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The Problem of Common Sense By: Kumashiro

How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense?’

“my neighbors taught me much about the facets of life in the village that many of them seemed to take for granted as “common sense” or what everyone should know.”

Kumashiro defines ‘commonsense’ as “what everyone should know”.Commonsense is a perspective we have found a routine in, it is something a lot of the time we don’t question, and can sometimes take for granted. Commonsense ideals often stem from our community, our schooling and our culture.

To me, I think in a lot of ways, when we aren’t thinking about it, commonsense is a very narrow-minded belief.


Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

Common sense seems to be a way of living. Especially as Kumashiro draws out for readers in the beginning of this article, his way of living compared to the Nepalis way of living was quite different.

In a more personal way, this article shows me that commonsense is problematic because everyone can have different ideas when it comes to their own common sense. You can plan all these lessons and prep endlessly but as Kumashiro shows us, we really need to adapt to the environment we are placed in, and work through the students’ common sense amongst our own. Teaching kids our versions of commonsense won’t always be an easy and effortless task. In a lot of ways, it could even be wrong or even more problematic to teach in only our commonsensical ways. This is because there are so many variations of what commonsense can look like and mean to each individual. I think the most important aspect this article shows me personally, is to be open minded, understand how our common sense can be different from others, and be flexible to grow in our learning and understanding.

Coming from a systematic and educational standpoint, I think a major issue with this idea of commonsense being oppressive, is that so many people don’t realize they are even being oppressive. In a lot of ways teachers and our educational system are taught a layout of what “is” and what “isn’t” a part of the system. This isn’t to deny other ways of learning, but it’s to push the notion of being comfortable in a system that seems to “work”. I think recognizing and understanding other societies ways of learning and their educational system is so important because it teaches us to be more open minded about what we are doing, what we are trying to teach, and how our children are learning. I have found a lot of people think that once they get a degree and start working, the learning ends. You’re kind of put in a job, given a curriculum, you have some freedom on how to teach it, but it’s rather limited. You stick with what you need to do, and you do it. You don’t question’s or fight against what needs to be taught, you just teach it. There’s like this invisible notion of being comfortable rather than taking a chance on change.

If there is one thing to take away from this article, it’s to never stop learning, get uncomfortable with your ideas on your own commonsense, and challenge the way our school system is set up, and how it can be so different, challenging the commonsense.


Personal Reflection:

“Were we to learn that there are other ways to structure schooling, or that prevailing views of schooling are actually quite oppressive, we might end up feeling quite disoriented or uncertain or even guilty” (pg. XXXV)

All throughout my schooling system of Kindergarten to Grade 12, I never questioned why we learned the things we did, and why it was structured like that. In high school I found some classes “pointless”, and wished there were classes teaching more practical and “real life” tips, but I never fought my education and always agreed that ‘this is the way it is. This is how it’s always been. This is how it’s going to continue to be’. When I started university, I felt so disoriented. I felt like my teachers held me back from half of another world. I understood the idea of gate-keeping. I understood the idea of having a norm. And now, I am understanding this idea of how commonsense is different, in so many ways and to so many people, and it’s really eye opening coming from an educator perspective. It makes me want to challenge how I view things. It makes me want to connect with my students more. It makes me want to work a little harder to make sure all my students’ common-senses are being acknowledged and worked with.

Near the beginning Kumashiro talks about having a “save-the-world idealism”. I think a lot of educators, heavily including myself, agree they want to help change the world and give their students the most educational and successful schooling possible, and I think including and challenging these ideals on commonsense is going to be extremely important and valuable in “saving the world” and saving our students way of learning.


Noteworthy quotes:

“Insisting that we use our common sense when reforming schools is really insisting that we continue to privilege only certain perspectives, practices, values, and groups of people. Common sense is not what should shape educational reform or curriculum design; it is what needs to be examined and challenged.” (pg. XXXVI)

“we often find comfort in the repetition of what is considered to be common sense, despite the fact that commonsensical ideas and practices can be quite oppressive.” (pg. XXXVIII)

“Anti-oppressive education is premised on the notion that its work is never done.” (pg. XXXVIII)

“it is important to view these lessons not as recipes that “work” in every context, but as lessons that, like all lessons, play out differently in different contexts.” (pg. XXXIX)

“I should clarify that “looking beyond” what and how we teach and learn does not mean that we reject everything, nor does it mean that we search for a better approach. Rather, it means that we raise questions about the necessarily partial and political nature of whatever approach we take.” (pg. XXXIX)




2 thoughts on “The Problem of Common Sense By: Kumashiro”

  1. Interesting response! I certainly enjoyed your definition of commonsense when you stated “Commonsense is a perspective we have found a routine in, it is something a lot of the time we don’t question, and can sometimes take for granted.” Throughout your response, I noticed plenty of personal reflection, which is fantastic. Your concluding idea was memorable as well, when you put that the lesson to learn was to never stop learning. Thank you for sharing your ideas.


  2. great response, i feel like Common sense has us to believe that teaching is black or white and how you need to follow the rules/societal norms. i really liked your point on how a lot of people think that after your degree you stop learning. However, teaching is unique in the way that we are always learning and will always keep growing. commonsense is what may be holding us back from this growth, and we have the responsibility to break out of this shell.


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