“A curriculum for battery hens”

Since becoming a parent I have worried increasingly about the future.  In my bleakest musings I fear the direction that our world-community is going, which seems to be driven by individualism, consumerism & profits.  Inevitably this results in environmental depletion/destruction and an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor.  I’m not immune to this global direction either, I want a nice house with a pool, a good car, I want to travel and I dream of the freedom I could have if only I would win the lottery!

We are continuously bombarded by the media everywhere that we NEED this and we should HAVE that, we are constantly told how we should look, behave and what we should aspire to. We’re all aware of the environmental problem rushing at us and most of us would like to help the poor, the starving, the misplaced people all over the world. But what do we commonly DO about this?  We get depressed about it, we might make a small donation to a charity but then we go on with our day and hope that someone, some government in the world will finally fix all of these problems facing us (this is possibly a mild generalisation but you get what I mean!).

The CHANGE we’re looking for has to come from us, from our future citizens, our children.  So how?  Education of course!  But is the education we’re giving our children good enough and are we teaching them the ‘right’ things?  I have had a good look at our curriculum here in Australia, specifically in Queensland, and I’ve also done some minor research of Secondary curriculum in North America.  Yes, most curriculum advocates teaching to the child (not the test!), empowering diversity, encouraging critical thinking and using ICTs to enhance collaboration and learning.  BUT, are we not really focusing mainly on the potential income-earning capacity of each student…how else are they to survive our economy if they can not get a decent job?  I suspect that the curriculum is largely based on the CURRENT values of our society, which is heavily influenced by our economic views.

I have had the opportunity to spend time in three different high schools so far (private & public) and the focus has been to “fit” in all the curriculum requirements that relate to the eventual “grade” that a student achieves.  Particularly in High School it is even harder (in my opinion) to foster real critical thinking, to discuss life matters etc., because a teacher does not see the same set of students everyday (unlike primary school).  There is the pressure of a set curriculum, society’s expectations of graduates and University ranking systems.  High school teaches specialisation, subjects are separate and often do not show or offer integration with other subjects.  I agree with the argument that “We live in a world of specialists…People able to see the big picture, those who can synthesize, are in very short supply – which is largely why we are in such a muddle.” (Abbot & MacTaggart, 2010, p. 188).

Have we really created “a curriculum for battery hens”? (Abbot & MacTaggart, 2010, p. 194).  I hope not!

Abbot, J. & MacTaggart, H. (2010). Overschooled but undereducated: how the crisis in education is jeopardizing our adolescents.  Continuum: London & New York

5 comments on ““A curriculum for battery hens”

  1. nemocorinne2012 says:

    ‘A curriculum for battery hens.’ A powerful analogy Elke, especially for those students attending high school.


  2. toriakyogle says:

    You are right Elke the change must come from us as individuals taking our passion into the classroom and leading by example. I witnessed this in 2 inspiring pracs I undertook in an inner city school in Brisbane catering for a low socioeconomic, multicultural community. The prep teacher viewed every day as a learning adventure she and the children embarked on, her program was project based allowing children to work together in groups, combining their strengths & supporting their weaknesses. It provided opportunities to celebrate individual and group achievements, sit in ‘circles of inquiry’ Phil Cam, and reflect on issues that arose through teasing them out. PREP, LOW SOCIOECONOMIC, ESL classroom, powerful stuff, exciting stuff BUT she fought the powers that be constantly, justifying the garden and chooks, the cardboard sculptures, the mess even though the outcomes met by the children were impressive. Passion and the children’s sense of themselves as learners kept her going and people were starting to notice and enquire about her techniques.


    • elketeaches says:

      Hi. What a lovely start to schooling your prep teacher is providing children! It’s good to read/hear about this type of thing, I wish there was more of it especially in the older years.
      You’ll have to let me know when you start a blog, I bet you’ll have interesting things to say about your teaching experiences.


  3. Kate H says:

    Lovely to read your blog Elke! This topic absolutely perplexes me …. reminds me of that John Mayer song “Waiting on the world to change.” I am upgrading my degree to Early Childhood at the moment (had only done general P-7 prior) and am fighting (pleasantly) with my lecturer as she imparts these foreign Early Years philosophies upon me. While I love the idea of much of the student lead learning and exploration etc, as a mainstream primary teacher I am finding it hard to adapt as so much of my time was spent ensuring that the children achieved government outcomes and most of the time my ability as a teacher was judged on whether or not my class were quiet walking around the school and that they didn’t get up to go to the toilet during parade! Haha. How is it that we have it so right in the early years and then once they hit ‘big school’, all of these ideas are out the window and the regime begins?! PS hope little Master L and Miss B are well xo.


    • elketeaches says:

      Hi Kate.

      L & B say Hi…..L often reminisces about his grade 1 experience, he misses the freedom he felt then I think. What’s up with the quiet walking anyway? Seriously, it’s a school FULL of CHILDREN and we’re again telling them how to act even though I would suspect that the majority of them would not act like that naturally….so are we telling them that your natural instincts are wrong? Ugh and don’t get me started on how we get this behaviour from children…..I have stopped trying to have conversations with my son’s teachers about rewards & punishments and how their systems of stickers, fake money etc is changing my child and every other child into “what do I get for it” children!

      Where is the art? the mess? One of my measurements of whether my child had a good day was how messy he looked when he got home! He is coming home cleaner (and dare I say often bored) as the years progress. What happened to using paint in the classroom…is it just too messy in Years 2, 3 and up?

      I think it’s really easy for Universities or government sponsored education documents to advocate certain things but in the end it often comes down to the pressures of the school environment and the testing involved.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s