The bully of curriculum raises its head once again

As I listen to comments on the Liberal government’s decision to axe early French immersion (EFI) in New Brunswick, I’m reminded once again that we have become so accustomed to the ground of schooling that we no longer see it for the restrictive institution that it has become. I return to Brian Alger’s post on curriculum:

One of the effects of curriculum design of any kind is confinement. And the confinement of human experience is an act of violence. A common example of this confinement via curriculum leading to violence is bullying.

Some of the written comments [spelling unchanged from original comments] on this CBC story are equally bullying:

  • The Government would have been better served years ago if they had said that all Governmet business would be conducted in the language of majority in Canada and that is ENGLISH
  • do away with bilingualism, the french have all the government jobs anway
  • Why don’t we the province of NB have english emmerison in french schools? ANYONE!!! Wouldn’t it make more sence to teach both groups both language then all of our kids would have the same chance in head of the class?
  • Why do you think any body wants their children to learn a base in french, when their are plenty of useful things to learn. When will you get it thru your indoctrinated appeasement thinking,that we want our kids EDUCATED!

When it comes to public education, everyone is an expert but no one knows what will work best for all students, because there is no single answer. Whatever curriculum is chosen will be constraining and bullying on someone and perhaps many. Our education system, based on the Prussian military school model with core subjects copied, and mostly unchanged, from Harvard’s 1890’s example, is seldom questioned.

The Minister of Education is using his powers to change the curriculum and now a different group of parents feels bullied. Others, who have felt bullied by the existence of French culture and language feel empowered to taunt this group. No matter what happens, someone will feel like the victim at the end of this. Curriculum is the confinement of the human experience. It is a blunt tool that winds up bullying someone. It’s time to throw this tool away, but first we have to sincerely ask why we’re using it in the first place.

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8 Responses to “The bully of curriculum raises its head once again”

  1. Karyn Romeis

    “Curriculum is the confinement of the human experience.”

    Well said that man! Along the way in my career, I made a brief foray into the world of formal education when I worked for two years as an IT tutor at a further education college.

    What drove me back into the arms of corporate learning was the bully you mention. As an experienced teacher/trainer, I felt competent to do a needs analysis for my students and then set about meeting their needs. I resented being told what to teach them. I also resented the tacit (no – strike that – the explicit) pressure to teach to the test.

    Since I believe so strongly in empowerment, in enablement, in giving people a leg up to a place they couldn’t reach without help… well, I couldn’t reconcile that with a stringent curriculum, so I left.

  2. Jacques

    Those comments from CBC story are expressions of pure bigotry and falsity. Really, the two solitudes remain…
    BTW, we francophones in NB also have English immersion, that is, as soon as we step outside the door, switch on the computer or open the TV or radio. Learning English in NB (or in North America) is like a cold; you’re gonna catch it anyway!!

  3. E Johnsen

    Kelly Lamrock has taken a shamefully devisive tactic in trying to implement… no… FORCE his will upon the system. In one radio interview I heard him say that children in the EFI programs usually had parents who were better educated with more money.

    ??????? What would be the point in saying that other than to generate support by making people think that the EFI was catering to some sort of upper class? Since Lamrock has done this, the comments on News sites abound with radical ‘Anglophone-first’ posts and declarations that the French system discriminates since it will not allow English children to attend.

    Congratulations Mr. Lamrock, you have succeeded in resurrecting 30 year old biases.

    P.S. If Kelly Lamrock does believe that supporters of EFI tend to have more education and money, wouldn’t he think that might be a dangerous demographic to pi$$ off?

  4. Gilbert

    Hey Harold,

    You might have to repost the need for a curriculum discussion when we all cool down from recent annoucements.

    I don’t agree with the curriculum bashing but I your right when we say that we have to sincerely ask why we’re using it in the first place.

    It is interesting how the french immersion thing becomes an issue. Meanwhile the province increases the number of witch hunters by 43 and no one minds.


  5. Harold

    I had doubts about posting this, Gilbert, but it was written and I wanted it out there for discussion. As you note, my main point is about curriculum, not EFI, but EFI is the hot topic.

    I’m actually a little disillusioned that banning homework in school never became an issue here. Once again, children have no say in the matter, in spite of Canada being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. You won’t see any parents protesting homework outside the Legislature.

    I’m still quite firmly against curriculum in education, as I believe that the only place for set curriculum is in training.

  6. Robert J. Saulnier

    “Curriculum is the confinement of the human experience.”

    I have to disagree. A curriculum is like a map of things to learn and experience. It is your guide (teacher/organisation) who confines a student by controlling where and how he gets around. Hopefully you have a good guide, someone who will let you wander around a little.

    What’s important about the curriculum is that it contains things we want to experience and some paths (best practices) that show us how to get to the treasure chest.

    A curriculum will never limit a student, only the student or other people can limit someone.

  7. Gilbert

    The two last posts have me thinking.

    I can see how the curriculum can be damaging. Especially if it is the driver or if encourages teachers to confine a student as pointed out by Robert.

    Most of my experience with teaching is in situations where formative assessment plays a driving role. I could live without the curriculum but still need clear learning objectives/goals to be for FA to function properly.

    How do you define curriculum. Would like to better understand where the objectives fit in to your definition.



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