The words of Elliot W. Eisner

“The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.”

~Elliot W. Eisner~

Elliot Eisner was a professor of art and education at Stanford University. Eisner is well known for his contributions to the arts curriculum and the overall American curriculum. Eisner has “dedicated his career to advancing the role of the arts in American education and in using the arts as models for improving educational practice in other fields” for more information about Eisner continue reading this article! Eisner focused on bringing recognition to arts education and the importance of art for children’s development and wellbeing.

I chose this quote because I think it is a really good quote that represents Eisner’s goal to bring recognition towards the importance of the arts in the education system. When I read this quote I instantly relate the words to how in a school and classroom we have so many diverse learners that all learn and think differently. This quote explains the importance of children understanding that there is not just one solution to a problem and that there is always opportunities to expand on answers and look at a question in a new light. When I think of arts, I think of creativity and individualism, art allows children to express their thoughts and opinions in their own way, which then allows for more diverse conversations in the classroom. This quote moves away from the standardized testing that the curriculum has laid out, and moves toward individual learning that allows children to find their identity through the knowledge they are gaining. This quote makes individual human beings full of creativity and inspiration, human beings that will finish schooling and become the voices of social change, artists, educators, or anything they aspire to be. This quote makes the old way of schooling, the way in which produces students to all be the same impossible. Overall, this quote allows society to see education in a new light, a light that I hope can be produced as I continue my journey as an educator.

This quote would vision teachers as a leader, someone who leads students in the right path but also allows students to go through the path on their own terms and making their own decisions on how they wish to proceed through the path. Teachers would be seen as life long learners, continuously learning from their students and working alongside them to make their program better as the students bring new ideas to the table. Teachers would no longer be expected to teach straight from worksheets, textbooks, and then assess through standardized testing. They would now have more input in the activities they want to teach and how they wish to reach those goals using a creative mindset that will benefit all of their individual students. Students would no longer be seen as being incompetent if they do not succeed in an exam. They would now have the freedom to show their knowledge through their personal skills and talents that shine through. Students would now be seen as individual learners and not learners that must conform.

With my understanding of the current curriculum, I believe we have a long way to go before we reach a place that signifies the goals I have stated above. This quote I think represents a place in the education system that people are fighting to move towards, however, looking at the curriculum as it is, we are nowhere near reaching this place where learners are not expected to all think the same. This quote represents that no two individuals are the same, that differences are welcomed and embraced, and frankly, society and the education system have a long road ahead of them if they ever want to reach a system that embraces creativity over memorization. To this day, the arts are still undervalued compared to the core classes such as math and science. To move forward, one must understand the importance of the arts and all the benefits that will help a child prosper and become a responsible, individualistic member of society. Through this quote, we can reach a place that recognizes that not all answers are the same, that through different experiences our answers, values, and beliefs are shaped differently, and that is okay. The world is full of brilliant minds, we just need to let individuals see the brilliance inside themselves.

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Curriculum as a Product: Beneficial or Detrimental?

Although there are many new and creative alternatives to the curriculum, most school institutions still follow a traditionalist perspective when it comes to the curriculum and teachings in the classroom. Not many individuals understand why the schools follow traditional viewpoints, maybe because that is what they are comfortable with, all they were ever taught so why change it, or maybe simply because they are scared to make a change. With that, traditional techniques of the curriculum see the curriculum as a syllabus to be transmitted, or the curriculum as a product. After reviewing the article, “Curriculum Theory and Practice” written by Mark K. Smith (1996, 2000), I now want to do a further analysis of the section that discusses curriculum as a product, specifically the Tyler Rationale. Through this analysis, I will make connections towards the major limitations of this concept, some contributions that can be taken from the rationale, and lastly my personal school experiences related to Tyler’s Rationale.

