How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’? Reading response to: Kumashiro, Kevin (2009). Introduction, Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI.
Kumashiro believes common-sense ideas are those we are accustomed to, especially ideas about doing routine things. He writes about time he spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Nepalese village. He learned from local villagers many of the ideas and routines that they, the people of his village, assumed were commonsensical: the schedule for water faucet usage, the times meals were served, the types of foods considered proper for meals. The villagers’ commonsensical ideas contradicted many ideas Kumashiro had, prior to his arrival in Nepal, considered common sense: that showers should be private, that meals didn’t require lentils and rice, that classrooms should be dynamic and interactive spaces for learning. Commonsensical ideas are often adopted unconsciously. We receive them from individuals, like our family members, friends and members of our communities. When a mother drives to work every morning, her children learn passively and unconsciously that work commutes are done in vehicles. We also receive commonsensical ideas from organizations and institutions, including schools. In Nepal Kumashiro learned that Nepalese students believed education required strict fidelity to government-sanctioned textbooks, which contradicted his own opinion that children learn best by participating and creating within an interactive classroom.
Kumashiro believed his teaching methods, those he picked up in the United States during his youth, were superior to the Nepalese’. He belatedly realized how insidious this was. In every explicit lesson he taught there, he implicitly conveyed another: that American ways are superior. This is the problem with commonsensical ideas and practices. They are passed down and perpetuated by people who don’t often think about who originally devised them and why. Common-sense ideas and practices, especially in education, may serve as vectors for oppressive “values and perspectives” (Kumashiro, 2009, pp.XXXII). Students would receive oppressive ideas, for example, if their English teachers were to choose only books written by cisgender white males; they’d learn all other voices are subordinate. Appeals to common sense are often appeals to tradition – advocacy for accepting status quo hierarchies, inequalities and commonly-held oppressive ideas (Kumashiro, 2009, pp. XXXVI). Educators and students should think critically about common-sense approaches to teaching and learning. By questioning their beliefs and practices, and by thinking about where those beliefs and norms originated and why, students and teachers can uncover and challenge oppressive ideas.