Kumashiro’s Against Common Sense

“There is something oppressive about what we often say it means to be a student and, simultaneously, what it means to learn.”

To be a good student according to common sense, you should be quiet, attentive and follow rules well. Kumashiro states that “I assumed that being a student required behaving and thinking in only certain ways” creating an unfair framework of what a student needs to be, oppressing those who feel that they can not or will not conform to those student ideals. Being a good student is a student that can complete assignments, and can repeat their success on definitions, themes and ideas from the unit on the exam. Kumashiro put it as “the closer a student got to saying the right things in the right ways, the higher that student’s grade will be.” It is important according to common sense to act as the other students act in class and not to disrupt lessons or trips.

Students that do well in school and are attentive have a distinct advantage over students who may struggle with the content or have trouble staying on task and focused, or students who do not understand or enjoy the content being taught. Kumashiro displays some diagrams showing what people often view school as, empty vessels (students) who come to school to be filled with knowledge and skills when in reality they already possess a variety of knowledge and skills.

We should view schooling in a different way, as Kumashiro talks about comforting ways of learning and discomforting ways of learning. If you learn in comforting ways, reinforcing your previous knowledge you will feel much more comfortable with the content and likely feel more successful, but the student will be left without a sense of wanting to know and learn more. However, if you enter school and your previous knowledge is being challenged, you will have a desire to learn more and have a better understanding, which Kumashiro believes is one of the goals in education.

These commonsense ideas form the curriculum we want students to learn but this makes it very difficult, if not impossible to learn from and understand differing perspectives on a topic, and makes it very difficult for students who may not be a part of the local commosense just yet. This commonsense also makes it difficult to identify and act against oppression in school, as students who do not follow or understand the same commonsense will likely be excluded, oppressed and struggle in class.

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