In mainstream society, a “good” student is one who sits still in their seat, doesn’t ask hard questions, and conforms to the rules and regulations of the teacher. A good student is often considered to be the one with good grades, who pays attention during lectures, and who does well on exams. The problem with this idea of a “good” student is that there are a lot of kids that aren’t capable of fulfilling all of these expectations. Many students learn differently and might excel more in, for example, open conversations rather than in listening and memorizing.
Some students might not be able to sit in class all day because of situations in their outside lives. Some may not be able to keep their clothes or school uniforms clean because they have nowhere to wash them. We can’t fit all students into the same box because they all lead different lives. It is reasonable to expect students to learn and to do well in their classes, but it is unfair to punish them for not being able to conform.
This year, the province of Ontario updated their controversial Sex Education curriculum. The new curriculum will be similar to the one established in 2015, and very different from the one established just last year. The 2018 curriculum that was established by the current Premier of Ontario, Conservative leader Doug Ford, mirrored an older curriculum from 1998 and didn’t include subjects such Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity. This 2018 curriculum was put in place because many conservative parents were unhappy with the 2015 curriculum, which put an emphasis on teaching children about sexual identities and consent at a younger age.
The new curriculum will be similar to the one established by the Liberal Party in 2015 and teaching of this new curriculum is beginning this fall. One key difference between this new curriculum and the one from 2015 is that it includes an option for parents to opt their children out of taking the class.
In this assignment, I will take a look at the core differences between the 2018, and 2019 Sex Education curricula in Ontario, and I will also compare both to the 2015 curriculum. How has, and how will this controversy affect the rest of Canada? Do any other provinces have a similar curriculum, and how has it affected the learning and behaviours of students? Is the new curriculum sufficient? What kind of impacts do politics have on curricula?
The idea of curriculum has been around since the times of ancient Greece. The word curriculum come from the Latin word currere, which means a course to be run. This refers to a formal course of study. There are several different understandings of curriculum because of factors such as: cultures and societies, certain models of curriculum serving certain prominent groups, and because of people in power influencing curriculum in their location. In the article “Curriculum Theory and practice” by Mark K. Smith (1996, 2000), the various approaches to curriculum are listed and analysed:
In general, there are four ways to approach curriculum:
Curriculum as a Syllabus to be Transmitted:
This approach concerns mainly the content of a course. It considers curriculum to be “body of knowledge-content and/or subjects” (p. 3). This approach allows for the course content to be taught, but often is likely to limit the planning of educators who think of curriculum in this way. (p. 2-3)
Curriculum as Product:
This is a very scientific and traditionalist approach to the idea of curriculum. This approach is systematic, organized, and efficient. A large part of the approach is the formulation of behavioural objectives: “providing a clear notion of outcome so that content and method may be organized, and the results evaluated” (p. 4). It places an emphasis on judgement and meaning making. Teachers are given a list of goals or objectives, and a plan to achieve them. It focuses on efficiency, evaluation, and that all students can learn the same things and end up with the same knowledge and behaviours. The main positive of this approach is that it is efficient and well organized. The Curriculum as Product approach has some issues, such as: learners don’t get a voice, there can be unanticipated results, and teachers are often attacked for not achieving all of the goals. (p. 3-5)
Curriculum as Process:
The Curriculum as process approach, curriculum in an interaction between teachers, students, and knowledge. It focuses more on what happens in the classroom and it is “a particular form of specification about the practice of teaching” (p. 8). Rather than focusing on objectives, emphasis is put on learning through in-class experiences. Some positives of this approach are that students have a voice, the focus is on interactions and learning rather than just on teaching, and each classroom is unique. Some issues with this approach are that it relies heavily on the quality of teachers, variation is limited by public exams, and there could be very different means being applied in each classroom. (p. 6-9)
Curriculum as Praxis
The Curriculum as Praxis approach is a development of the Process approach. With this approach, the curriculum develops through action and reflection. Teachers learn what does and does not work and the curriculum is always developing. (p. 9-10)
Each model played a part in my schooling experience, but the more traditional approaches were prominent. As I was reaching my final years of Secondary Education, there was a movement toward more modern approaches. Teachers began moving away from Curriculum as Product and toward Curriculum as Process and as Praxis. The approach that I responded the best to at the time was probably Curriculum as Process. It allowed for more freedom for the teachers and allowed for more learning interactions to take place.
Kumashiro defines common sense as “[things that] everyone should know”. Common sense is knowledge that everyone within a certain environment deems to be regular and that everyone should know. The knowledge varies from one environment to another. As Kumashiro explains, their American ideas of common sense were very different from those of the people in Nepal.
It is important to pay attention to the common sense because it can both be helpful and repressive. In most cases, utilizing common sense will allow for things such as schooling to run smoothly. Teachers will already know how a classroom operates because it’s, for the most part, always been the same. Common sense could also hold back the development of education. Without thinking outside of the box, and going outside of what is considered to be the norm, schools may never develop.