CURRICULUM as the heart of education and training is the major vehicle which can bring about desired change. Deep change is possible through the process of teaching and learning. Deep change is systemic in that the change is in one’s mindset, in our postulates, beliefs, and which would show in our behavior. However, when curriculum is a mere fixture to us academics, we dispense with the many vibrant opportunities that we can do to lend powerful and meaningful experiences for our students, which, as I have experienced, could last a lifetime. Thus, in this century, especially to us in academia, as agents of deep change, a deeper understanding of what curriculum is and its potential power, becomes truly significant. Given the philosophy espoused by curriculum designers, our understanding of curriculum as teachers/academics defines our role in the teaching and learning process and influences our procedures and approaches to the subject matter covered, the course/subject requirements, and class activities we impose on learners. Globalization and changing society concerns of our century make new demands on higher education. Operational definition of curriculum taking off from a broader understanding would reconcile the paradox of distinctiveness and responsiveness—characteristics of loosely coupled organizations in which in-depth change is better assured to be possible. An undergraduate/graduate class in curriculum using a seminar format is herewith described to demonstrate the messages that a particular concept of curriculum could send to stakeholders and the practices that go with such a concept. A celebrated fable of the Animal School that has seen several versions, this fable I borrowed, reflects the misuse of the concept of curriculum, spawning practices that could impact negatively on learners.
Curriculum fable.1Once upon a time, the animals decided that they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world, so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum of Running, Climbing, Flying and Swimming; and every animal had to take all the subjects. The duck was good in Swimming class. In fact, she was better at swimming than her instructor. At midterm exams, she got a Pass mark in Flying but was practically hopeless at Running. Because she was performing so poorly in Running, she was made to stay in school after class, drop Swimming and practice Running. This caused her webbed feet to become badly worn. She received a C in Swimming. Fortunately, “average” was acceptable, therefore nobody worried about it – except the duck. Meanwhile she was advised to postpone Climbing for the next term. The eagle beat all the others to the top of the tree in the Climbing class; but he had his own way of getting there. He was considered a problem pupil; hence he was disciplined severely. The rabbit started out the top of his class in Running. He was made to make up heavily in Swimming since he was doing very poorly in the class. As to Flying, the teacher put him on a branch and signaled him to fly. The rabbit jumped off and broke a leg. Some weeks passed, and he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school. The squirrel led in Climbing. However, his teacher in Flying made him start his Flying lessons from the ground instead of downwards from the top of the tree. The over-exertion at take-off gave him a muscular disorder, pain and stiffness. At mid-terms, he got a D (unsatisfactory) in Running although he obtained a C (fair) in Climbing. When the school authorities refused to add Digging to the curriculum, the farm dog was made to leave school by his guardians. It was nearing harvest time and the dog had to be ready for his burrowing responsibilities. They therefore apprenticed him to a farm mouse who lived nearby. At the end of the school year, the animal at the top of the class was an abnormal eel who could swim a little, fly a little. run a little, climb and fly a little. (Adapted from Reeves, G. 1953. the Educational Forum in Oliver, A. 1965. Curriculum Improvement. New York: Dodd Mead and Co. p. 16; cf also Buscaglia, Leo F. Living, Loving and Learning, 1982 p.12) Also at<https://madalen.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/14037268-the-animal-school.pdf>.
Seminar dynamics. After the class has read the fable, they can also convert the fable as a skit and act it out. Or they may localize the kind of animals. A 30 to 45-minute discussion follows after having the class or a class member perform a skit of the fable. The following are some lead questions for the ensuing discussion on the fable: 1) What change, if any, took place in the students? Comment on the change/s; 2) What school practices could be drawn from the fable? Do you agree with these practices? Why/Why not? Explain whether such practices could be appropriate under some conditions; 3) Do you have these practices in your school? If there are, would you like them changed/institutionalized? Why? How?; 4) What understandings/viewpoints on or concepts of Curriculum may be elicited from the fable?; 5) What is your understanding/viewpoint of Curriculum? What practices emanate from such viewpoints?
1Note: The fable appeared in my paper “Curriculum Revisited: Towards In-Depth Change” in Challenges and Options for Networking in Southeast Asia, published by a consortium of the Universities of Gottingen, Marburg, Kassel-Witzenhausen and the Institut Pertanian Bogor, International Symposium-cum-Workshop September 18-22, 2000, Bogor, Indonesia. Pp.335-342 <repository.ipb.ac.id/…/Challenges%20and%20Options%20for%20Networking%20in…> For a cartoon of this fable, click <https://madalen.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/14037268-the-animal-school.pdf>.