Exploring the Problem of Common Sense

What does common sense look like in schools?

According to Kumashiro, “commonsense” in schools differs from region to region, but is the subconscious way of thinking about schools and how they work. In Canada, for example we know that school begins in September and ends in June, and that school runs roughly from 8:30 am until roughly 3:30 pm. The provincial government mandates the curriculum, and teachers are expected to teach what they think students need to know based on these guidelines. These are just some of our commonsense ways of thinking about school.

So, why is it important for us to pay attention to “commonsense” in schools?

As Kumashiro says, “we do not often question certain practices and perspectives because they are masked or couched in concepts to which we often feel societal pressure to conform, including such concepts as tradition, professionalism, morality and normalcy”.  This “commonsense” knowledge of schooling sticks with us from the time we are in Kindergarten, to the time we step into our own classrooms to teach, and so oftentimes we forget to question our own ways of thinking about school, and what could make it a better place for all learners.

I think that Kumashiro is right in saying that it is important to think about and question the “commonsense”. That new ways of thinking can be beneficial in schools, especially so for those who have traditionally been oppressed by “commonsense” thinking in educational institutions. As teachers who set out to teach in an explicitly non-oppressive ways, it is important for us to question the tradition and culture of schools in order to meet the needs of different kinds of learners without using oppressive tactics.

Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI

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