Hello and welcome to my first blog post for ECS 210. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the readings and take away a little more than what you came with.
This week the ECS 210 students were asked to read an article by a person named Kumashiro, which was titled: “Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice.” Here Kumashiro asks the reader to contemplate what “common sense” really means. Is it simply something that any “regular” person would know? Or is it far more complicated than that? Kumashiro argues that “common sense” is not as basic as it seems, rather, “common sense” comes from cultural beliefs that are so ingrained that they are perceived as “common sense.”
This is an interesting take on the matter that is not often, or really ever, brought up in scholarly circles. This is due to the fact that most scholarly circles consist of people with similar cultural backgrounds. Without having different cultural viewpoints to contradict what is considered “common sense,” the entire conversation is non-existent. Why would one question their own “common sense” if there is no one on the outside to question it? Kumashiro begs all these types of questions and brings up many convincing reasons for why it is important for educators to question themselves.
The most convincing argument that made me think hard about what I consider “common sense,” is actually one I had learned long ago. Kumashiro asks why the school year is from September to June and not any other arrangement. Thanks to my interest in Japan, I had actually learned that the Japanese school year goes from April – March. Their summer vacation is only 1 month long, instead of two, and they barely get any time in between school years – only about 10 days or so. I questioned why our school system was set up the way it is, when the Japanese school year is so different. I still have not reached a conclusion on that question, but I do think that it stirs up the same type of thought process that Kumashiro desires.
Along with that argument, Kumashiro asks the reader to consider many things they would consider normal and then provides examples of how it is different in Nepali culture. This essentially spells it out to the reader as why it is important to question “common sense,” and that is because common sense is wholly dictated by ones own cultural upbringing. Therefore the argument Kumashiro is trying to make is that when we question our own sense of “common sense” we inadvertently become fairer educators. This is because it forces us to consider what other cultures would consider normal, which ends up expelling the ingrained Eurocentrism that is present in all people who were raised in North America.
Another great point Kumashiro had was that “common sense” tells us what we SHOULD be doing and not what we COULD be doing. At it’s very core, “common sense” is a very limiting point of view that teaches people how things ought to be done. It forces people into a narrow lifestyle that has no wiggle room for ulterior ideas. Teachers who are swayed by their own notion of “common sense” fall danger to repeating mistakes over and over again, simply because they will not question their own set of beliefs. I think this is the most important lesson to take away from the article.
AS A SIDE NOTE:
While the article did a great job of explaining why it is important to question your own “common sense,” it did a bad job at explaining what oppressive teaching looks like. Kumashiro says over and over in the article how the school system allows oppressive teaching. However, not once in the entire article does Kumashiro point to what oppressive teaching looks like. There is not one example to firmly point at and say: “that is what oppressive teaching looks like. Do not do this!” Basically the second half of the article after leaving the very well thought out argument against “common sense,” simply devolves into Kumashiro repeating the same thing over and over.
I completely agree that oppressive teaching has no place inside the classroom, but unless I can see a concrete example of what it looks like, there is nothing I can do to combat it. How does one expect you to fight an enemy without knowing what it looks like?
Thank you for taking the time to read my response, and I look forward to the next article to critique.
- Garrett J. Bates