Social Efficiency Ideology

In many ways I am the product of a Tyler rationale style of education.  Most of my early education (elementary school outside of North America) was very much behavioral training including wearing a uniform, standing for the teacher, silence when the teacher speaks, organizing my desk and supplies, responding in unison and so on.  In retrospect, this was in fact an evaluation of “observable skills” and “changing behavior” (Shiro, 2013, p. 58).  The content of the curriculum was less relevant but included poem memorization, cursive writing, and mechanical math exercises that I strove to master just because that was the expectation.  Starting with middle school, I attended North American schools that were very focused on achieving good standardized test scores and it seems we were taught for that purpose.  These schools also instilled a fear that if one does not do well in their classes, university will be out of reach and basically life is over.  These experiences felt like I on an assembly line, as if “the production of an educated person is viewed in much the same way as the production of steel rails” (Shiro, 2013, p. 67).  I was being molded into something I did not want to be and told life is linear and no alternative paths exist.

The major limitations to such an approach to education is that the “assembly line” aims to produce similar results in all that go through it, does not favour individual wants and needs, and does not allow for diversity in any aspect.  The “assembly line” is punitive to those who excel beyond and to those who fall behind.  In many ways, our society relies on those who are different, as they offer a different point of view to allow us to question the way things are, and who are usually the ones who are at the forefront of invention and creativity that drives society forward.

There are potential benefits to the  Social Efficiency Ideology.  For one, it makes it possible to educate nearly the entire population with the limited resources available.  It does promote equality such that no matter what background, the child attends school and is presented with the opportunity to learn and be educated.  What this person does with this opportunity is ultimately in their hands.  Despite its many faults, the intentions of this philosophy are not malevolent, but are a product of their times: the first half of the 20th century.  The influence of the Tyler rationale is still very much part of the current curriculum, partly because of the educational benefits.

The problem of commonsense

How does Kumashiro define “commonsense”? Why is it so important to pay attention to the “commonsense”?

Kumashiro defines “commonsense” as the customary, or ingrained, way of doing and viewing things.  This includes the current view of what is “correct”, of current traditions, the status quo and doing things without thinking about them objectively or from a different point of view. 

It is important to pay attention to the “commonsense” in order to realize it is there, and to improve teaching practices and challenge oppression.  Basically, just because things have been done a certain way does not mean this should continue just because it is the custom.  Alternative perspectives can challenge the norms of schooling that put certain students at a disadvantage and unfairly benefit others.  Challenging the “commonsense” view of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status and other aspects is the approach to take to improve the approach of anti-oppressive education.  This challenge is difficult to achieve in education because there is a real resistance to change due to the fact that as educators “we often find comfort in the repetition of what is considered commonsense” and “such changes can confront us with very discomforting knowledge” (Kumashiro, 2009).