Commonsense

Kumashiro defines commonsense as the routines and traditions of our culture that are imbedded into our education system.  Commonsense is rarely ever questioned because it is hard to recognize; it is what has surrounded us our entire lives and what we have grown up subconsciously knowing and learning.  In saying that, these surroundings that we take for granted might seem very peculiar to others.  If a teacher from another part of the world came into our schools, he or she may take a while to become accustomed to our everyday routines.  For instance, in North America we usually organize our education system into a few main subject areas where students are grouped based on their age and/or abilities. We do this without much thought or critique but a teacher from another part of the world might be accustomed to completely different educational practices; they may have a completely different idea about the way things should be done.  I would personally consider commonsense to be the hidden curriculum because we are constantly teaching commonsense to our students, whether we know it or not.  Kumashiro states that “common sense does not tell us that this is what schools could be doing; it tells us that this and only this is what schools should be doing” (2009, XXXV).  The problem with accepting commonsense and not questioning our surroundings is that we may fail to recognize oppressive practices.  Therefore, we need to work hard to examine what we take for granted and challenge the status quo.  This often means breaking away from our comfort zone to examine our believes.

It may seem like challenging commonsense is an impossible task for teachers – among the many other tasks teachers have including, assessing students, preparing students for an unknown job market and including all types of learners in one classroom – but “the fact that the classroom is fraught with challenges and constraints is not an excuse for failing to grapple with social justice issues and anti-oppressive pedagogies” (Kumashiro, 2009, XIX).  There is an ideal notion “of what teachers should be” and I believe it is our job to create our own goals and definitions (Kumashior, 2009, XVIII).  “What is your ideal?”  “What kind of teacher do you want to be?” “What does commonsense look like to you?”  We must ask ourselves these questions and many more. These goals and definitions should always be changing because as we learn from our students our own perspectives should adapt.  I do not think we can all become the textbook “ideal” teacher but we can work towards meeting our own goals and becoming our own ideal.  For me, being an ideal teacher is being inclusive.  An ideal teacher builds a “network of trust with the parents and community members” (Kumashiro, 2009, XIX). The teacher gets to know each one of their students and creates appropriate goals and assessment opportunities based on the needs and strengths of all the learners in one classroom.  As I continue on this teaching journey, my definition of the ideal teacher will evolve.

I am completely shocked that in the States they make schools compete like business, in hopes of “motivate(ing) educators to work hard to do better” (Kumashiro, 2009, XXII).  This ignores social factors and I think it is morally wrong to learn only for competitive reasons.  Since the research suggests this causes further racial issues and social problems I cannot believe they still follow that model.  Sadly, I can see our Canadian schools also following this trend in regards to our marking system and segregated schools.  I think this is a prime example of where the commonsense needs to be challenged!  We need to consider that the “curriculum standards reflect what some in society believe are the things that students should know and be able to do” (Kumashiro, 2009, XXIV).  We also need to consider what it means to learn and why we value learning; I hope that we would not consider competition as one of those values.  I believe that we need to adapt the curriculum based on our student population and their needs.  It should only be a guide and it should include more than just one definition of commonsense.

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2 thoughts on “Commonsense

  1. Hey Kourtney,

    I really like what you have to say about common sense! Now I have a question. Do you think that these business leaders who control schools make schools compete against each other because they are influenced by their bias that completion equals success? Or do you think that there is an alternative agenda that they have set? If so, what?

    Jordan

    • Thanks Jordan! Good question; I have pondered it for a solid twenty hours now and still feel like my response will not be adequate. I believe that these leaders might say that they are making schools compete against each other because competition equals success. Therefore, this common sense belief is used to justify their actions. Since the research shows that this is not working, I truly think they have other motives for using competition. I mean, anyone can see that shutting down a school or firing all the teachers in hopes that the new ones will “work harder” without fixing the underlying problems (social-economic and curricular inequalities) isn’t going to work. Using the competition model is an easy way to ignore the problems and pass the blame on to someone else. In saying that, I wonder what their alternative agendas might be? Does this system have economic gains for those in power? I honestly can’t answer that. BUT what I do know is that keeping those who are not in power silenced and not giving them a chance to raise their positions, is beneficial to those in power. It’s less competition. Furthermore, those in power remain in power. We wouldn’t want them to have to face competition and “work harder,” now would we? *Eyes roll.*

      P.S. – I would be interested to know if you have any other ideas/alternative agendas on your mind.

      Kourtney

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