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Curriculum & Instruction        < Previous        Next >

Curriculum: Center Stage of Schooling


Q. Input leads to output. So what we teach, and how we teach it, determine how well our children are prepared for the future. That would seem to be the essence of education. How are things going in the key realm of curriculum and instruction?


Lively! Very lively. Many of the hottest potatoes in the education stewpot are in this area.


How are we doing in math and science vs. the rest of the world? Are we squeezing out arts education to our peril?


There's all the hubbub over the alignment of the curriculum to the standardized tests and the transformation from "tests" to "assessments," in all their new-fangled forms. Is the federal government gaining too much power over K-12 curriculum? Are the needs of employers being factored in?


There are differences of opinion over whether all children should receive the same basic, specific elements of a core of academic knowledge, or if that constitutes a nationalized curriculum. On the other hand, we don't want the curriculum to splinter into a thousand special-interest "tracks" so that we don't turn out well-rounded citizens who can understand and appreciate each other.


Does "Developmentally Appropriate Practice" dumb down or lift up? Does "Thematic Instruction" create lots of time-wasting repetitions from grade to grade, and leave wide gaps in the student knowledge base? What about discipline? "Looping" and "spiraling"? Classroom management?


What about special student populations, from those who don't speak English very well, to those with special needs, to those who are 'way ahead of their classmates?


Everyone would agree that the student population is much more diverse than a generation ago, but is the curriculum reflecting that adequately? Is curriculum getting too vulnerable to influence from special-interest groups, too politicized? Or are the schools too insulated from the real world and not moving fast enough to keep teaching them what they need to know?


What can we do to encourage good teachers to continue to create and innovate and inspire our children with good curriculum and smart teaching methods?


What can we do about teachers who do the bare minimum, and shortchange students by merely lecturing from a textbook, instead of opening wide the world of exploration and knowledge with interesting, challenging assignments?


On the other hand, what can we do about project-happy teachers whose insistence on distracting, trivial pursuits leave the gold nuggets of valuable knowledge on the cutting-room floor, among all the fool's gold of time-wasting activities?


What they teach, and how . . . things are lively, and how.


Homework: Visit the Association for Curriculum and Development,, for the education establishment's point of view. Then see the Core Knowledge Foundation,, for a look at a sensible new approach that is gaining ground nationwide.


By Susan Darst Williams Curriculum 01 2008


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