The Problem of Common Sense

How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

Kumashiro defines ‘common sense’ as the norm that goes unquestioned by society. It is what we learn throughout our life and continue to inadvertently reinforce in our society due to a lack of questioning. For example, as Kumashiro said, “We do not often ask for instance, why schools open from September through June,or why the materials students learn are divided into disciplines, or why students are grouped by age”. This really struck me as interesting, as I have always been someone who asks maybe too many questions. I was the student harassing my teachers and parents with questions such as, “Well, why does the Pythagorean theorem work?” or “Why do we have school 10 months of the year?” or “Why can’t we have a sit down meal at prom?”. Most often I’d get the responses, “Someone smarter than you and I figured it out”, “Just because” or “This is the way it’s always been done”. Sadly, so many of us lose our inquisitive spirit and become accepting of this ‘common sense’. We must begin to question the world around us, and why things are done a certain way, rather than just subscribe to it.

I think its important to pay attention to the ‘common sense’ because by following blindly we continue to “privilege only certain perspectives, practices, values, and groups of people”. By failing to branch out from the ‘common sense’ we unintentionally marginalize others based on factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic standing, and many others. In reality, there is no one, true ‘common sense’. Our ‘common sense’ is shaped by our background and everyone’s idea of ‘common sense’ will be different because of this. We need to recognize this, or else it will continue to reinforce oppression in our schools and society. It is our role as future teachers to create a sense of belonging for every student that enters our classroom. We need to reflect on our own idea of ‘common sense’ and be willing to accept that it may not be the “right way”.

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