Curious about WHAT? How Curriculum Content Is Forgotten

Tumbler_of_cola_with_iceA glance at a typical school website will reveal just how excited they are about everything. They want to promote curiosity, enthusiasm, engagement, creativity! It all sounds so wonderful! You will also be treated to a dizzying array of close-up photographs of pupils sliding across the screen. As they gaze at test tubes and kick footballs, their faces are so curious, enthusiastic, engaged and creative! It’s a veritable rollercoaster ride of feel good experiences!

This slick marketing works just like adverts for fizzy drinks. You look at rapidly shifting images of happy, beautiful people drinking the fizzy drinks, and you make an emotional connection.

But the school websites are often as empty of content as the fizzy drinks whose marketing they emulate.

Content. Substance. That’s what’s missing. Enthusiastic about what? Creative with what? Engaged with what? Curious about what?

There are some things about which one should not be curious. Curiosity is like energy: children typically have plenty of it, and responsible adults have to exert their authority to channel it in the right direction. Children may be curious about what happens when they kick the smallest boy in the class. They may run energetically onto a busy road without looking first.

And it’s hard to stop children from being creative. They come up with creative ways to cheat on tests and to break uniform rules without our help. But if we want them to use language creatively, or to interpret history creatively, we’ll have to put a lot of knowledge into their heads, and we’ll have to be clear about what that knowledge should be. We will need a carefully designed, content rich curriculum. And many, many hours of hard work will be required to master the content.

This hard work may not involve the broad, toothy grins which are plastered all over the typical school website, but it will generate a quiet, deep and lasting satisfaction: the satisfaction of achieving a worthy goal through persistent effort.

(Image from Wikimedia).

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4 thoughts on “Curious about WHAT? How Curriculum Content Is Forgotten

  1. Another side of this, which I think is implied by our piece though not stated explicitly, is that content CREATES context for curiosity. Just being randomly curious about stuff is indistinguishable from ignorance. However TARGETTED curiosity is a powerful thing. Nobody can target their curiosity well unless they know stuff. The conventional curriculum is chock full of basics and of examples of curiosity and creativity in action, to guide the novice to good questions, and good ways to ask them.

    Yet another way to look at the obvious fact that critical thinking requires … that you know stuff. And those who know the most, or know a specific subject best, are far and away the best critical thinkers concerning that stuff. If we want children to think critically, curiously, inquisitively, creatively about something, then we must be committed to providing them with a solid dose of content about which to do all that fine-sounding stuff.

    I think I’ve linked this piece from the Times Colonist before, a beautiful essay by someone who … knows stuff … on this subject.

    http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/lawrie-mcfarlane-critical-thinking-can-t-exist-without-the-facts-1.1866542

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  2. I’m so tired of those websites and their empty words but can see how seductive they must be to parents. If only parents/teachers would stop and use their critical thought process they might unmask the nonsense. Sadly in Australia we have no choice but to send our children to these schools. They are all, by and large, light on content and heavy of nebulous skilling for some future we know nothing about.

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  3. When I look at a website offering a service, such as a school, I usually like to scan through their services and then I’m off to their blog. The personality and values should be presented through the description of their everyday posts on their blog. Latest events, activities, staff presentation (example: http://www.westendinschools.org.uk/blog/2016/2/9/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-west-end-in-schools-performer-meet-abi-finley), achievements, pupils testimonials, parents meeting notes.

    People these days can look through thin content and recognize the scammers from the real geeks. It is very rare to see a service business that has written their own content and presents knowledge of their audience needs for information. This applies to schools as well.

    But there are always exceptions of course – never judge the book by it’s cover. Maybe the school has a lot to offer, – they just have no idea how to place this on their website:))

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Thoughtful and reasonable discussion is always welcome.

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