Maxine Greene is an educational theorist who was part of the Reconceptualist Movement that began in the late 60’s. Greene places emphasis on the importance of the arts in education. In her article “The Turning of the Leaves: Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education” she discusses the impact of self expression on an individual’s ability to connect with the world around them. She brings up the metaphor of tree leaves turning colours in the fall, noting that “there are two parts to the idea of "turning." We connect with the world, but we also make sense of our experiences in the world and make them our own.”
Greene discusses the importance of arts in schools because it provides a relatively free medium for students to explore self expression, develop critical thinking, and expand on their worldviews. Art in schools is threatened by the standardization practices in schools, “If we are going to affirm, extend, and expand the role of the arts in education, we must give up the kind of standardization that wipes clean the diversity, richness, and humanness that infuses the arts as well as human beings' individual - and sometimes collective - responses to the arts.”
In my paper, I would like to include a summary of the Reconceptualist Movevement that Greene was involved in. I would like to further this research with how her views and ideals appear in classrooms today and how we could improve how we design our programs based on some of these ideals.
The Tyler Rational is widely used across schools in Canada because it provides an easy and seemingly “clear cut” method of teaching children. This is because it focuses on specific questions that we ask ourselves when we build on a curriculum or plan activities for the students to complete.
This rational falls under the Product Model of Curriculum and places a lot of focus preparing students for future jobs and careers. Ralph Tyler believed that “the real purpose of education is not to have the instructor perform certain activities, but to bring about significant changes in the students’ pattern of behaviour,” and in this way, students could be moulded into perfect working adults. Students who do well in specific classes are encouraged to take classes that will help them get into colleges or universities after graduating and others were guided into more immediate practical classes like shop or wielding to be useful to the workforce with more expediency. This can sometimes lead to programs (like art) being pushed to the side or even cut completely if they are not seen as being valuable to the work force
These key questions can be very helpful as a starting point for any learning activity, but it does tend to provide a very “stiff” outline with little to no room for student and teacher voices. It does nothing to acknowledge the outside world or the experiences of the youth and expertise of the teachers. This rational looks at students as an entity of raw energy or resource to be moulded into a defined shape. I believe this is the largest limitation. This model is made up of “cookie cutter” and “one size fits all” programmes that do not leave much room for inclusive education, different learning styles, socioeconomic backgrounds, the community, or the funding of the schools into account and end up being less effective for everybody involved.
Commonsense, as defined by Kumashiro, is an accumulation of the normative customs and beliefs that are built by collective societal knowledge of what we see repeating in our day-to-day lives. They help us to make sense of and feel one with the world around us. Such as how “My neighbors taught me much about the facets of life in the [Nepali] village that many of them seemed to take for granted as ‘common sense’ or what everyone should know.” These ‘common sense’ facets included things like the purpose of the well water at various times of day, or how they prepared their two meals each day. In the schools, it was seen as common sense to listen and speak only when spoken too, to divide the class by gender, and to study only in ways that they felt would prepare them for the tests to the extent that they felt any other method of teaching would jeopardize their chances of success.
It is clear that what I view as ‘common sense’ is different from the Nepali people. Kumashiro listed some things we take for granted as being ‘normal’ in North American culture, such as how we generally structure our school systems. Throughout the reading, I frequently caught myself thinking that the methods used in Nepal sound outdated and ineffective in comparison to the methods we use here in North America that have been slowly built upon and improved based on research and trial and error and are much more flexible and therefore “better.”
Kumashiro's assignment in Nepal was to “introduce schools to different and presumably more effective ways to teach.” This is not problematic an and of itself, it is beneficial for all teachers to be exposed to different methods of teaching to better help their students, “what [is] problematic [is] our failure to unearth the ways that U.S. [and Canadian] values and priorities and ideologies where embedded in our approaches to teaching and learning.”
Our common sense is full of underlying bias and oppressive views that we never question because the common sense formed around cultural norms have made it easy to overlook oppressive behaviors.