The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

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about the future our students are likely to face, I spent some time wondering about if the current “core” had grown outdated in light of the globalized, technology driven world that is emerging as our new reality.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.”

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4 thoughts on “The Fifth Core Class

  1. Outstanding post John! I have always questioned why the US, for the most part, de-emphasizes world language, starting it in high school as an elective. Research is clear that language is best learned at a younger age, yet we ignore it because standardized testing has pushed it out of our classrooms, along with most other “enrichment” courses.

    I don’t think the US should continue to stick its head in the sand and believe the English language will always be the most common “international” language. Right now we have no plan B, and your blog offers a credible solution.

    Something to further consider-should Technology become a Core course at some point in the future? Otherwise, it may or may not be infused in a schools’ culture and curriculum.

    • Hi Bill,

      Funny, I just finished a response to your most recent blog post!

      I go back and forth on the technology class idea. On one hand, including it in the core guarantees that it will be covered and kids will explore the topic. However, there is a big part of me that thinks that we should do a better job of incorporating in into the core curriculum we are already teaching, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

      I see a value in computer electives for kids who are interested in pursuing that career pathway, but think we would be in a stronger place if technology became part of our operating norm rather than “a separate class.”

      I still sit on the fence for that question……..
      Thanks for reading and responding, as always, I enjoy our exchanges.
      John

  2. Sing it Brother! I would argue, though, that French is a far more globally relevant language than German, considering it is spoken in nations on five continents. 🙂

    • Hi Tracy!

      Good to hear from you! I hope you are having a good summer.

      Interesting to think about the global impact of French. I suppose I was only thinking of the strong economic ties of Germany around the world in my post, but I can see where that value can also be limited. I see your point, and realize that maybe, when we make this a reality, people in my role should listen to the experts, such as yourself.

      Again, I appreciate the time you took to respond,
      John

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