Global Content in Grade School
There was an idea, in vogue a century ago: kids can't understand anything they haven't seen themselves. If this is true, then in grade school, students should stick to learning about the things around them.
What a wrong, insulting, and harmful idea.
That this idea is wrong will be clear to anyone who has ever seen how kids react to a movie franchise that begins "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...."
That this idea is insulting will be clear to anyone who has seen the imaginative, expansive capacities of children's minds ignored in school.
And that this idea is harmful will be clear to anyone who's looked at how it transformed the social studies curriculum. Our modern curriculum is based on the "expanding horizons" model:
In kindergarten, learn about themselves.
In first grade, learn about the family.
In second grade, learn about the neighborhood.
In third grade, learn about the city.
In fourth grade, learn about the state.
In fifth grade, learn about the nation.
In sixth grade, learn about the world.
According to this model, it's not until sixth grade that students learn about anything outside of their country's boundaries. Perhaps this made a more intuitive sense in the early 1900s — in today's world, this seems straight-up xenophobic.
Our basic plan:
Load the grade school curriculum with some of the most exciting content in the world. Even in first grade, kids can learn about ancient Sumerian kings, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, Confucius, Lao-tzu (founder of Taoism), and dinosaurs. They can learn about how engines work, and the secret history of the alphabet. And hundreds and hundreds of wonderful things more!
Don't force-feed this information to students as textbook terms to memorize: rather, offer it to them as something sweet to be savored — as stories, mysteries, conflicts, puzzles, dramas, and games.
Finally, help kids engage culture in other ways: especially through dance, music, language, and food.
When students enter middle school, they'll have already have internalized some of the grand interestingness of the whole human world. They'll be geeks, be used to geeking out, and will be hungry to learn more!
walking into Our classrooms, you might see:
Kids hearing (and telling!) stories from around the world, kids listening to (and singing!) songs from around the world, and kids eating food from around the world.
(This idea is currently in beta! If you've thoughts on how to make it better, please shoot an e-mail to Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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