What is Common Sense?

In article, “The Problem of Common Sense,” Kumashiro speaks about his journey in Nepal, and how it allowed him to experience common sense first hand. Kumashiro was walking into what we often call a culture clash. His activities and routines in which he considered normal, or mandatory, were entirely different to the town in Nepal. Showers were actually just a faucet, and that faucet had multiple purposes throughout the day. The only meals were a brunch and supper. The schools were entirely based on teaching towards a standardised test.

When Kumashiro defines common sense, he describes it as a local practice, something a community might take for granted. Differences in common sense can even happen in two close communities like Regina and Moose Jaw. This includes the expectations that we apply to our day to day activities, some of which might be ingrained to the point of subconsciousness.

Common sense is also cultural, and this is one of the reasons it is so significant for education. In the article, Kunmashiro reflects on the purpose of his mission, and what the expectations were for him in Nepal. This leads him to realise that, in essence, he was suppose to imperialistically change the Nepali way of teaching. The mission was based on the foundation that Nepali teaching was outdated and bad, and American teaching was current, and the right way to do things. The task given to him was to make the people in those classrooms more like an American, primarily in the way they go about pedagogy and learning. However with that, there are some expectations related to culture and idealism that we naturally will attach to those changes, almost in a sense of hidden curriculum. This is why we have to be so careful of what we consider common sense.

As Kunmashiro said in the article, some comminsensical ideas can be traced back to very specific groups of people, and is essentially an extension of privilege. These ideas related to privilege have been ingrained into society as common sense, and because of this they are incredible hard to challenge. We can spot these ideas in our fellow teachers, in our curriculum, in school policies, and in our own classroom and lessons. Since these ideas can be related to privilege and aspects of culture, we have to be careful about the emphasis we place on them in our lessons. We want to be as bipartisan as possible when it comes to cultural, political, and world values in the classroom, because each student comes from different backgrounds, and it is not our place to determine which is right and wrong. Common sense will also play into classroom practices, and as the teacher we need to ensure each student is comfortable with processes that are currently in place, or new ones we implement. What might seem common to you could be entirely foreign to one of your fellow students. Maybe discussions are common in your school, but in a country such as Nepal where everything is based towards a test, classroom discussions might not even occur.

Common Sense is local and cultural, and that is why it is so important to be attentive of it. In day to day society, we might run into issues related to common sense routines, and differences between what you and someone else consider common. However in the educational sector, it almost leads into the idea that we could be teaching our personal beliefs and culture to the students. We as teachers need to ensure we are being as neutral in our teaching as possible, watching for common sense ideas in our lessons and routines. This can lead to us empowering our students with choices in what to believe and support, and it can also lead to a more efficient and innovative classroom, where learning is easy and always improving.


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