Living Curricula

opendooricoEducation is the answer to the question, “what kind of people should the children become?”, and “what kind of country shall we live in?”, and really, “what is to become of the world?”.   Family and friends are much the mix in education, as is the classroom.  People learn to evaluate and prioritize the truths they are presented that is the most consistent with their experience.

Students who are raised in a compassionless, unresponsive, meat grinding system are more likely to attempt some sabotage of that “brick in the wall”, than support it as taxpayers. Student performance outcomes have recently been valued over all else.  The reductionistic illusion of objective measurement and data collection in education is most easily maintained if confined to the things we can measure; reading and math outputs.  Music, art, science, and social studies have been long-suffering in this era because we know they are great for the growth and development of people, and necessary for the future of civilization, we just don’t know how to measure and explain that growth in the short term, so at times we have done away with those subjects altogether.

Teachers are starting again to be heard.  We know that pushing a young person who is suffering from malnutrition, abuse, or neglect to perform can diminish the nurturing they need and cause damage to the teacher-student relationship, and to other aspects of their development as a person. Responsiveness to culture, opportunity, and the student as individuals comes from teachers who are people first, and who draw out the people who are also students.  We know that there are better ways to educate.

For too long we have confused  “high standards” with “standardization”.  Just as biological diversity is a mechanism for survival, so too are rich sets of divergent, linear, contrary, lateral, imaginative, and cross disciplinary thinking -sources of survival.   Uniqueness and culture should be fostered by education.  A system that is responsive to people depends upon the people in it, but could be encouraged by a different framework.

Standards curated, community built curricula and resources could be specific to locations, communities, and grade level.  This type of curricula would grow cultural awareness, social justice, and be the mechanism for the type of true cultural and civil rights pass-down that mass produced curricula cannot provide.

Opportunism, on which survival depends, can be understood by example, and would grow from this same model.  Schools that are close to zoos have opportunities different than those that are close to universities, or museums.  The ability to take advantage of beneficial surroundings reinforce culture, build identity, and partnerships.

Responsiveness to environment which is vital to life, should be a characteristic of curricula.   Much of the content of what we teach is not responsive to the needs of our society or world.  This “House Project” is a bit of curriculum I created which includes modern building ideas with project learning about 3rd grade math concepts.  Integrated learning, which this is also an example of, is more possible when developed by this method.

All people need a starting point, but strictly structured materials that bind teachers to “fidelity” do not propagate professionalism.   Building paths toward authorship simultaneously builds expertise.  We can pay teachers for the work many already do in adapting curricula to the specific needs of their students, and create a repository for the many original works and practices which otherwise may be lost.  We can create a lineage of authorship, peer reviews, and creative commons resources that are accessible by theme, grade level, topic, or any other categorized reference, and even create suggested units like the revolutionary music genome project provided for music.

Scripted homilies baked in oaths of fidelity from dynastic publishing monopolies such as Pearson do not foster a “free marketplace of ideas”, or teachers or students who learn to think on their feet, or for themselves.  Instead can come choirs of familiar melodies, out-of-sync with the times, unable to respond to the urgency of the now.

We have provided the example of OpenSourceEd.org.  Perhaps with a professional allowance, a state curated/organized/reviewed “teacherspayteachers” could divert funding back into the state, into the hands of teacher authors, and could re-assert and develop teachers as the creators of curricula, and tests, and reinstate the teaching profession to its full stature.  Open source means open access and continuous improvement, and curricula that is responsive to the times and culture it is responsible to educate, rather than tests and material which teachers (currently) vow by signature not to divulge or discuss.  The time is right for a change.  We have been loading up lesson plans into (what has been the vacuum of) cyberspace for years for our evaluation, we could be building an ever-improving, living curricula at the same time.

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