Assumptions and Schooling

When I was teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in education, I tried to push my students to consider the assumptions that underlie almost everything we do in schools. I was usually met with glassy eyed stares or vacant nods, typical strategies of the school game. What I was really hoping for was some fire, some reaction to the way they had been treated throughout school. But, sometimes, students just got angry at me for disturbing the strategies they had found as a way to survive and find some sense of comfort. I suppose for some ignorance is bliss.

However, I am concerned with the messages we communicate to children in the name of education. These messages are known as the hidden and null curriculums. The things we do or don't do. But, these "things" are embedded with certain assumptions. And, as educators, we should know what these assumptions are. Here is a small list of some "things" that are typical of schooling. What are the assumptions? What do these "things" communicate?

  • Bells
  • Walking in lines
  • Hall passes
  • Homework
  • Worksheets
  • Gold stars
  • Class periods
  • Subjects
  • Tests
  • Report cards
  • Objectives

We don't often think of what meanings lie beneath the surface of these things, but each one of these "things" communicate a variety of assumptions to students (and teachers… and parents).

At one point, when I was teaching a multi-graded 4, 5, 6 class, on the first day of the year the bell rang for lunch. I walked over to the door and the kids sat there looking at me quizzically. After a long pause, they asked, "do you want us to get in a line?"

I asked, "can we get to the cafeteria without getting in a line?"

They said, "yes." And, off we went, and successfully, I might add.

For years, these children had been socialized into a regimented approach getting around in school. Are such approaches necessary. I don't think so. They teach children to follow orders, but they don't teach children how to negotiate, solve problems, consider the needs of others, or how to become independent.

Dig into some other aspects of this or other assumptions and add your comments below.


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©2015 Jeffrey W. Bloom

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