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A Place Called School Chapter 7


Summary:

Chapter Seven “What Schools and Classrooms Teach” is an in depth look into what schools teach most and least commonly. Taken into account are explicit and implicit curriculums. The explicit curriculum consists of curriculum guides and course offerings. Included components of the course offerings are the topics covered, tests, materials used, and teacher statements. To summarize, the explicit curriculum are the means of learning and teaching.

The implicit curriculum, otherwise known as the implied curriculum, is less empirically verifiable than the explicit curriculum. The implicit curriculum involves problem solving, acquiring facts, following school rules and policy, addressing different styles of learning, the role of individual learning and group work, the setting of the school, and moral development. The implicit curriculum is less assessable than explicit curriculum.

In this first section Goodlad examines the amount of time and resources allotted to each subject. In elementary, junior, and senior schools, in succeeding order English and mathematics are dedicated the most amount of time. Although a higher percentage of teachers remain devoted to English and Math, vocational education emerges as a priority in the junior schools and even more so in the senior schools. In the senior schools, twenty four percent of the total instructional programming and eleven percent of staffing is devoted to vocational education. According to Goodlad, the excessive implementation of vocational education is a critical area of concern. Despite Goodlad’s alarm at the ratio of academic courses to vocational courses, the increase of vocational education in the senior schools is in line with societal expectations as reported by state papers and reports with parents. This survey brings up a fundamental question of the function of schools. On page 204 Goodlad asks, “What should schools do when meeting the apparent wishes constrains the areas of knowledge schools bring to their students? The consequences of combing vocational and academic education are that teachers are often asked to teach outside their area of specialty.

In this next section titled Course, topics, tests, and materials Goodlad studies the specific explicit curriculum of each subject area. His methodology uses interviews, questionnaires, schedules, topics, and textbooks to gain insight into each subject area. The first subject is English/ Language Arts. English/ Language arts are comprehensively the backbone of the curriculum. More time, teachers, and resources are assigned to English than any other subject. There is a consistency in the curricula of all schools surveyed. The main similarity, which spans all schools and all grades, is a focus on the basics and mechanics of the English language. The only noted difference appears between the senior school higher and lower tracks; the former focusing more on analysis, intellectual skills, and judgment. Generally, the writing at schools is expository, not creative or fictional. Assessment involves worksheets, quizzes and tests. One major criticism offered by Goodlad is that through constant repetition, nothing new or of interest is presented that will arouse and interest in the subject. Indeed, monotony as a critique remains a constant with Goodlad.

Mathematics exhibits an even stronger consistency between schools and grades than English. Similarly, worksheets and tests remain the main tools for assessment, while textbooks become the main tools of teaching. On page 209 Goodlad criticizes that the skills in mathematics are taught as ends in themselves.

The impression I get from the topics, materials, and tests of the curriculum is of mathematics as a body of fixed facts and skills to be acquired, not as a tool for developing a particular kind of intellectual power in the student. (pg. 209, Goodlad)

As with English, Goodlad is concerned with an intense focus of skills and not intellectual development.

Departing from the trends of consistency in English and mathematics, social studies is of less consistency between both different schools and grades. Goodlad uses the term amorphous when describing the consistency of social studies. Social studies acquire less of the resources than English and Mathematics. Some critiques of Goodlad concern the remoteness of the subjects taught. The texts surveyed alienate people in time and places as well as alienate other nations than the United States. Social studies, a subject about society and humanity, are in fact alienating the students from those very subjects. Using about the same amounts of time and resources as social studies, science is another amorphous subject. That being so, the main tool used to inform remains the textbook while the main tool to assess remains the fact based test. As with the other subjects, Goodlad criticizes the teaching methods and assessment as to not serve a deep intellectual function.

Foreign Languages make up a small portion of the curriculum and resources. The most common languages taught at schools are Spanish, French, and German. Only four of thirteen schools offered Latin. The junior schools focus on learning basic vocabulary and grammar, while the senior schools focus more on becoming conversational speakers and readers through the act of doing.

Naturally, the arts are dominated by other subjects, acquiring less time and resources than other subjects. Visual arts and music are the primary focus of art program in all grades. Within the arts, there is an overwhelming influence of what is reinforced in the other subjects. A strong focus on following the rules of art is influential, as well as a focus on finding the right answer to certain artistic challenges. Another influence from the other subjects is the lack of expression in art. Art is usually presented with a goal or task in mind. Clearly this is of major concern. Goodlad considers a child removed of expression to be a depraved child.

Vocational education has a varied amount of time and resources allocated amongst different schools. Smaller, more rural schools tend to demonstrate a greater desire and therefore allocate a larger amount of resources.

The junior highs in our sample offered courses appearing to be oriented to at least three possible purposes if vocational education: providing life skills, providing a hands-on approach in subjects justified as providing general education through media other than books, and developing beginning skills in a possible occupation. (pg. 221, Goodlad)

These subjects tend to be more involved and hands on than the other subjects.

