Friday, 16 September 2011

Curriculum Hubris

Our math teaching class has spent a significant amount of time focused on the curriculum documents.  Everything from format to goals to specifics on courses has been discussed.  So to prepare for the review of the 11-12 math curriculum, I sat the documents side by side.  I watched where the paragraphs moved within sections, and saw what remained unchanged.  And one section shocked me.

So far, the entire purpose of our classroom dynamics class has been stages of physical and mental development of the brain.  Students will not be at the same level, but they will tend to progress through cognitive and social ranges within the stages.  But when I'm reading the expectations of parents and students within the curriculum, I notice cut and paste descriptions.  I'm kinda confused.

Unlike the 14 & 15 year olds, 16 & 17 year olds are concerned with getting licenses, part time jobs, life after high school.  During this period when their concerns are being focused on the future.  I'm not quite convinced that the 17 year old is going to be as motivated to work on school-related tasks in order to reconfirm the 'direct relationship between effort and achievement' cited in the 11-12 curriculum.

Perhaps I was the exception when I was growing up, but I had very little desire to spend time with my parents in my late teens.  I recognize that relationships have changed to some degree, as what would have mortified me as a teen (my parents coming to my job interview with me) is now being accepted by students (universities holding parent orientation sessions while students enjoy theirs), but I imagine parents are still having to fight for quality time with their teenagers.  I just can't see my father saying, "Roy, before you go out to see your girlfriend, we have to sit down and have a chat.  It's been a while since we sat down and shot the breeze about the second derivative test."  Firstly, because the material was far beyond my father's experience and expertise, and secondly because he was having enough trouble remaining an active part of my life that I'm not sure it would've been worth the fight to stay engaged in my high school education subject by subject.

Of course, I don't recall ever reading a curriculum document within high school, and I would be surprised if my father would have.  And I'm not saying that my father wasn't interested in my education, but unless things have changed significantly, the course summary was usually enough.  And please don't take my critique as disagreement with the expectations - I fully agree that they would be ideal conditions to ensure that both students and parents benefited as much as possible from the students' school years.  Unfortunately, the lack of changes between the expectations of the two documents kinda tells me that these expectations are for us alone.  Perhaps I'm overemphasizing the changes, so one size fits all.  But my gut feeling is that the students are moving from a time when parents can best help through hands on & subject related assistance to a time when parents can best help their teenagers with the planning necessary for increasingly complicated and independent lives ... and it's a shame that the curriculum expectation doesn't reflect this.

Before I forget, during our curriculum discussions, one of the students went on a couple minute rant.  'Logic should be taught in math class but it shouldn't only be math's responsibility; humanities should be teaching it too.'  And for those few minutes, I felt less like a mature student and a little more like a member of the class.

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