To begin our journey through ECS 210, we are questioning the concept of common sense and looking into the ways it affects education. Our reading, Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice by Kevin K. Kumashiro, focuses on the section covering The Problem of Common Sense. Common sense is defined as ideas that are sure to be true without the need of explanation. Kumashiro uses his experiences as a teacher in Nepal to depict a rather different type of common sense than what first comes to mind. He defines common sense as “taken-for-granted perspectives”, “unquestioned”, “prescriptive”, and therefore “oppressive”.
Kumashiro explains that when he first came to Nepal he had “assumptions” of what life was like. Anyone who has ever watched a charity foundation commercial presenting life in poverty can relate. He assumed that the citizens of Nepal were yearning for his “first-worldliness” and that he was able and ready to make a difference; however, when he began teaching, he was made aware of a much different reality. His ideas, theories, and beliefs that had been formed through a post-colonial lens did not work in Nepal. Nepal, while needing improvement, does not need to be more American. In this instance, what might be common sense to one, is not common sense to the other. This way of challenging common sense has reminded me of a quote by John Dewey:
“If we teach today, as we taught yesturday, we rob our children of tomorrow”.
If we were to still teach the way people taught 100 years ago, our country would be a very different place; however, it took our country those 100 years to advance from then to now; Not to mention our country’s differing societal norms and contracts. To expect a country on the other side of the world, with completely different societal norms to become like ours is extremely far-fetched; Especially while ours isn’t all that perfect.
Kumashiro goes on to explain how common sense in the American education system especially needs to be questioned. Growing up, I was raised in a very conservative household. While I am now a very conservative individual, I often find myself challenging some of my family’s conservative views. One of those views is that men and women have very different roles. The bible does not say that women are to clean and men are to fix, but for some reason that is just the way it is. Historically, this concept may have made sense, but today it really doesn’t. The reason my family continues to submit to these roles is that they see it to be common sense. These “sensible” gender roles take place in North America’s schools every day, and common sense goes far beyond gender. From daily schedules to the subjects that are taught to the ways subjects are taught; everything is up for question.