Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The World Core Curriculum

It isn’t at all clear that schools as such need to exist, and it is certainly unnecessary for all children to go to school. We may assume that there are some things, many things, which children need to learn, and which a significantly large number cannot learn directly from their families. Which doesn’t mean they can’t learn them at home or elsewhere. The modern world should have changed completely the way education is carried out, but a combination of lack of imagination, the desire of governments to monopolise the minds of the young, and the demands of teachers’ unions, have meant that little has changed. It is simply not necessary to herd children into buildings and environments that are often unpleasant, to waste many hours a day throughout their entire childhood being instructed in things they do not need to know, and failing to learn the things they do. Attention is invariably focused, and the law tends to encourage it, or even require it, on those children who cannot or do not want to learn, and those who do or can must educate themselves as best they can from the scraps that fall to them.

There is no real purpose to the continued existence of schools as such. There is no defensible excuse for denying children half their childhood for no reason, or for failing to do what you promised to do when you forced them to sacrifice their freedom 8 hours a day.

Even so, the World Core Curriculum Movement is not intrinsically wrong to try to identify the things that it is useful for children to learn, but the conclusions they have reached are, to say the least, open to question.

It is clear that they start with the more or less unquestioned assumption that government is entitled to fill the heads of children with whatever it thinks fit. Further assumptions transparently inspiring this curriculum are that nothing much will change in the world other than what they want to change, that more or less everybody is soft-left and progressive like them, and most importantly, and dangerously, that the purpose of education is to make the young fit the role-shaped holes that their betters imagine they can create in society. They are pure utilitarians, sort of modern Fabians. Other than that their list is little more than a collection of all the things they can think of that children might be taught.


There is no apparent recognition that societies differ greatly in their requirements and possibilities, and that children differ greatly in their abilities, interests and aspirations. There is no apparent recognition of the fact that what it is useful for children to learn and what society might need them to know are not necessarily the same thing. (If the main purpose of education is to allow one to make a better living, you need to be educated in the things that are likely to be most in demand, taking into account your own aptitudes, but society changes, partly in response to the effort, the interests and the skills of the people who happen to make it up at any given moment.)


They matter because they are influential. This is not some insignificant groupuscle wittering away to itself, it’s being used already.


TETRAHEDRON:
    Point 1 -- Our Planetary Home and Place in the Universe
    Point 2 -- Our Place in Time
    Point 3 -- The Family of Humanity
    Point 4 -- The Miracle of Individual Life


Yes, they call it the Tetrahedron, because they’ve split it into four points. And in the original document there is a tetrahedron drawn above it in case you missed the significance.

These four points are all very well, by all means encourage children to marvel at the universe and our place within it, but it’s only the start, surely?

If you click the link you will see that the entirety of the Miracle of Human Life section could be scrapped- it’s not school material- and the rest of it is a basic primary school curriculum of the ‘getting to know the world around us” type. Well, perhaps not basic, but most of it is fairly elementary “who I am” stuff. All kinds of things that go beyond knowledge, all the things we acquire this basic knowledge in order to be able to do, the cognitive skills required to use it productively, and to change the world for the better, are summed up in one throwaway line that looks as though it wasn’t even finished properly:

  + Teaching to question, think, analyze,
synthesize, conclude, communicate

The following point I do find interesting, though, even if they have chucked it in a dusty corner of the list:


  + Teaching to focus from the infinitely
large to the infinitely small, from the distant
past and present to the future

It is rare to find people who appreciate the importance of a very broad temporal, geographical and social perspective on the universe, so bonus marks for that.

But it lacks imagination and ambition, it focuses far too strongly on ideas of civics and citizenship, of the ‘know your place’ variety, and it will, I strongly suspect, be implemented by the people like these, and like those described here. And it’s coming soon to a school near you, if it hasn’t already arrived.

They are planning for tomorrow with yesterday’s ideas, and it isn’t going to work.

5 comments:

Vincent said...

Thanks for this. Very thought-provoking---your post, that is. The ‘World Core Curriculum’ is surely deadening.

The purpose of education I take as being to stimulate the curiosity of the child and to encourage it to exercise its genius in ways which are fruitful to itself and society.

