The Essential Curriculum:
A Recipe for A Revolution
It would be difficult to find something that has been more researched and debated than school curricula.
A quick look through the educational listings on the Internet will render hundreds of listings in this general area.
Many are by groups highly critical of education as it now exists who are trying to impose their particular ideas on schools.
Unfortunately, many of these proposed solutions to the perceived problems end up being highly diverse and contradictory.
Finding common ground has proven to be impossible, which is one of the reasons that true reform tends to constantly bog down.
So what we really need at this point is someone else adding to the din of contradictions and confusion. Right?
Interestingly, one of the reasons I'm so boldly proposing the following "essential curriculum" is that I know it doesn't stand a chance of getting accepted.
It's radical and it will step on a lot of toes, especially vested interests in the so-called social, religious, and political establishments.
Consider the full impact of these 17 elements of an essential curriculum.
1. It would be based on the premise that the primary purpose of education is not to pass on knowledge and information.
2. It would teach students how to think rather than what to think.
3. It would be centered on concepts and not subjects.
4. It would provide tools and skills for finding and understanding needed information and data, and teach the ability to synthesize and objectively evaluate both.
5. It would emphasize and reward critical thinking and problem solving while encouraging creativity and independent thinking.
6. It would encourage students to critically reexamine all values and attitudes before they accept them and not to automatically accept yesterday's answers to today's problems.
7. It would advocate and support personal honesty in attitudes, words, and deeds.
8. It would not be designed to support or justify the economic or political goals or status quo of any one country.
9. It would deal openly and honestly with love and sexuality in all their dimensions while at the same time attempting to understand prevailing societal views.
10. It would not be based on competition or "survival of the fittest," but place an equal value on individuals, regardless of race, sex, economic status, or personal predisposition.
11. It would teach total personal responsibility for one's actions, attitudes, and future rather than shifting responsibility to some outside person or agency.
12. It would emphasize tolerance and a nonjudgmental attitude toward people and societies that are "different" or with whom one disagrees.
13. It would emphasize the importance self-discipline and the understanding that personal freedoms must cease or be reevaluated whenever they interfere with the needs and freedoms of others.
14. It would stress adjudication and conflict resolution and not violence as the solution to personal or social problems.
15. It would emphasize the importance and preservation of the environment.
16. It would present the standard subjects (including the three R's, rhetoric, geography, history, humanities and science) within the context of real-life situations that the students can clearly identify with; and, in the process, make use of computer games, and TV and Internet resources.
17. Finally, it would consistently emphasize universal, uniting spiritual concepts, as opposed divisive religious, racial, cultural, or nationalistic concepts.
At first glance you might respond that there's nothing truly radical here and that many of these curricular elements are accepted in most of our schools.
I would beg to differ.
Granted, many of these 17 points need further explanation and they would need to be tailored to meet the needs of different educational levels.
I think if we really put these concepts first in our school curricula (with all of their implications), it would precipitate nothing short of an educational revolution, and once the dust settled and these students entered society, we would see significant positive change at many levels.