- How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’ Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?
In their introduction to the book titled “Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice,” Kumashiro begins with a story of their time teaching in a Nepalis village as a Peace Corps volunteer in order to highlight cultural differences that manifested into rifts in educational philosophy. Because of this, Kumashiro identifies common sense schooling in Nepal as using the “lecture-practice-exam” but argues that while these remote schools may be using different teaching strategies, the U.S. relies just as heavily on “common sense” schooling, citing routines such as students attending school morning until mid afternoon and from September to June. Although perhaps unintentional, I cannot help but think that Kumashiro’s definition of “common sense” is connected to Sensoy and DiAngelo’s theories presented in “Is Everyone Really Equal.” All three authors claim that these “common sense” narratives are ingrained so heavily into our society that we cannot see them without stepping back to question our positionality, as explained in the metaphor of the fish swimming with the stream presented by Sensoy and DiAngelo. Within this writing I found most interesting Kumishiro’s disposition to the belief that the U.S. educational system was far superior to that of the Nepalis, perhaps a father reaching “common sense” understanding that North America is not only superior, but advanced in all aspects of education and learning.
Kumishiro suggests that these “common sense” understandings benefit privileged groups, introducing this as “oppressive education, ” and seeking to promote “anti-oppressive education.” I connected this narrative to my elementary education when a family came from Trinidad during an incredible cold snap. At the end of the week it began to warm and one of the siblings in the family began throwing snowballs at his brother during recess, and was certainly very confused when teachers urged him to stop after seeing this behaviour. This incident was the first time I had ever experienced someone who had not been trained with the same “common sense” narrative as myself and had me question the rules and regulations of the school at the age of 12. Although a small example, these cultural understandings guide our understanding of our school experience and highlights the importance for educators to pay attention to “common sense.” If we fail to be attentive to common sense narratives in our schooling, oppressive education threatens to continue as educators can easily be lost in “traditional” schooling.