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Monthly Archives: August 2014

What Constitutes Curriculum?

During opening meetings this week, our Science Department Chair posed this seemingly basic question to the faculty. Being good teachers, we developed a range of questions in response, along with a few straightforward answers. Yet within the simple question lurked a more complex and implicit question, something on which the dictionary stands mute: if a curriculum doesn’t result in any learning does it qualify as curriculum? This is the teachers’ analog to the age-old philosophical rumination about a tree falling in the woods.
 
If curriculum is the knowledge or skill acquisition of students, generated by teacher intention and design, and not just a course of study, then we have something much more meaningful. Curriculum with students at the center seems far more satisfying than centering it around teachers.

 

Diversity Is Not an “Add-on”

One of my favorite parts of the summer is catching up on reading. By now I’ve whittled the pile down pretty far, just in time for the start of a new year. Now that I’m back in the proverbial saddle I’m starting to write about what I’ve been reading.

In the summer issue of NAIS’ Independent School magazine, Professor Lawrence Blum’s article, “A Matter of Urgency: Why we need courses on race and racism” makes a strong case for talking about a part of society and history that is uncomfortable for many. Blum’s argument about the value for all students to engage this history and conversation as part of their social literacy certainly rings true for me— talking about race isn’t simply multiculturalism, it’s something distinct. Courses about race let students learn about and think through a complex story of tragedy, triumph and the essence of what it means to be human.

It made me proud of our school which is coincidentally offering an elective called Race: Reality and Fiction for the first time this year. Taught by our two Diversity co-coordinators, it will examine race through the lenses of literature, science and pseudo-science. It’s nice to be ahead of the curve, even if just slightly.