What is Commonsense?

A Response to “Commonsense” written by Kumashiro

Reading Response One 

Kumashiro’s article, “The Problem of Commonsense” defines common sense as the facts of life. It is important to recognize that in every culture values and customs that make up commonsense are different. Kumashiro then explains that commonsense is also what everyone should know. In the article the protagonist in this article travels to Nepal to teach and, in turn, learns what “commonsense” is. Some examples of things that are commonsense in Nepal are knowing the rules and purposes for which water taps are used (bathing, laundry, dish washing, etc.), knowing that there are two meals and tea at one o’clock, and that everything takes time; such as when walking to your next destination. Commonsense cannot be defined as one simple thing or concept. Commonsense is diverse, just as every society that surrounds it.

Commonsense is important to pay attention to because it takes time to learn. Everywhere you go there are different customs as to what you should and shouldn’t do. But acquiring that knowledge takes time. Different norms and practices exist within all schools. There are many examples of this that are prevalent throughout the article such as gendered seating. The girls sit on one half of the classroom and the boys sit on the other. Where as in North America it is often the norm to have mixed seating.

In this article, it is normal for students to have their evaluation for the school year broken into two assessments, a midterm and a final that is based solely off of a textbook. When the teacher wants to introduce projects and assignments into the students school work it simply does not make sense. As it goes against students beliefs about what their education should look like. It is important to pay attention to what is “commonsense” here because having differing methods of learning/assessing is not necessarily bad but rather good to see different styles of learning and teaching.

The article states there is not one form of “good teaching”, and dues to years of oppression there is the stigma that everyone should be “like us”, the majority. Commonsense tells us what we should be doing anywhere in the world, the United States, Canada, or Nepal. However, when our own commonsense is challenged it becomes difficult to change our ideals. The article gives us two reasons for this. Firstly, it is hard to see other people’s ideas or perspectives, and secondly commonsensical ideas give comfort. No one wants to be wrong and when people’s ideals are being challenged it can be a struggle.

This article encourages us, as teachers, to become anti-oppressive by improving the experiences of our students, challenging the dynamics of the privileged and the marginalized, and by recognizing that an anti-oppressive education is difficult to practice. But something is better than nothing. There are ways to incorporate this practice into teaching. Firstly, get rid of labeling in the classroom. Make everyone feel safe and accepted, not seen as “different”. Secondly, bring more diversity into the classroom and get rid of stereotypes. For example, use books that have people with differing ethnicity, put up posters with alternative family forms other than that standard North American family, or bring in multicultural dolls for children to play with. And thirdly, recognize what your own bias is. Although it is uncomfortable at times once teachers and students determine what their own bias or resistance is it is much easier to then address the situation and move forward.



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