The Ideal Student in Commonsense North America
KevinKumashiro’s book Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice (2010) provides a critical look into the informal curriculum and institutional structures surround North American schools. Chapter Two, titled Preparing Teachers for a Crisis integrates the notion of commonsense while Kumashiro discussing his experience with “troubled learners”. Instead of giving up on his students, Kumashiro critical analyses how the structures of our education system privilege some learners over others. He argues that pupils who do not fit into the conventional notions of a “good student” can potentially be exceptional leaners with the proper circumstances.
A good student, while looking through the perspective of commonsense, is one who arrives at the school empty and willing to be filled. The good student does not challenge the status quo, and knows to respect the authority of the educators and the institution. The good student comes from an upper-middle-class Anglo-Saxon family. This student gets a good sleep every night and has a nutritious meal every day. The good student does what they are told, and pays attention to every lesson from their teacher while sitting quietly. They answer questions and play nice with the other students.
There are many different ways in which the educational institution privileges certain types of people over others. One of these, is the way students are expected to behave in classrooms and schools. Each student is a unique human being with distinct needs and desires. Some learn better while being active, some while reading, and some while building. While this has been well-known by the education system for years, still there is a strong emphasises placed on reciting and memorizing lessons. This system is setting up students to fail when they do not fall into a certain category which was deemed better by society. There are many different ways to measure intelligence that does not have to deal with reading and writing.
It can be impossible to see these restrictions towards children in education if the connection between socialization and politics was not central. The school is a social construct that reflects the values and morals of our society, and this is implemented through the students in direct and indirect ways. Although there has been traditionally one way to teach children, it might be time to reflect on the whole institutional structure. Every student deserves the same opportunity to learn and grow no matter what circumstances they were born into.
1 February 2019
Kumashiro (2010). Against Common Sense, Chapter 2 (pp. 19 – 33) – “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student”