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.