Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Hidden Curriculum (Content) Presentation

The presentation in class today concerned the topic of hidden curriculum. In particular, the group presenting looked at content as opposed to process. Process refers to the learning that takes place from the act of being at school. This would include rules, procedures, policies, and values that schools instill in students. On the other hand, content refers to those unintentional messages that are shown through content materials used in the classroom. The four examples discussed were race, religion, gender, and disability. Their discussion focused around how these groups are represented in recommended textbook materials – in particular science materials.

According to the presenters, one way an unrealistic view of gender is created in science is by omitting contributions that women have made to the field in curriculum materials. This is something that has come up in the presentation last week regarding gender. The group presenting on gender mentioned that when studying social studies and the history of Canada, male contributions are prominent. Unfortunately, this is part of our history and the predominant mention of male contributions to science and other subject areas in unavoidable. I don’t know if they necessarily “omit” contributions of women, I just think there were fewer contributions acknowledged from women. We cannot teach students that there were as many women contributors to early science when there simply weren’t - or they were not recorded as contributing. This is not to say that women weren’t capable of this study, it was just not allowed or encouraged. Instead of trying to change history, we as teachers should be explaining that this is how it was for men and women in our history. They will learn from that and see how it is not like that anymore and everyone should be seen as equal. There are many female scientists in more recent times that have done great things and discussing their contributions now would be beneficial. We can’t create more female contributions to the history of science when they simply aren’t there but we can encourage both men and women to pursue a career in science if that is where their interests lie. It was also mentioned by the group that when counting pictures of men and women in high school text books they were basically even which shows that we are hopefully moving in the right direction. Although science was previously dominated by men, times are definitely changing and we should be concerned with the present and learn from the past not try to change it.

Another topic that I would like to touch upon was the discussion regarding race representation (or lack of representation) in course materials. This is something that confused me. They were upset that white people were represented in ~70% of pictures in a particular science text book but previously had stated that textbooks should show an accurate representation of our society. I know that not everyone has had the same experiences as me, but all of the classes I have been in and all of the classes I have taught were at least 70% white. Those text books therefore may have been an accurate representation of the society I was in. I think it is great that they are trying to represent other races at all with our predominately white society. This is something that definitely would not have occurred a few decades ago and I find it encouraging (again, showing that we are going in the right direction). However, it is impossible to have a textbook that accurately represents everyone in your particular area – unless each area has its own textbook published. Each region will have a different percentage of each race mentioned and it would be impossible to get it right. Robert mentioned how FNMI are severely underrepresented in Canada’s curriculum materials depending on where resources come from. This is definitely true if the materials we are using are American. I’m not sure where the majority of materials come from in the field of science, but as a social major, I have used current Canadian social studies resources in the classroom. I feel as though the current books I used represented FNMI in a more even way. Even though I remember seeing this particular group represented, I did not consider how they were being represented. This is something that I will definitely consider now. Personally, I don’t think we should be concerning ourselves with how many individuals from each group are represented but more on how they are represented. We should be making sure that even though our textbooks show many cultures and races, that they are not showing these individuals in stereotypical roles – this is also true when concerning gender representation.

Hidden curriculum shows up everywhere - even when we are trying to be aware of it. We cannot control the text books we are given but we can teach our students to recognize biases and encourage them to create opinions based on the information we give them. Then again, I suppose that imposes an entirely different form of hidden curriculum…


  1. Amanda, I think you raise some really good point! We can’t re-write history no matter how much some of us want to try. Historically, men were the prominent contributors in science. There may have been some contributions from women, but generally men contributed more. Or at least we have heard about more male scientists than female. Sometimes I wonder if there were a number of female scientists at that time, but due to the stigma that women could not do science, there was a male partner that got the glory. I like your point that it’s not that women were not capable of the same discoveries, they just simply weren’t allowed at that time. I think we need to help students learn this and see how it is not like that now. There are many female scientists in the world and we can discuss their contributions in class. We can teach the students about the history of science and then teach about how things have changed. Rather than worrying about how things were not equal in the past, we should highlight all great contributions whether male or female.

    I thought the picture count from the textbooks was quite interesting. The group mentioned that the number of pictures of men and women were basically even, thus revealing that perhaps there is more gender equality in the textbook than previous textbooks. However as the group and Robert mentioned many of the females are not portrayed as the scientists in the photo rather they are shown as watching or cleaning up from an experiment. I thought this was interesting that there may still be the stigma that women are not the real scientists. I find it interesting that these pictures still show women in the background when there are many female scientists in the world. And I don’t think the pictures are really discouraging females in the sciences based on the number of women in many of my university science classes. I would also agree with your discussion of the race representation in the photos in the science textbooks. I think it is probably a relatively accurate representation of the population, other than the FNMI population. I would also agree that it would be nearly impossible to get an accurate population representation unless we had textbook publishers in every area and even then there can be large differences in race from one city to another in the same province.

    The group that I thought was definitely underrepresented was disabled people. I thought it was strange that the science textbooks did not discuss Stephen Hawking’s contributions at all and that the only picture of a person in a wheelchair was one going up a ramp. I wonder to what extent other disabilities are mentioned in the textbook, even if they are not shown in picture. I also wonder if the few pictures of people with disabilities would be an accurate representation of the number of people with disabilities in our society. It would be much more difficult to portray a person with a mental disability but I think there are many individuals with mental disabilities in our society. Anyways, I thought the presentation helped me to see how there is a hidden curriculum everywhere and sometimes when we try to change things we create a different hidden curriculum.

  2. Sheri "generally men contributed more" Well, they certainly took credit more -- but a lot of history of science research is discovering that a lot of these guys actually stole the ideas of female grad students, or wives, or etc. So there is a lot more there than you'd think.


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