Reading Response #7

1) According to the Levin article, how are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

Ben Levin argues that curricula development is a deeply political process. He explains that curricula development is subject to the same influences that affect development of all public policies: a) “Voter Interests Drive Everything” (9); b) “Governments Have Limited Control Over the Policy Agenda” (10); c) “There Is Never Enough Time” (11); d) “People and Systems Both Matter” (12); e) “A Full-Time Opposition Changes Everything” (13); and f) “Beliefs Are More Important Than Facts” (13). In short, this means that a) politicians will give voters what they demand, even despite evidence; b) issues are always popping up to deal with, voices are always rising – distractions are endless and policy plans are frequently abandoned and reshaped due to unforeseeable circumstances; c) politicians (and their civil servants) are charged with doing more than time allows; d) individuals who occupy important offices have immense autonomy and can steer policy in divergent directions but the structures for decision-making also circumscribe policy-development possibilities; e) opposition parties will criticize every policy decision, which means change is always (potentially) contentious; and f) voters govern decisions, and will demand what they believe, even if their beliefs condradict evidence.

Levin proceeds to explain the “issues, actors, processes, influences and results” (13) that affect curriculum development. The issues are primarily political: which subjects to teach and what content to include. These curricular debates often mirror wider political debates in society. In Canada, the actors involved in curriculum development include politicians and civil servants from provincial governments, representatives from Indigenous governments and inter-governmental organizations, post-secondary academics and executives, teachers and, increasingly, other stakeholders including business leaders, parents, students and other concerned community members. In Canada, curricula are generally reviewed by committees composed of the aforementioned stakeholders, who review dated curricula and create new ones. The process is influenced by research, opinions of stakeholders (including teachers), media, political parties, post-secondary institutions and advocacy groups. The results (including unintended consequences) of previous curricula-development processes also influence curricula development. Committee members tend to only recommend changes that teachers are likely to implement.

Nothing about this surprised me. But I’m concerned that research and facts are not as essential to the process as they should be. Levin indicates that teachers’ voices are integral to these processes, which is very important.

2) After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, what connections can you make between the article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan? What tension might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

Many of the members of the Curriculum Sub-committee of the Shared Standards and Capacity Building Council are representatives of Indigenous organizations, which is important. The subcommittee also included a large number of representatives from the Saskatchewan government, which makes sense, considering it was a government committee. Indigenous voices were most important; they represented, through their organizations, the interests of Indigenous people from across the province and consequently were rightly granted the majority of roles. Traditional knowledge would have governed the policy-development process and elders were rightly included and listed at the top of member list. It was important to also include a representative of the First Nations University of Canada and member of the University of Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal Learning Centre because post-secondary institutions should be involved in secondary curriculum development.

I imagine there may have been tension between the Saskatchewan government and the various members of Indigenous political and governmental organizations. I can imagine that the Saskatchewan government representatives were determined to ensure that the Treaty Education goals, outcomes and indicators were congruent with a long list of policies. I imagine that each representative of Indigenous organizations had his or her own priorities. And I imagine the elders approached the whole issue in a way that was very different from everyone else on the committee. I can also imagine that the post-secondary representatives held strong opinions of what was vital to include. The government representatives would have been thinking about wider public opinion, whereas other members would have been concerned primarily with the opinions of their own communities and constituencies. And the whole process, like all policy-development processes, would have been governed by laws, practices and procedures that govern public policy development in Saskatchewan.

Published by millarje

I'm in my first year of the University of Regina's Bachelor of Education After Degree program.

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