Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Here's all the boring shit you need to know...

The worst curriculums say: here's all the boring shit you need to know before you can ever do the cool stuff.

What's ironic is that these curriculums tend to be made or taught by people who have a burning passion for their  field, but seem to believe that others need to learn the "basics" first. These others may be viewed as generalists, non-majors or even inferiors - and so the thinking is that we have to dumb everything down to simplistic basics.

What's doubly ironic is that this is rarely how engaged people become passionate for their field of expertise. It's like these passionate people decided that others wouldn't be ready for seeing the whole game, so they reduce their field of expertise down into these out-of-context, back to basics, bunch o' facts that provide learners with almost nothing recognizable to the cool shit.

Hence why students are asked to complete the odd numbered questions that ask them to divide naked numbers or repeat nonsensical sentences full of similar sounding syllables.

These curriculums do but one thing: they make kids ask why the holly hell would anyone want to do this?


  1. Today we practiced a "basic" skill of inferencing with a fascinating narrative novel about a migrant child. Then we practiced comparing and contrasting text with "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley and a biography on Bob Marley and Carlos Santana. We learned the "basic" concept of dividing fractions by seeing how many Legos can reach the ceiling with each team getting only one manipulative (half-way through the activity they finally found out that I wouldn't punish them for sharing - it was great)

    I know I sound arrogant here, but I mention it because students can learn the basics through enriching, meaningful activities.

  2. These kids are playing the whole game:

  3. I totally agree. I am an English and Secondary education major and when i enter a science classroom I become incredibly bored because the courses I need are the "basic" courses. I don't to blow anything up or anything fun because I don't need to know it. But I would really like to blow stuff up. Instead I get to learn about the different types of clouds and other things that make me want to shoot myself. I am an english major, I read, I write, but by God I would really like to blow stuff up with the cool science nerds. I know I would much rather give out some fun creative writing projects than ask "Is this a noun or a verb?".

  4. Right. But the cool science nerds know what to blow up because they know the boring stuff, and good creative writers -- ones who can take pride in their work -- know what a noun and a verb are. The difference is that those 'basics' can and should be taught contextually so the students can see an immediate need for the skills.

    Great teachers get kids fired up about comma use.

  5. once in awhile, you get a great teacher like john spencer...
    my son had 3 great teachers over 10+ years of schooling. elementary school (1st grade), middle school (8th grade math) and high school (10th grade english)
    all 3 of these teachers taught "the basics" outside of the box and were authentically involved in the learning process. these out of the box, exciting teachers are rare. all of the others? we eventually ended up quitting school. mediocrity kills the spirit.

  6. I agree with you Joe. In my opinion learning can't even start before interest has been aroused. It's hard work to get kids interested within the first few minutes of every class, because it must be planned anew before each class. But it's definitely worth it!


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