Deciding what should be taught

This chapter in Contemporary Curriculum  ( McNeil, 2015) focuses on the various elements that go into deciding the content for the curriculum. Touching upon some of the various theories guiding crafting of the content, the chapter focuses predominately on the rationale behind the content choices. “Rather than avoiding responsibility and mandating curriculum purposes without justification, those at all levels of schooling should constantly question the purpose of curriculum” (McNeil, p. 84). The chapter presents some of the history on how the curriculum developed and what information has generally been accepted as important for students to know. That process has been greatly influenced by the economic and other political factors, which then are rarely remembered or presented again.

While reading through all of the variety of topics that had historically been covered, I realized that the curriculum theory book remained silent on the gaps in the content we agree to teach . We started reading this chapter and discussed it around the U.S. national holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus “discovering” the Americas. Since I spent more time than is probably generally advised on Twitter, I saw this Tweet from Indian Country Today. In looking at their suggestions for how teachers at all grade levels can teach the truth about Columbus and the Americas, I realized that the rewritten story we tell students in school fell into a discussion the book had not been having – the null curriculum.

The null curriculum refers to the topics and materials that are not taught. Indigenous history of any geographical area is the most notable in the topics that are not widely discussed in classrooms, particularly in the U.S. Yet the history of the First Nations should be the easiest history to access, as people who lived through what is taught as ancient history are still around.

And I think that, in light of the reading, changing what the stories are that we teach in schools are really down to teachers moving against the grain and teaching the narratives that are important, yet overlooked. This poses potential problems for teachers, but I think ultimately it will be better for society to have all the stories of all of the people who live here included in the curriculum.

McNeil, John D. (2014-11-06). Contemporary Curriculum: In Thought and Action, 8th Edition (Page 84). Wiley. Kindle Edition.