The Curriculum God
Is curriculum a god? Zeus wasn't a real god on Mount Olympus, and curriculum isn't a real god on Mount Education. Zeus1 and curriculum are products of thought, and are reflections, merely reflections, of their makers. That established, people should be able to gain a reasonable perspective when curriculum overlooks the culture of some groups.
In Wassermann's case study (1993, pp. 161-168), the curriculum used at Setsco Lake2 overlooks the culture of both groups of children who attend the elementary school. "Primary reading materials, issued from the school district office 350 miles away, reflected values and situations that were totally out of synch with the lives of both Native and Caucasian children at Setsco Lake" (Ibid., p. 164). This problem needs a resolution, which can happen if nobody treats the curriculum with more importance than it deserves. If the reading materials are "out of synch with the lives of both native and Caucasian children," then stakeholders--teachers, parents, senior administration from the district office and the department of education, and even concerned students--must meet to remedy the problem. Such a meeting (or meetings!) must address cultural conflicts between what the curriculum presents and what the students need.
Isn't what students need the fundamental issue in any education-system? Or, at least, shouldn't it be? Students need success at school and need preparation this year for next year's classes.
Within the context I've presented, other curriculum-related issues at Setsco Lake can be addressed. These issues stem from "[a] small group of Caucasian parents, vocal and aggressive, [that] did not want to see the social studies curriculum deviate from what the...department of education advocated" and from "a group of Native leaders [that] was pressuring for curriculum changes that reflected Native cultures more closely....[They thought] Native children should be instructed in their own language. Textbooks should be written in the Native language, especially at the primary level. The stories in the readers should come from the rich resource of Native folk tales. First Nations children should be taught to have pride in their own heritage, [and should] not [be taught] the ways of the white culture" (Ibid.).
Clearly, stakeholders should understand that one meeting won't be enough to address curriculum-related issues and to find a reasonable consensus. Stakeholders should also understand that a reasonable consensus won't translate into everybody getting exactly what he or she wants, but it must translate into everybody properly addressing the students' need for success at school and their need for adequate preparation to enter their next grade levels.
Stakeholders, especially senior administrators of the curriculum-generating education department, should recognize that curriculum is not a god. Zeus doesn't really throw thunderbolts from Mount Olympus, and neither does curriculum throw thunderbolts from any mountain of education-authority. In other words, of course stakeholders can change curriculum to address cultural differences!
Unfortunately, British Columbia fell down flat in this area. Timothy J. Stanley writes about how British Columbia's textbooks "between 1885 and 1925 never questioned [Imperialism, and therefore never questioned Imperialism-based content and curriculum]" (Stanley, 1995, p. 41). What an insult to Aboriginals! He also says that "between 1885 and 1925 textbooks...[, through curriculum, essentially] linked B.C. classrooms to the Empire" (Ibid., p. 43). In a sense, Aboriginals of BC were expected to bow down to an Imperialistic curriculum-god. Stanley explains that "by 1925, British Columbia...had been made into a White supremacist society" (Ibid., p. 39). The result of this curriculum-supremacy, or "curriculum worship," created a dismal history of Aboriginal discontent in BC (that is well-documented).
Obviously, then, the stakeholders at Setsco Lake must avoid curriculum worship. Curriculum is no god! They must promote consensus. They must gain a reasonable perspective that enables them to address cultural conflicts between what the curriculum presents and what the students need. They must see curriculum as a fluid tool for educating children, and not as a deity that people worship rather than change.
1 "Greek deities greatly resembled human beings [the human beings who "made" them]...For example, they showed such emotions as love, jealousy, and anger" (Zeus, 1999).
2 A fictitious place.