The Problem With Common Sense and Education

I recently read the introduction from the book Against Common Sense by Kevin Kumashiro. In this introduction Kumashiro reflects on his time teaching in Nepal, and how different the education system is in Nepal compared to the United States’ (and similarly Canada’s). Before reflecting on Kumashiro’s definition of common sense I wanted to think about what the word meant to me. My own definition of common sense would be something that the majority of society knows. I never stopped to consider that common sense in Canada would be very different than what could be considered common sense in Greece, Zambia, or Peru. Kumashiro explains common sense as the ritualistic, well-practiced, and often unquestioned way of doing things in each society, and in education he says that common sense not only suggests what could be done but in fact implies what should be done and that anything against the common is unacceptable. When teaching in Nepal, he realized that learning by lecture and practice and assessing by exams was the only sensical way of schooling there. In Canada, it is common sense that school will begin in the Fall and end at the beginning of Summer, and that in school you will learn specific subjects that every other student across Canada will also be learning. The problem with these widely accepted ideas is that they can sometimes create an oppressive environment for some students; for example, those students who cannot learn early in the morning or cannot function for six hours straight. This is where there is an issue with “common sense”. If we are not constantly questioning why and how we as teachers do things then our practices will never evolve, and we will keep creating an environment that not every student can thrive in. Like Kumashiro said, changes are happening but to keep the ball rolling and to keep creating inclusive and successful classrooms we as teachers need to keep innovating our classrooms and keep questioning the norm.

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9 thoughts on “The Problem With Common Sense and Education

  1. Alex, I like how you talked about the difference between different countries and what is “common” for them. As future teachers it is important for us to remember that not all of our students will come from a Canadian background. Therefore, what is common for us in the classroom might not be so common for them.

    Hannah

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  2. It’s interesting to analyze what common sense means across the world. We as humans have such an ego that in most cases, we believe that if it is done in a certain way here, it must be done this way everywhere else. This however is not the case as this reading would show. There are so many factors that play into a cultures common sense and how they reason with the world.

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  3. It’s definitely very interesting to see the Canadian version of common sense contrasted against ideals and culture norms in Nepal, Britain, or even America. The thing that I struggle with is, what is the best way to adapt our commonsense so that it is not oppressive? Should we first immerse ourselves in the culture of Nepal before teaching there, or should we jump right into teaching and learn along the way, hands off? I am curious to learn what the most efficient and and anti-oppressive way of adapting our commonsense is, so that we create an accepting classroom for our students no matter what country we are in.

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  4. You made me rethink a lot of different things that I took for commonsense. For example, I would have never considered the fact that some students CANNOT function in the morning but our commonsense does not leave room for understanding this. We as teachers need to step away from our commonsense and try to reinvent our classrooms to allow many commonsense to work together.

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  5. I agree with the idea that common sense is different based on where you live. Before reading this introduction I considered common sense to be common knowledge to all, but never considered that this common knowledge might change based on where a person lives. I think as teachers it is important for us to consider this when working with students who are new to Canada. What we consider to be “common knowledge” for how to behave in the classroom for example, may be completely different from what that student may consider to be common knowledge.

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  6. I like how you talked about the various backgrounds our students can come from, whether it’s their cultural background or familial background. Students may have a hard time focusing because they haven’t had breakfast in a week, or maybe they have no safe space to do their homework. Little things like that affect day-to-day functioning of our students and as teachers, we really have to be aware of that and try to understand where our students are coming from.

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  7. Pingback: The “Good” Student | alextaylorsite

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