The Harmful Effects of Relying On Common Sense

I spent twelve years moving through the Canadian education system. Each year was similar to the ones before. Each classroom mirrored the last with the only difference being ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ motivational posters hanging on the walls. I would consider myself an expert when it comes to education, after all, I watched teacher after teacher model the same deliverance of material to their students through:

  • Lectures
  • Assignments
  • Homework
  • Group projects
  • and, tests

In my decision to become a teacher myself which I am currently working towards I accepted and expected that I too would organize my classroom the same as my past teachers had done, and would deliver content through:

  • Lectures
  • Assignments
  • Homework
  • Group projects
  • and, tests

After all, it was just common sense.

Do you see the pattern? The way the curriculum is recycled year after year through the generations? This is how certain practices become ingrained in our way of thinking, and eventually become common sense.

What is common sense and why does it get a bad rep in teaching?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common sense as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. This thorough definition sums up my entire experience in the education system; I absorbed my surroundings and understood the situation and soon developed reliant knowledge based on my experience.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Not all parts of the curriculum are necessarily good. Yes, much updating needs to be done to keep up with the fast-paced changes in Canadian society. There are also parts of the curriculum, and the way in which teachers, well, teach that can potentially hurt and/or oppress marginalized groups of people in society. When we recycle previous generations ways of learning we don’t bother to question the notions of privilege and continue to ignore the changes that need to happen.

In Kumashiro’s book Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice I learned through her experience in Nepal how difficult it can be for an education system to criticize their own practice, even if it means bettering the learning experience for their students. She herself was sent to Nepal to help reform the education system with her common sense knowledge of the American education system. She witnessed first hand how difficult change can be, and learned how to criticise her own common sense of what education ‘should be’.

Kumashiro believes that “common sense is not what should shape education reform or curricular design; it is what needs to be examined and challenged.” By breaking the cycle of learned knowledge and expected common sense, we are able to slowly identify and rid our lessons of the notions of privilege and oppression to create an education system that values the lives of each student.

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Author: Hayley Hodson

I have known I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I never had a doubt in my mind of what I wanted to be in this world. Even though I was certain of the end goal, I never stopped to wonder what the journey to get to that point would look like. This blog is it. This blog is the messy middle where I transition from student to teacher. Every thought and belief I have and learn throughout my education is posted to this blog in order to document my journey in becoming a teacher. I invite you all to join me as I strive to become more than just a teacher, but also a kind and inclusive citizen.

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