Cycle Three | The Relationship Between Schools and Home Cultures

Although this cycle is titled “The Relationship Between Schools and Home Cultures”, the word that continued to bounce around in my head was curriculum.  When we look at the culture of school or the culture of home, both have unwritten, latent curriculums that speak loudly to those who are involved in them.  

For me, so much of this world has a curriculum, too.  Even if we go to past readings in this course, certainly the adventure playgrounds from Cycle One have a curriculum.  It’s just not rigid (but I would argue it’s rigorous!).  If we look at Cycle Two with Rodriguez, he certainly has the curriculum set by the nuns and future teachers, but consider all that he recognized about the world around him–for example, how he viewed (or thought he was being viewed) by the construction crew he worked with, how he viewed the people of his neighborhood, his parents, etc.  All of this is curriculum, and so when we consider the relationship between schools and home culture, the curriculums we mean to put in place are just as important as the unintended latent curriculums.

When looking at this week’s readings, Hull-House seemed to understand that there was a crucial link between schools and home, and it appears as if Addams wanted to create a larger curriculum that did not segment these.  It’s why they “found that it was quite as necessary to come together on the basis of the deed and our common aim inside the household as it was in the neighborhood itself” (449).  And with that, too, was the fact that, at Hull-House, there was the belief that the curriculum (although I am unsure as to whether they viewed this program as a curriculum) was always evolving.  It was malleable, and it continued to adapt to those who were a part of it.  There was flexibility, and most importantly, there was communication about what was happening, what should be happening, and why.  

This final point, I believe, is severely lacking in public schools today (and has been for a while!).  It’s a major part in why curriculums feel rigid and, quite frankly, looks very similar to curriculums from sixty or seventy years ago.  It’s why many selections for Montessori’s piece, if published today, would ring true to so many educators.  Consider when she writes, “ We still believe that there should be heavy desks in school practically nailed to the floor. All of this is based on the conviction that children should grow up immobile and that education should depend upon a child retaining a special position” (48).  Walking through hallways in almost any school, it’s rare to see kids moving and doing.  

Those desks are as restricting as the curriculum that was designed years ago and has not really changed.  In the past, we created curriculums that segmented into disciplines–math, science, reading and writing, and history.  They were (and remain to a large extent) unconnected to one another.  Our country–it’s population, it’s intelligences, it’s interests, etc.–have changed, and yet the structure in which we educate our population really hasn’t.  It’s heartbreaking to recognize that the way we organize schools and curriculum is that immutable.  What’s more, there is no promise that these curriculums promote socially-valuable habits for our children.  

Of course, I don’t want to fall into the trap that Montessori warns of in terms of simply posing “new problems” (not that these are necessarily new today) without any solutions (41).  So, what then can we learn from Addams, Montessori, and Roland Martin when we consider the direction curriculum should take?  Certainly, one major focus here is on the idea of a community that encourages varied and uninhibited participation from the community members which is an idea we certainly see at Hull-House and Schoolhome, both of which adjust studies to the members of the group and also make those members empowered.  

A large part of this, too, is overhauling our idea of what knowledges are valued in school and reevaluating what it means to have a successful education.  When thinking on this, I often return to The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education where it was understood that segmenting subject matter is not the only way to present and help students engage with subject matter.  If we were to take a more holistic approach to education, the possibilities for student engagement and student-driven curriculum seem to have greater potential.  I envision curriculums that are student-driven and incorporating what one teacher was quoted saying in the Roland Martin article when he suggests, “that whatever cultures the various classes in the Schoolhome study, the focus should be on the great questions” (56).  In inquiry-driven approach can be one of many ways in which curriculums can be more malleable.  And while this particular student-driven curriculum in Massachusetts only enrolls a few students, it sheds lights onto the possibilities of finding curriculum that allows students to bridge multiple aspects of their lives, including home and school cultures.  

