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