Autonomous Vs. Ideological in Curriculum

In ECS 210 we have been examining curriculums and curriculum theories in many forms, from many theorists. This week we were asked to look at curriculums in the subject area we will likely teach. Since my major is Mathematics, I chose to look specifically at Mathematics 9 from the Saskatchewan curriculum.

Screenshot from Math 9 curriculum

In this curriculum, almost all of the outcomes have an indicator about relating back to self and community. In this sense idealogical literacy is present in the curriculum, because students are asked to make connections between the Math and themselves. Additionally, under the Aims and Goals section of the grade 9 Math curriculum, Math as a Human Endeavour is listed as one of the goals. This goal very much so follows along with an ideological frame because it encourages students to use mathematics as a way of challenging and analyzing their experiences beyond the classroom and beyond basic fundamentals. However, the majority of math curriculums still follow an autonomous frame. Knowledge acquired through mathematics can be described as arbitrary rules and facts that students are expected to memorize rather than discover on their own. One thing I would like to point out however, is that although the Math curriculum can be viewed this way, a teacher can still adjust their classroom and the way they teach so that it is more idealogical than autonomous. For instance, in my EMTH 300 class we have been learning about teaching mathematics through problem solving and inquiry. When math is taught with this method students develop formulas and proofs on their own and also develop a deeper understanding.

This is why I believe that teaching techniques and methods go hand in hand with curriculum. A teacher can choose to interpret a curriculum as autonomous or idealogical depending how they want to deliver that curriculum to their students. Just because the literacy of the curriculum might seem to favour a certain frame does not mean that it can only be interpreted one way. As I am learning more about curriculum I have developed a deeper understanding of how I can interpret it to match my own philosophy. 

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Is Curriculum a Public Policy?

My understanding of curriculum after this week’s readings is that curriculum is a document which specifies what students are to know and be able to do. There are general objectives in curriculum and then there are more specific outcomes for different grade levels and subjects. Although teachers, principals, and experts on subject areas are involved in the curricula process it is still more often than not a political matter in which government has complete control.

Although I knew that education was controlled by the government I had never really thought about the impact that could have on curricula. No one is completely impartial to what they would want to be taught in school, and unfortunately people are always going to have their own biases; like Kevin Kumashiro always says (who my professor Michael Cappello often quotes): “What does it make possible and what does it make impossible?” If someone’s decisions are very rooted in Religion what could the curriculum look like? What things may be given special attention and what items might be omitted? I think this is important to remember when analyzing curricula as well as when voting and taking part in democracy. The government has the power to make every final decision on curricula even if experts on education have put in hours of research and their expertise into creating it. It is concerning to me that we entrust the government with such power because of possible biases, but also because they do not always know the demographics and diversity of students in each school across the region they govern. 

I believe if the public is aware of the power the government has in terms of education, more people will be encouraged take part in the conversation about schools and more specifically this topic: curriculum. If more people voice their opinions and concerns, more groups of people will be represented, and hopefully the government will see the need to be much more mindful when making decisions on education.