curricula, too. It’s all across the broads.

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    • Lorna,
      To me, there are two types of connections – those between disciplines and those within a discipline. To be honest, I’m not sure how many connections are even made within, let alone between. On the other hand, there are times when specialization is needed … and college courses is a place. Otherwise, how else can one major.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I guess that being described as the devil’s advocate in this context might be considered as a compliment. 😎

    Your article is very enlightening and I pretty much agree with the collection of quotes you made reference to above, dear Frank.

    Number 1) is certainly eloquent and made me thought of Foucault´s statements with regard to education as a method of Normalization.

    Thanks for sharing All the best to you!, Aquileana 😀

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  10. Your thoughts on integrated curriculum are very close to my best learning methods. I am so contextual that it’s hard for me to retain any information if learned as isolated facts. I work in academic service-learning at the university, which ties course curriculum to an aspect of community service. Done well, the professor ties “real life” experiences to the learning objectives of the course. I’m sure you were a very conscientious teacher, Frank!

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    • Debra,
      As you know, there is a big difference between content and context. In my opinion, many teachers use “need it for college” as the context, thus following the content focus. I think back to my vocabulary-rich biology days … whew … and why? Well … it’s in the book, so it must be covered.

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