Why must a teacher be aware and sensitive to hidden curriculum?
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Another aspect of this "hidden curriculum" that we should all be aware of is that textbook publishers often tailor their content to the states with the largest populations, since those are their biggest markets. This means that if and when a state like Texas seeks to impose its political agenda in education, the textbook publishers are often happy to go along with the program. Since textbook publishers do not publish separate textbooks for different states, because if they did they would lose the economies of scale, in publishing one or two high school history books, for example, this means that the rest of the states do not have much choice in the matter. Thus, not only is one state's students getting content that is often biased and sometimes even just plain wrong, the rest of the states have little choice but to adopt that particular textbook.
This difficulty arises not only in history books, but also in science books, for instance when creationism or intelligent designed is presented as a legitimate and scientific theory of the origin of man. These biases might be overt or quite subtle, as I took note when my younger son spent a (wasted) year in a cyber-school. Anyone looking at his world history text would think there were no cultures worthy of note but the Greek and Roman, and his literature readings were strikingly lacking in diversity. Had it not been for parents who knew better, who knows what he would have made of the world around him?
In the world of education today, it is difficult to know how a teacher can or should proceed to correct for these skewed versions of reality. Since I teach at the college level and have complete academic freedom, it is easy for me to point out where a textbook is not presenting the whole picture or even to choose another textbook for my students. But if I were teaching in K-12, in these situations, I like to hope that I would be teaching subversively as best I could.
It is important for a teacher to be aware of and sensitive to the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum often supports a viewpoint of the majority group or of influential individuals. Many United States History books often have presented a very slanted view of our history from a U.S. viewpoint. This is often biased in favor of actions taken by the United States. A good example of this is with our struggles with the Native Americans. Native Americans were made to look bad while Americans were promoting progress.
The hidden curriculum also may be based on specific religious views. This would support the actions of a religious group (usually the majority religious group) while ignoring or downplaying those of other religious groups. An example of this would be the debate regarding creationism and evolution.
Finally, there are times when businesses underwrite the cost of curriculum. In return, the curriculum is very pro-business and may even promote a company’s products. Actions of businesses throughout history may be falsely portrayed in these cases.
The hidden curriculum is dangerous because it often presents a biased or stereotypical view of events, people, and actions. As our diversity grows in our country and in our classrooms, teachers must be aware of this bias so they don’t falsely portray a group of people, a religion, or specific events in history.
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