Before the reading: How do you think that school curricula are developed?
After the reading: How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?
Prior to reading the article, Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools, I believed school curricula to be developed by a series of individuals such as professors, teachers, specialists, federal officials, school boards, and others. They would discuss (argue) the topics only to come to a perfect, tidy conclusion that is easily implemented within the school system. I’ll admit, I’m an optimist.
After reading the article, it is clear to see that there are far more factors and contributors than previously believed. Developing and implementing curricula is extremely long-winded, politically charged and messy. Truthfully, I never really put much thought into how long the development and implementation process of curricula took. I thought it consisted of 3 easy steps: shaping, developing, and implementation. I never really took the time to consider how twisted, interconnected, overlapped, and complicated these steps are. Reading this article gave me a greater appreciation for this process. As outsiders, it easy just to question and be upset over what is wrong with curriculum (outdated, vague, etc). Reading the article gains insight into the inner working of developing curricula. While we don’t have to accept the decisions made surrounding curriculum or how long it takes, we have to understand that the process isn’t an easy, neat one to navigate.
Additionally, this reading opened my eyes to the politics behind school curriculum. I knew it was there, but didn’t realize how prominent it was. Politicians have a great amount of power, and with that power they have the ability to alter policies and the curriculum as they see fit. However, political leadership will prioritize public opinions and the views of leaders in key sectors over specialists and teachers. This is because they want votes; that is their job, and they will do whatever it takes to please the individuals voting for them. Due to this, topics that people feel passionate about often lead to politicians working to please the majority. Unfortunately, one of these topics is education. Everyone believes they have a valid opinion in regards to education, because almost everyone has gone to school. This is very different when compared to other political issues, as not everyone has knowledge on the topics, so they do not speak on it (as loudly). School is not the same. As said in the article, “any issue that is politically contentious can also turn into a curriculum dispute” (15). A great example of this is sex education in Ontario schools. In regards to this topic, people feel passionate about to what extent it should be taught or even if it should be taught in school; it is very black and white. Depending on who is in office, results in the change of curriculum we see. A case in point would be the removal of the sexual education standards that were implemented under Kathleen Wynne, to an interim model that is more moderate. While developing the curriculum there are so many voices screaming to be heard that the voices that matter are often muffled. These voices are the students and teachers. These are the ONLY people that the curriculum directly affects and needs to be taken far more into consideration.
Something that I find concerning about how school curricula is developed is how there are so many opinions contributing to the development of the curriculum that really have no business in doing so. Additionally, there is a large gap in the relationship between “the formal curriculum and real teaching and learning practices in schools” (17). The policies/curriculum being emplaced usually does not correlate well with what students and teachers are actually going through. The specialists, politicians, and overall community are not present in the classroom everyday; only the students and teachers are. So although theoretically their ideas about the given curricula may be “right”, the transmission of that curriculum in the actual classroom may not be reality.
Curriculum decisions and changes are not easily made. They are “shaped in large measure by other considerations-ideology, personal values, issues in the public domain, and interests” (22). The scope of how these decisions are made and the issues that arise from them is huge. It is imperative that the decisions made reflect the needs of those who are being directly affected: students and teachers.