The amount of time devoted to physical education increases as students progress. In physical education, there textbooks and tests are rarely used. If at all, they are used by the teacher to gain ideas for presenting a better class. The emphasis of P.E. is clearly on gaining skills for the major group sports offered by most schools.

In order to get a complete survey of the roles of school, the extracurricular activities were studied as well. Students who had higher self esteem and were more successful as individuals were the main participants in extracurricular programs. As with society, some people like to get involved, while some prefer the periphery. Concerned with the students who are least likely to help themselves, Goodlad thinks these programs ought to discover ways to include students less likely to volunteer. According to Goodlad, “Schools need (1) data likely to pinpoint those students who appear least able to help themselves, and (2) ongoing practices designed to assist these individuals in becoming confident and resourceful.” By failing to accept these challenges Goodlad feels a school will unquestionably accept the status quo and not challenge it.

The second goal of this chapter was to investigate the implicit curriculum of schools. In this section Goodlad offers his strongest criticism of the school system. His first critique involves the classroom itself. Goodlad found the classrooms to be similar, uncomfortable, aesthetically bland, and cramped. The lunchrooms suffered a similar fate; uncleanly and boring. In contrast to the current aesthetics of schools, Goodlad found businesses had a stronger focus of the ambiance of the workplace. “The business community increasingly has recognized the importance of brightly painted or softly muted walls, music in nicely furnished resting places, and a host of other embellishments.” (pg. 227, Goodlad) Goodlad questions why the aesthetic qualities of schools are of so little importance.

Goodlad found the classrooms to be dominated by the teachers. Students do not make virtually any decisions in the classrooms. 70% of the class time is dominated by the teachers, while only 5% is entertained for questioning, and only 1% of the questions implied some kind of inference. The majority of the class procedures involve lecture and some form of a writing response. Other kinds of response role playing, small group planning, and problem solving are virtually absent.

When surveyed, students responded with benign responses. Goodlad notes an over all lack of enthusiasm. When giving an overview of the classroom styles of teaching, lecturing, textbooks, etc., Goodlad claims that as adults we would all groan and leave. He claims students would if they could. I infer the reason Goodlad points this out is to point out that teachers ought to focus on making their classes more interesting and intriguing.

To summarize, all schools and subjects tend to focus on the learning of basic facts and skills. Little to no attention is paid toward higher intellectual development. He also claims that curriculum ought to depart from the traditional use and overuse of textbooks and workbooks and focus more the objects being taught themselves; more hands-on, fieldtrips, and primary sources. He notes that students fail to make logical connections between facts and concepts. He also believes students need to strengthen their connection between the subjects and the actual objects through experiences. He notes that the attitudes in the current school system towards assessment and knowledge of facts are more conducive towards cheating than moral integrity. The flat, neutral emotional ambiance of classes is not inspiring the students to learn. Students generally do not feel good about themselves. Goodlad notices a paradox between the critics and the reality of the current system. The critics claim that students are graduating with a lack of fundamentals. In reality, that is all the schools are teaching. Page 244 sums up the dialectic between fundamentals and all inclusive learning. On the one hand, if we continue the status quo then we will perpetuate what we already have or make it worse. If we adopt a focus on critical thinking, group work, and alternative forms of education then we will open up a new system that has the possibility to move in endless directions: some positive, some negative. In order to move forward we must believe in the use and worth of our ideals. Goodlad thinks we can do better. “The time is past come for us to look more carefully into what we have wrought and the alternatives we might seriously endeavor to create.” (pg. 245, Goodlad)

Key Passages:
The time is past come for us to look more carefully into what we have wrought and the alternatives we might seriously endeavor to create.” (pg. 245, Goodlad)

The impression I get from the topics, materials, and tests of the curriculum is of mathematics as a body of fixed facts and skills to be acquired, not as a tool for developing a particular kind of intellectual power in the student. (pg. 209, Goodlad)

The junior highs in our sample offered courses appearing to be oriented to at least three possible purposes if vocational education: providing life skills, providing a hands-on approach in subjects justified as providing general education through media other than books, and developing beginning skills in a possible occupation. (pg. 221, Goodlad)

“The business community increasingly has recognized the importance of brightly painted or softly muted walls, music in nicely furnished resting places, and a host of other embellishments.” (pg. 227, Goodlad)

Besides all of the bottom of pg. 241 and the top of pg. 242, "My perception is that the emphasis on individual performance and achievement would be more condusive to cheating than to the development of moral integrity."

The bottom of pg. 243 to the end of the chapter.

Important Terminology:
Explicit Curriculum: Consists of curriculum guides and course offerings. Included components of the course offerings are the topics covered, tests, materials used, and teacher statements. To summarize, the explicit curriculum are the means of learning and teaching.

Implicit Curriculum: Consists of problem solving, acquiring facts, following school rules and policy, addressing different styles of learning, the role of individual learning and group work, the setting of the school, and moral development.

Discussion Guiding Questions:

With an explicit curriculum dominated by textbooks, worksheets, and workbooks, what new is presented to arouse interest in learning?

To what degree, if at all, ought schools concern themselves with the wants of the parents?

Should the role of schools be defined by the communty or the educators?