Curiosity First

A particular train of thought began with listening to physicist Fritjof Capra talk on NPR about Leonardo Da Vinci.  For Capra, Leonardo’s genius (and that of others who we so identify) is closely tied to insatiable curiosity, combined with highly developed observation skills.

Next I came across The Shanker Institute’s  A Call For Common Content  written in 2011, which is based on defining nationally what knowledge we all should have by the time we finish school, and developing a sequential curriculum that would enable students to attain that knowledge.

Then I read the last two installments of Deborah Meier’s Bridging Differences Blog, where she is corresponding with Robert Pondiscio.  Pondiscio would agree with the Common Content people.  Deborah Meier and I would not.

Nor would my colleague Sandy Dorward.  Over a cup of tea this afternoon, we considered our experiences with the energy created by emergent curriculum– study that comes out of the interests of one or more people in the learning community (students, teachers, families…).  Neither of us, obviously, has an objection to gaining knowledge.  But we are interested in knowledge with a lower case “k”, while it seems the Common Core and Content folks, no matter what they say about in-depth thinking, end up going for the capital “K” kind, arrived at in a linear fashion, and judged by computerized testing.  Other than a few very basic facts, and the ability to read, it seems to me that even if children across the nation were to study the same material, if the study is authentic, the beauty is that they may well not arrive at the same conclusions or perspectives–the same “Knowledge”! We would once again be comparing apples to oranges to then judge what has been learned with a ‘one right answer’ test.

In a world where we have access to information tools that Leonardo could only dream of, I wish we’d truly move away from lockstep.  It’s time to develop the genius in each child by encouraging curiosity, empathy, observation skills and tangential thinking.  With that as the Core, couldn’t the content of the curriculum be as varied as the individuals and communities that make up our widely diverse society?


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