What is the Common Technology Curriculum?
I am currently deep in thought about this notion of a shared knowledge for the America People... I recently read an article by E.D. Hirsch in the Winter 2009-2010 issue of American Educator: “Creating a Curriculum for the American People”. Hirsch is a professor emeritus at Univ. of Virginia and accomplished author of bestsellers such as Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need.
Hirsch makes the case for a common core curriculum for all students. He points out that this is an unpopular position within the typical university schools of education– an accompanying article relating how his own university’s department of education strongly discouraged students from attending what he called a pro-curriculum view of the causes and cures for the achievement gap between, on one hand, blacks and Hispanics, and, on the other, whites and Asians.
The current educational landscape is shaped by a very fragmented, ‘laissez-faire attitude to the content of their schooling.’ Hirsch even takes the daring step of saying that student-focused approach to education will lead to inequities in that base knowledge (see accompanying quote). I think that he makes a valid point, but as with many things, taking any extreme position is good for making a point but not necessarily the best practice.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly, nor repeated too often, that the most important cause of our educational shortcomings is not laziness, unionism, waywardness, stupidity, or any moral fault among the leaders of our educational enterprise. Rather, it is a system of attractive but unsound ideas. Known to educational historians as the progressive movement, these ideas took over in the United States during the latter half of the 20th century and remain very popular. The strength of the progressive movement—its lasting contribution—is its empathy with childhood. Its fatal flaw is its belief that the child-centered schooling it envisions can only be accomplished by resisting a rigorous academic curriculum and encouraging children to develop their skills using whatever content they find engaging.”quote from the accompanying article The Anti-Curriculum Movement
Hirsch’s position was supported a couple of reading samples that are typical of standardized testing of reading comprehension. One of the passages used as an example reported on a cricket game– clearly comprehensible to British audience, but quite incomprehensible to most Americans. This provides a clear impetus for common curriculum.
Although the samples didn’t include particularly large or unusual words, they provide a powerful evidence of the importance of prior knowledge and common culture. They certainly make educational equity for different races and different economic groups a goal that is aided by a common opportunities.
What is the baseline... what is that common experience, skillset, minimum conceptual mastery level that we should ensure that all students have?I subscribe to what Psychologist Larry Crabb once coined as the mixed salad approach (he was speaking of Psychology Theories of counselling)- borrowing a little here, borrowing a little there, sometimes doing this, sometimes doing that. I think learning theories are also not monolithic, but deserving of equal time. So I appreciate the idea that Hirsch promoting that all students should have a common content- and it caused me to pause, and revisit that question for educational technology.
This is the stuff that standards
are constructed out of.
What is the baseline... what is that common experience, skillset, minimum conceptual mastery level that we should ensure that all students have? For instance, should all students understand the difference between a forced return and word wrap? How about an enhanced podcast and an video podcast? And after we decide what we need to sequence this knowledge and skill set, and determine grade levels that they should be mastered by.
I think it is clear that tomorrow’s citizens should have a common set of knowledge and skills, and as usual, education is the equalizer. This is the stuff that standards are constructed out of. This another one of those things that I don’t have a clear answer for, but I have been thinking about.