1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Hidden Curriculum, Hidden Anthropology (Phase I)

I. Critical Pedagogy and Hidden Curriculum

Promoters of "critical pedagogy" sometimes speak of the "hidden" curriculum that is present and assumed within the public or overt teaching that happens day-to-day. Joan Wink writes: "The hidden curriculum is the unexpressed perpetuation of dominant culture through institutional processes" (Critical Pedagogy, p. 46). Wink gives a good example of some Native American kids who think Thanksgiving is the celebration of when white guys taught the Indians how to farm! One could argue that what these students expressed is less about what goes at school than what is received as common "wisdom" from a multiplicity of sources (friends, family, media, etc.). But I digress.

Suffice to say that teachers and schools communicate far more than what is said or read in school. Education is always an "incomplete" process, of course, but what happens when entire fields of human knowledge are ignored? What might one call that? Hmm, unexamined subjects. Perhaps Unsub could be the Newspeak word. Or perhaps the omission of certain subjects are the result of the "hidden anthropology" of public education?

An East German soldier seeks an absent good
What's lacking in the American curriculum?

II. Hidden Anthropology - An Initial Sketch 

If one were to examine K-12 state standards (or Common Core) and ask, "What is omitted?" one would discover some interesting things. First, by "what is omitted?" I mean, What is a substantial field of human knowledge that is neglected or disproportionately small in the curriculum? The next step is to ask, "What do these omissions suggest about the nature of the human person that is assumed by the absence of these subject areas in the curriculum?"

A Premise. This may be so obvious as to seem unnecessary to state: Important things ought to be taught. This statement seems platitudinous, after all, who will argue that education ought to consist in the communication of trivia and frivolity? Hopefully no one. However, this premise could have transformative implications for the public school curriculum if it were taken seriously.

Fields of Knowledge versus State Standards. This is where "Phase II" comes into play. To find the missing like and hence the hidden anthropology. Stay tuned for details.

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