Posted in ECS 210

Kumashiro and Commonsense

In Kumashiro’s article “The Problem of Commonsense,” he defines common sense as a set of things that “everyone should know” (Kumashiro, 2009, p. XXIX). In his article, he encounters many situations in which the common sense of the people in the community around him differs from his own pre-conceived ideas about the same situations. He comes to discover that in everyday living, especially concerning the water in the bazaar, he has had different experiences than those of the people in the village. This is presumably the only way that they have experienced this situation and therefore it is common sense to them, but not Kumashiro. This is also reflected in his teaching position at the school. His students have been taught in one way for so long and have probably heard from others before them that the system has always been this way. Because of this, it is jarring for them when the commonsensical ideas they have about their education aren’t represented in their teacher, who was taught that the commonsense idea of education and teaching in the United States was better.

The problem with common sense is that it is hard to change and it is oppressive. In Kumashiro’s article, he outlines that common sense ideas are so hard to change because not only is there a social pressure to conform to common sense ideas, but because we have become comfortable with these ideas. It is hard to go against the status quo and as such, many people will remain in there common sense ideas where it is comfortable. Furthermore, the second problem with common sense is that it is oppressive. In class, Katia compared the idea of common sense to that of normative narratives. This is a useful comparison when you look at the social implications of widely held beliefs that are often created by those in power. The common sense ideas or normative narratives that exist in our society also exist in much the same way in the institution of education. This means that those who are likely to experience unfairness, discrimination, and inequality in our world, also experience the same thing in our classrooms. However, as Kumashiro points out, we have championed schools and the education system as being neutral and thus we can try to deny this. It is important that educators become comfortable with confronting commonsensical ideas and normative narratives and practising some, if not all, of the four approaches to anti-oppressive education in order to truly support the education of all of our students.