To begin, the Tyler Rationale was formed by Ralph W. Tyler and behavioral psychologist who was the father of assessment and evaluation. According to Smith the work of “Ralph W. Tyler, […], has made a lasting impression on curriculum theory and practice.” Tyler focused his theory on “rationality and relative simplicity.” His theory focused around organization and the end goal of behavioral objectives that will allow for “a clear notion of outcome so that content and method may be organized and the results evaluated.” There were four main processes of the Tyler Rationale that would be followed to reach the final goal of the topic. In short, the four steps Tyler formed proceeded in the order as follows: aims and objectives of the subject, content to support these objectives, how the content would be delivered to the learners, and lastly how the learner would be assessed or evaluated. The Tyler Rationale was closely related to Franklin Bobbitt’s theory on the curriculum as the main idea was to form young individuals to all be the same with no independent thought. Reflecting on this, one can see many problematic areas with these theories.

Although organization is key in a classroom, too much structure and organization can lead to some serious problems and conflicts. The first problem defined by Smith with regards to Tyler’s rationale was that his view on the curriculum was to be constructed with assignments that the students “are told what they must learn and how they will do it.” This did not allow for children to further their creativity or have a say in their learning. We also understand now that all students learn and retain information in different ways, having one way that the students must learn is very detrimental to the students who do not learn effectively by the common pen and paper assignments and examinations. A second problem stated by Smith was that “behavior can be objectively, mechanistically measured.” That is, students are taught to think, feel and learn in the exact same ways as their peers, and with that teachers never have to think past the measured criteria of what their individual students could have taken away from that specific experience. This second problem limits students to be the same and does not allow teachers to critically think about how their students are different and think differently from one another. In this case, it is often the students who are blamed for not succeeding, because as stated by Tyler, the curriculum is something that “can rise above context (social, cultural, and historical differences).” Another problem that Smith acknowledged states this rationale is the “problem of unanticipated results.” Because of the large structure and organization that comes with this rationale, students and teachers often only have one goal in mind; the final goal. All of the learning opportunities throughout the process of reaching the end goal are seen unimportant by both the learner and the teacher, which then can harm a student’s capacity to learn as much as possible from an activity or assignment. To list a few more complications with this rationale are: the rationale focuses less on the learning and more on the memorizing, it is not interconnected learning, we are teaching students to learn to take tests, context isn’t seen as important, the rationale is very predictable; meaning the curriculums serve the dominant group and does not teach activism in fear of the dominant group will lose their “status.” The last major problem with this rationale I want to point out is that the students and the teachers are the ones being blamed for their failures, where it should be the people making the curriculum being blamed for not adequately accounting for individual learners needs and wants.

After pointing out the problems of Tyler’s Rationale, one must understand that there are ways in which this rationale along with all of the perspectives of the curriculum before Tyler all contributed to finding new ways to approach the curriculum, and in general the school system. Specifically looking at Tyler’s rationale, this perspective allowed for more organization and structure that allows educators to have a starting point. This type of approach allows teachers to stay on task to their outcomes and keep their students organized and on task as well. Smith also stated that “[t]he apparent simplicity and rationality of this approach to curriculum theory and practice, and the way in which it mimics industrial management have been powerful factors in its success.” After reading the other theories that evolve around curriculum, I believe that Tyler’s organization would help a lot of teachers reach their goals, however, modifications would be needed to ensure the problems stated above were accounted for. This rationale or theory about curriculum is also a good theory to critique and then improved. Without this theory being formed, individual’s would not see the problems that have risen in the school system and started brainstorming ideas to improve the program to benefit all learners.

