Politics if necessary but not necessarily politics: The politics of curriculum

Politics is in our everyday lives in more ways than we can understand or notice. Education is no exception.   Politics is everywhere, whenever there is a friend-enemy distinction there will be politics.  When the curriculum is created there is also politics that come into play.   There are groups and third-party interests that play a role in what goes into the curriculum.  That will extend into how the curriculum is taught.

Ben Levin defines curriculum as “an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do.”  Levin points out that not every educational issue will be subject to intense public criticism and lobbying.  According to Levin Curriculum is developed and implemented through a process of lobbying, research, and consultation with the players involved.  The players can include government officials, representatives from school boards and education ministries, business leaders, supply companies, parents and some students.  Universities also play a role in deciding what goes into the curriculum.  This is where divisions are made and every player tries to have their agenda placed front and center.

Levin explains that curriculums are organized around two levels of objectives, general goals and more specific learning activities and goals.   The challenge is fitting in all the important information that students need to learn, which can be a source of conflict.  After the curriculum is decided upon, it comes into effect in the schools and teachers, administrators and other players work to implement the new curriculum.

What concerns me with the process outlined by Levin is that with so many voices at the table and so many voices wanting there points to be implemented. How does the new curriculum reflect what is best for the students in the classroom?  With this many groups at the table, not everyone will be happy.  Trying to make everyone happy will make no one happy because everyone will feel they gave up too much.

When looking at the first few pages of the treaty education document I noticed that there were many voices contributed to the making of this document.    There seems to be great inclusion of Indigenous voices and collaboration with First Nation leaders from a variety of places.  Places like the First Nations University of Canada, the office of the Treaty Commissioner, tribal councils and the University of Saskatchewan.  There are other names from organizations like some divisions from the Saskatchewan education ministry.  However, the difficulty is knowing how much input each group had and how evenly distributed the input was.

The first few pages read like an inclusive document and one that works to encompass a lot of viewpoints and have a central goal in mind.  The document uses a direct reference to the speech from the throne in 2007.   The Levin talked about the players that place input into have curriculum structure and substance.  I place great importance on the players involved and with Treaty education the players involved are extra important.

There may be a source for tension because there is no precedented or old curriculum to work with; the new version will be the first one in existence.  However, with every curriculum there will be competing interests and that will be a source of tension.  There could also be tension coming from other Indigenous groups that wanted certain items included but they ended up not being.   There are so many items that could be included that there was not enough room.  As Levin points out, there is often too much material to fit into a class.  Therefore not everything can be included, because of this a biased is introduced.  Someone has to choose what to include.

The creation and implementation of the curriculum is a political and diverse process that requires the involvement of many players and the interest group’s involvement.   The education in politics is unavoidable because as Ben Levin points out in his article the players play an important role in the curriculum.  Many of the issues pointed out in the Levin article are in the Saskatchewan Treaty Education document.  The important thing for teachers to remember is that there are always going to be competing interests in the forming of the curriculum, so teachers need to keep that in mind to better serve the students and work with other staff.

One thought on “Politics if necessary but not necessarily politics: The politics of curriculum”

  1. Tyrel I really followed you blog when you said that “Politics is everywhere”. This is so true that it’s hard to believe. The rest of the blog was phenomenal in a sense et hat you dug up details from Ben Levin’s article I hadn’t even noticed. One being “Levin explains that curriculums are organized around two levels of objectives, general goals and more specific learning activities and goals. The challenge is fitting all the important information that students need to learn, which can be a source for conflict.” Much of the curricula that becomes conflicting is not breaking down the most important points in which teachers and students will benefit from.


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