Real school change would mean changing high school curriculum

by Steve Wyckoff on April 12, 2010

Yes I know blasphemy! But real school change would mean changing the high school curriculum. The high school curriculum has been part of what we believe schools must be for so long that we assume that it has to be that way. In fact our core curriculum has changed very little in 115 years.

In 1892 Charles Elliott, president of Harvard University, formed the Committee of 10 to define the college-bound curriculum. By 1894 the curriculum was complete and in place. In presentations I often use two slides that list the curriculum defined in 1894. I ask participants what the curriculum is? The two most common answers I get are, the regents required curriculum, or our core curriculum.

Just to give you an idea here are the courses defined in 1894:

1st Secondary School Year
Foreign language …Latin, German, French
English Literature
English Composition
Algebra
History

2nd Secondary School Year

Foreign language … Latin, Greek, German,  French
English Literature
English Composition
Algebra*
Geometry
Astronomy
Botany or Zoölogy (Biology)
History

3rd Secondary School Year

Foreign language … Latin, Greek, German,  French
English Literature
English Composition
Rhetoric (Speech)
Algebra*
Geometry
Chemistry
History
* Option of book-keeping and commercial arithmetic.

4th Secondary School Year

Foreign-language … Latin, German, ranch
Greek
English Literature
English Composition
English Grammar
Trigonometry,1/2 yr.
Higher Algebra, 1/2 yr.
Physics
Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene
History
Geology or Physiography
Meteorology

As you can see over 115 years later it’s still basically our core curriculum. If indeed we want every student to become remarkable, forcing every student to take exactly the same outdated curriculum is not the way to get there.

So what should our curriculum look like? It’s not so much what it would contain as the characteristics it would have. You see, I believe every student should have a learning by doing, customized and individualized curriculum based on their needs, desires, and dreams. Can it be done? Certainly. It’s being done today at Erie high school in Erie Kansas.

Ron Edmonds said it best in the late 1960’s, “We know everything we need to know to educate every child all we lack is the will to do it.” –  Steve Wyckoff

admin November 3, 2010 at 11:28 am

I’m pretty sure they will lambast me for this post 🙂 and it won’t just be the intellectuals. We have a mindset in America that everything in the educational system is about getting as many kids to college as we can.

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