After reading the article and learning more critically about the Tyler Rationale, I was able to analyze my school experiences throughout grade school. I grew up in a very small town and spent most of my younger years in a triple graded classroom, with that the teacher and teaching assistant needed a very structured atmosphere to keep the grades aligned and to ensure that the content and objectives were met for all grade levels. At the time, I would not have known school any different than being taught in ten minutes of class and then the rest of the class you sat in your desk and worked through assignments while the other grades were being taught. Now looking back on my school experiences after gaining the knowledge about the curriculum from Smith’s reading, I realize that my education was severely limited because of the triple graded classrooms and the lack of diversity we had throughout our students. After communicating with friends I have made throughout university thus far, their elementary experiences were enrichened with field trips, outdoor activities, projects, etc. that allowed them to meet certain objectives while learning in creative and explorative ways. However, for myself, I never got those opportunities because year in and year out we followed a certain outline to ensure that all three grades were able to cover the curriculum in the year.  As I progressed through grade school, my experiences did not change that much. Now being in a split classroom, with two grades being taught, I followed the same routine of being taught for one half of the class and working on assignments at my desk for the other half of the class. We did the worksheets that the teachers taught every year to learn the content, once the worksheets were completed, we waited to be taught the next lesson and the cycle repeated. We also had very low numbers in the school, which resulted in a major focus on the core classes with a limited emphasis on the more creative and individual classes such as the arts. Modifications were not made to fit the needs of the different learners in the classroom, and the students had little opportunity to have choice within their learning. My school experiences heavily relate to Tyler’s Rationale and did not leave room for creativity or enriched experiences like my fellow university peers had throughout their grade school years.

So why are school systems still teaching from a traditional perspective? It is hard to know the exact reasons why we have not seen change, however, one can hypothesize it is because we have not seen any dramatic social changes in society to do so. Having the understanding that there are other theories that allow for more involvement and acknowledge differences between individuals seems to be a more suitable choice, so why are we stuck in a time of worksheets and lectures?

“It’s just common sense”

All throughout childhood, the teenage years, and as an adult, many individuals hear the saying “well it’s just common sense” or “do you have any common sense?” It is a saying that people use when communicating a process or event that should just come naturally, without any formal instruction. However, have you ever thought about how this widely used saying could be problematic in many different situations, including the educational institution? In the book chapter, The Problem of Common Sense; Kevin Kumashiro (2009) looks into the many problems that have risen in the education system because of the commonsensical ideas created and evolved by the individuals with the power of decision making.

To begin, let’s look at how Kumashiro defines common sense throughout the chapter. In simple terms, Kumashiro defined common sense as “what everyone should know” (2009, p.29). Meaning that people should just understand these events without having any instruction from a more knowledgeable individual. However, Kumashiro learned very quickly throughout her experience in Nepal that what he thought was common sense, was not considered common sense to different cultures, and what the culture saw as common sense, Kumashiro did not. This can be seen when Kumashiro entered the school in Nepal and wished to seat children by intermingling the genders, but the students reacted differently and were uncomfortable with that certain seating arrangement. Kumashiro (2009) also defined common sense specifically to an educational context; he stated: “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” (p.35). To continue with Kumashiro’s (2009) definition, he emphasized that common sense or the ways in which schools should be running is decided by the “perspectives, experiences, and values of only certain people in society, especially those who have traditionally been privileged or currently wield political influence” (p.34). With that, one can understand that these values do not fully meet the needs and beliefs of all cultures who attend the school, or in society in general.

So why should individuals of society pay attention to the “common sense?” When thinking about common sense, one can compare that definition to a normative narrative, that is like mentioned above, a process where certain groups get to decide on these norms or rituals for the society that may not always benefit all groups in society but will benefit their particular group. With that being said, individuals need to be conscious of events or situations that may seem common sense to that particular individual, may be easily understood by other individuals who do not share the same culture or beliefs of those who formed these norms. As stated by Kumashiro (2009), these “norms of society, privilege and benefit some groups and identities while marginalizing and subordinating others on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age, and other social markers” (p.36). As future educators, we need to understand these norms and commonsensical ideas and challenge them to allow for equality in the classroom as well as in society. Understanding that these commonsensical ideas enhance oppression throughout society, one must recognize this and form change. If we can not put a stop to these norms and ideas, we will continue to allow for inequalities among individuals both in the classroom and throughout society.

To conclude, even though commonsensical ideas and norms allow individuals to feel comfortable, individuals of society need to move aware from these perspectives and move more towards anti-oppressive education, which will then allow for more equality and relationships throughout the world.