In the end, when it comes to finding relationships between school culture, home culture, and the greater community culture as a whole, we need to continue to empower educators to bring their knowledge of subject matter and their kids into the conversation.  Furthermore, community involvement and influence should be encouraged and supported.  Before any of this can happen, though, we first need to begin having discussions about what we want the curriculum to be based in.  Will we incorporate a more holistic model and, if so, should we bring in experts in other fields in terms of understanding what it is a child needs to be more explorative?  These questions do not have simple answers, but if we do not start making changes to how we think about curriculum and what it is that our kids truly need, we will continue to head down a path we have been on since the Cold War when we decided to hand curriculums over to so-called experts instead of empowering those who actually work with children.

2 thoughts on “Cycle Three | The Relationship Between Schools and Home Cultures

  1. Jeff,
    I agree with you on so many things. When I was reading the texts for cycle 3, I too kept thinking of the word “curriculum.” It was the underlying theme of the readings. The thought of a holistic, malleable, and evolving curriculum seems ideal. Why isn’t education, as a whole, adopting this idea? I think many teachers would agree that it’s what’s best for students. Is it because politicians are so involved? Is it because so much emphasis is put on testing and test scores that we have the need for a set curriculum? Sure, every student needs to learn how to add, subtract, spell correctly, and read. However, do they all necessarily need to learn how to do this at the same age? Or in the same way? It makes me wonder how curriculum is viewed in countries like Finland.
    I don’t know about you, but I thought the Hull-House sounded like a great place to teach! It sounded like the ideal educational system. I think that students would experience more success in school if we didn’t segregate the disciplines so much. The middle school I taught at did discuss how we can integrate the subjects more, but when it comes down to it, there’s still math class, English class, history class, and so on. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I just can’t imagine when I would have had the time to teach social studies and science along with math in my Pre-Algebra class. While I think it’s the best way to teach, I just don’t think it’s able to be done in this day and age when so much emphasis is on the curriculum and scoring high on standardized testing. If I took time out of my math class to begin discussing social studies or science, even when it fit in, then I would be taking valuable time away from teaching math concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the right thing to do, but I also HAVE to get through the math curriculum. I’m responsible for making sure these students know what they need to know to be successful on tests.
    You’re right, kids are rarely up and moving around in the classroom, especially the older they get. I do, however, think that students are getting up and out of their seats more now than they were in the past. I think that when kids can get up and work with others in group situations, there is curriculum. It’s just part of the “unintended latent” curriculum you mentioned.
    I like what you said about reevaluating what it means to have a successful education. Today, a successful education means a good score on a test. But does a test score really indicate a successful education? What if a student really did have a successful education, but was a poor test taker? I hope for the sake of my children that education changes in the near future. I hope to see more of the ideas from Hull-House and the Schoolhome brought in the classroom. Education needs to “come alive” for children. When that happens, that’s a successful education in my opinion.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Great post. I can’t remember which class I had you for previously–my class on learning communities (TE 823) or my class on curriculum (TE 818). Looks like you would be ready to teach either of these classes! Ready to come here and do a phd in curriculum theory?

    It’s a great post that really leaves me nodding but without much to add. I do think it’s interesting that you got to curriculum when I was generally aiming to bring up questions about domestic culture, home life and its relationship to school and academia. But it goes to show that curriculum is always that third, middle, mediating term. Curriculum is the pretext for adults and kids, called teachers and students, to hang out together in schools. Curriculum is also apparently the space where private and public, home and school, start to come together.

    If you read all of Martin’s book, she starts with a letter from Virginia Woolf where she imagines all of these top-hatted Edwardians crossing a bridge to go to work each day, leaving their wives and children at home. She recognizes that school has always taught to the one side of the bridge and homes educated about life on the other. But now that no longer really happens.

    Dewey recognized that kids used to learn so much at home through raising food, cooking it, making soap and candles, etc. That was why his curriculum tried to bring those things back in–they were good ways to learn the disciplines and to learn domestic arts.

    I think the question of participation is bigger now than ever. Women are working on both sides of the bridge more than ever, and men, though they do less at home, still work a lot more hours on both side as well. What does free and uninhibited participation look like now? Is homekeeping and housework still drudgery? Is there anything to be gained or learned there? But if we let that go, if we are all eating take out and using cleaning and lawn services, have we lost something that the school really depends upon? The sense of a home that kids might bring to us?

    Great post!


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