Most of education, therefore, should be a way of linking the curious child with the learning that's available, in an organized way that's not chaotic or overwhelming.

The organized structure of the ‘World Core Curriculum’ fails in my view because its focus is too idealistic: ‘airy-fairy’ in fact. Plainly the tetrahedron symbolizes a balanced base from which you can ascend to a common peak. The quotations on their website make clear that this common peak is peace and happiness. How can education play any part in this? It imposes an impossible burden on teachers and pupils which can lead to nothing but guilt and despair, if it is taken positively, or an empty nihilism if it is rejected.

If we ignore the grandiose architecture and translate the first two topics into more traditional headings, we get Science, Geography, Biology. ‘The Family of Humanity’ is a dreadful hodge-podge, fatally dated---into the clichéd outlook of the new millennium. There is no unity in those topics. As you suggest, it is merely the transmission of some orthodoxy---a fatally flawed propaganda because it doesn’t encourage any fresh approach to the world, but rather prescribes a pair of spectacles (one formula for all) through which to see an official perspective.

As for the ‘The Miracle of Individual Life’, the concept of teaching to this syllabus is too nauseating to contemplate.

Both of the private schools I attended taught Scripture---not religious knowledge, not moral values & so forth. There was a transmission of those but it was more by example, so that the pupil could judge for himself. We could distinguish the preaching from the hypocrite preacher, where necessary. I’m immensely grateful for learning so much of the Bible, because it helps me understand the world I came into. As did the Latin.

It’s true that the world has gone through rapid change since my schooldays, and I would not ask that teaching should stay the same.

The most astonishing thing about the World Core Curriculum is the failure to mention reading, writing and arithmetic: to which I suppose should be added these days instruction on how to use computers and the Internet (and as someone said here on the news yesterday, that everyone should have at least a foundation in programming, to understand how the technology was possible).

Instead of being focused on us being one family marching inexorably towards peace and happiness (as nebulous as the idea that Christ died to save us from sin) a proper system of education would start with the immediately observable facts: the child living in a (local) world run by adults, whose numbers the child will join in due course. Education is whatever process is adopted to prepare the child for that transition. Anything else and it starts to become a meaningless ordeal:
Shades of the prison house descend
Upon the growing boy
(Wordsworth)

James Higham said...

Even so, the World Core Curriculum Movement is not intrinsically wrong to try to identify the things that it is useful for children to learn, but the conclusions they have reached are, to say the least, open to question.

Very much open to question and ideologically driven, something which should not be affecting children's schooling. My first post at OoL was about that.

CIngram said...

The purpose of education I take as being to stimulate the curiosity of the child and to encourage it to exercise its genius in ways which are fruitful to itself and society.

Most of education, therefore, should be a way of linking the curious child with the learning that's available, in an organized way that's not chaotic or overwhelming.


I have written many thousands of words attempting to articulate exactly that idea, and have come nowhere close to doing it so concisely and eloquently.

As for the rest, I can only say, hear, hear.

Largely by chance I was fortunate enough to have a very good (academic) education. Behaviour, 'manners' and moral standards can only be taught by example, and I learnt a great deal about them from people who thought they were teaching me something quite different. That, as you suggest, is a large part of what real education is.

CIngram said...

JH

Thanks for the tip. I missed your post at the time. I'll check it out now.

CIngram said...

JH

I’ve now read your post. There was much more to this than I realized. That the ideas were formulated by visionless technocrats, and so would appeal to the socialistic, bureaucratic mindset that likes to think it has a right to give orders, I was fairly clear about, but I hadn’t realized that behind it are a bunch of nutters (because that’s what they seem to be) with the specific goal of achieving the moral and intellectual enslavement of humanity.

I value my intellectual freedom and the education which taught me how to analyse circumstances, figures and ideas, and it makes me angry (very angry indeed) when these things are deliberately denied to the young people of today.

I'm not big on conspiracy theories. I think a major reason these ideas are being implemented in many countries is that they exist. The work has been done and the bureaucrats at UNESCO and the like can take the plan off the peg. Their salaries depend on producing ideas, it doesn't matter if they work.