Saturday, May 26, 2007

Revisiting a curriculum of questions

I was scribbling a note to an internal Faculty blog and trying to make a case for thinking about curriculum in terms of questions. I gestured back to the piece I scribbled about that a few years back and in doing so had to use Google's blogsearch to find it. But, as is the way of the web, I stumbled over a long piece by Bill Ayers which while writing about Peter McLaren's work made this lovely observation:

The most important lesson I learned in the earliest days of my teaching came from the Freedom Schools in Mississippi in the early 1960s. These schools were premised on the idea that while the black people of Mississippi had been denied many things—decent facilities, forward-looking curriculum, fully trained teachers—the fundamental injury was the denial of the right to think for themselves about the circumstances of their lives, how they got to where they were, and how things might be changed. The curriculum for these schools was a curriculum of questions, of inquiry and dialogue, a curriculum of posing problems: why are we, students and teachers, in the Freedom Movement? What do we want to change? This is an example of critical pedagogy at its best. It invites people to engage, to participate, to transform their lives, and to change their world.

Which, to me, begs the question, what, with our right answer obsessed curriculum are we denying the young of this country? From Ayers point of view quite a lot.