The Fifth Core Class
Reading Mike Schmoker’s book, Focus, made me take some time to reflect on what we in K-12 education call the “core curriculum.” For most of us, this term indicates a course of study that incorporates Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies. As I spent time thinking about the future our students are likely to face, I spent some time wondering about if the current “core” had grown outdated in light of the globalized, technology driven world that is emerging as our new reality.
After some time, I realize that the current core curriculum we have is still worthwhile and offers multiple opportunities for integration of technology. There is a value to math (problem solving), Science (inquiry and experimentation), English Language Arts (reading, writing, thinking, speaking), and Social Studies (civic education so our students can be active citizens) that make them worthwhile for students to learn. As I have written about in earlier post, the notion of flipped learning, or incorporating other technologies into our core curriculum will better engage students and prepare them for their future, which will include technology no matter what they choose to do.
Realizing that our “core curriculum” is still effective, I also think there is room for expansion. I propose that world language become the fifth core class, required for students from Kindergarten through 9th grade, and then offered as an elective option for the remainder of a student’s time in school. In light of economics and population projections, Spanish, Chinese, and German should be offered as a minimum starting point. I can also see that there are regional needs (such as French) that would lead to district needing to add offerings. World Language instruction is more effective when it begins at an early age. In addition, learning a second language teaches a skill that will allow students to grow up an even learn a third, or even fourth language. This skill will make our graduates more marketable when competing for jobs, and potentially give them more opportunities in the future.
As it stands now, we don’t do an adequate job of teaching world languages. There are amazing, creative teachers in these programs, that do a lot with their students. We need to give them more time to really develop a program, not just one or two years of mandatory instruction followed by time as an elective offering.
We have taken some steps to say that world language education is important, in some states, it is now a requirement for graduation. That said, we have not come far enough, we need more time learning these skills, meaning it is high time to expand the “core curriculum.”