All students deserve a knowledgeable curriculum


Support for the recruitment of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier during World War II offended British Canadians, but reassured French Canadians that the federal government took their concerns seriously. So, in the end, it strengthened the Federation.

Then use critical thinking skills to analyze this statement.

Hopefully you didn’t spend more than 2 seconds on this. That’s because the statement is completely and completely wrong. First, Wilfrid Laurier died in 1919, so he was clearly not the prime minister during World War II between 1939 and 1945. Not only that, Laurier was a strong opponent of conscription during World War I.

In addition, British Canadians supported conscription during both wars, while French Canadians overwhelmingly opposed it. Instead of strengthening the Commonwealth, the conscription system deeply divided Canadians and fueled great resentment in Quebec, home to the majority of French Canadians.

Note that we did not use general critical thinking strategies to reach this conclusion. You didn’t have to find key ideas, look up keywords online, or discuss statements with your classmates. These strategies were unnecessary because we already knew that the statement was virtually incorrect.

This exercise demonstrates the power of content knowledge. Anyone armed with some basic facts about Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, World War II, and conscription has a greater advantage than anyone who does not have this knowledge and needs to look up things on the Internet. there is.

Obviously, critical thinking is only possible if you know something about the topic at hand. Otherwise, it is impossible to distinguish between facts and fiction.

That’s why we’re pleased that the Alberta Government is implementing a new curriculum with a greater focus on knowledge acquisition. It is particularly impressive for Alberta K-6 Social Studies students to learn more about major historical events in an ordered way to accumulate knowledge of content.

This is in stark contrast to the current “spiral” approach to curriculum design, covering the same wide range of themes over and over again from slightly different angles. Alberta’s new curriculum focuses on ensuring that all students have a common knowledge base, rather than blank templates that require teachers to enter their own content.

This is necessary because common sense allows for critical thinking. If you want to get advice from a friend about a problem, the first thing you should do is tell your friend about the situation, the facts. Without knowledge, critical thinking skills are useless.

The second, and perhaps even more important, reason why a knowledgeable curriculum is the right approach. There are many studies showing a strong casual relationship between background knowledge and reading comprehension. In other words, if you want your students to be good readers, you need to help them develop a rich knowledge base.

For example, in a 2011 study published in the International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, researchers read 142 third-year students commentary on four science-related topics: tree frogs, soil, jelly beans, and toothpaste. I got it. Contrary to what they expected, researchers found that if the subject was familiar to third-grade students, the complexity of the text would make little difference. In other words, these students could read and understand complex texts with proper background knowledge.

Background knowledge about a topic has much more to do with reading comprehension than text complexity. This is far from the only research study that came to this conclusion.

Critics of the new Alberta curriculum argue that exposing young students to complex historical topics is “developmentally inappropriate.” On the contrary, it is developmentally inappropriate to waste valuable time on students practicing general critical thinking skills that would be useless without knowledge of the content.

It is important to understand that the new curriculum does not teach teachers how to argue that the new Alberta curriculum only makes students remember a lot of random facts. The curriculum guide defines what you need to learn, what you need to learn. Professional teachers continue to be responsible for pedagogy, the “method” of learning. Don’t confuse these.

Finally, many students with a disadvantaged background usually come to school with a lack of knowledge because they do not receive the same learning opportunities as their wealthier classmates. Fortunately, schools can partially fill this gap by ensuring that all students receive content-rich instruction from an early age. This shows that content-rich instruction is the key to empowering disadvantaged students.

Consider the benefits. A knowledgeable curriculum improves critical thinking skills, enhances reading comprehension, and empowers disadvantaged students. All of this is a very good reason to make knowledge acquisition the focus of a major curriculum in Alberta and all other states.

A knowledgeable curriculum is suitable for all students.

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior researcher at the Frontier Public Policy Center, and “Sage on stage: common sense thoughts on education and learning.. “

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.