Sure, I’ve asked for their input. Sure , I’ve given them options in some of the things they want to investigate.
But at the core, I teach them what the state of NJ (or I) wants them to learn. There’s only so much lee-way in the all-knowing curriculum, and there’s only so much room for, “What do you want to learn?”
So… Why the Question?
I caught a showing of the movie Accepted on TV this evening. It’s a funny movie – absolutely ridiculous, somewhat pointless, and totally unbelievable. Yet, if the movie is 99% ridiculous, there is 1% of it that is thought provoking and serious.
The premise of the movie is that the main character, Justin Long, gets rejected from the eight colleges that he applies to. In the face of unending scorn, he comes up with a scheme to create a fictional college.
After creating the college – a secret between him and a few friends – he finds himself the founder of a large but illegal college. He collects tuition, he boards dormers, and at some point he needs to develop a curriculum.
He visits the real college next door, and he quickly comes to the conclusion that college is boring, pointless, and self-deluding. He doesn’t find anything there worth modeling his own college after.
After a conversation with Lewis Black – by far the funniest guy in the movie – he comes up with a novel alternative. What do the students want to learn? He interviews a few students, and the schools farcical curriculum is built around their choices.
This struck me as the one serious and authentic moment of the movie. What do our students want to learn? How does that connect to what we teach them?
Despite our best efforts, can we make our state mandated curriculums “relevant” to their daily lives?
Without abandoning the idea of state mandated, standards based curriculums, I don’t know that we can. At some point, we end up trying to force square pegs into round holes.
Every day I look around my school and see student apathy, and I can’t help but think it’s because we haven’t asked the students what they want to learn. But at the same time, there are far too many impediments to real student centered curriculums – class size and state/district-mandated curricula to name just a few.
Strange that such a serious thought would be prompted by such an over-the-top, ridiculous, Van Wilder-esque comedy. Ah, well. The mind is a mysterious thing.
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