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Scenario Response Assignment #1: Reforming the Curriculum for the 21st Century Learner
Auguste Meyrat
Administration of the EC-12 Curriculum
University of North Texas

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Reforming the Curriculum for the 21st Century Learner
Purpose of Reform
In light of the many changes happening in the world as a result of globalization and new
technologies, our district’s curriculum must be adapt accordingly. While sufficient for meeting
the needs of past learners, the curriculum does not do the same for learners of the coming
century. When more and more different countries participate in the global marketplace, make
greater use of the internet and other new technologies, and constitute a greater portion of
America’s own population, the old monolingual, disconnected, paper-and-chalkboard education
of the past utterly fails to prepare students adequately (Stewart, 2010, p. 98-100).
As the writer, Vivien Stewart, makes clear in the chapter, “A Classroom as Wide as the
World,” in the book Curriculum 21, “All of our students will be left behind if we don’t transform
their education with this new global context in mind” (p. 98). American students must not only
connect with the rest of the world; they must compete and offer something of their own. Their
attitudes must significantly change along with the tools they use for learning. They must start
looking outward with their education instead complacently looking inward.
Just like students and the new world they live in, the curriculum must open up in a radical
way. To do this, the curriculum must adopt a new ‘3 R’s’ in addition to the old ‘The 3 R’s’ that
emphasized reading, writing, arithmetic: these new ‘3 R’s’ are rigor, relevance, and
relationships.
Rigor
From the state’s perspective, the STAAR has come to mean everything for a school. This
test alone largely determines the standards for schools, teachers, and students; not surprisingly, it
also dictates the structure and standards of the district’s curriculum.

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From the global perspective, STAAR means quite little. It is one state assessment among
49 others in the U.S. No person outside of Texas really pays attention to a students’ performance
on the STAAR. Sensing this, even many Texan students see little value in STAAR and exert as
little effort as possible doing well on it.
However, other countries do pay attention to how American students perform on
internationally recognized tests, some of which Texan students do take, like the International
Baccalaureate Exams and Advanced Placement Exams (Stewart, 2010, p. 106). These tests differ
from STAAR in their level of rigor: they demand much more critical thinking, greater knowledge
of content, and advanced reasoning than Texas’s standardized test. Only a small privileged
minority of students takes these exams and experiences something close to a global standard of
education; the vast majority of students has no such access.
Our curriculum must seek to close this gap in standards. A way to do this would be to
review the standards and goals of the district and state and compare them with those of other
countries (Stewart, 2010, p. 111). If these standards fall critically short of others’ standards, then
the district should try to raise them.
Additionally, the district should try to provide adequate training to equip teachers
themselves to teach at this level (Stewart, 2010, p. 112). It only makes sense that teachers who
instruct students with an international standard adopt this standard for themselves. Already, the
district features many classes on “engaging” the student; now it must offer courses on
“enlightening” the student.
Relevance
As it stands, the framework of the district's curriculum is still stuck in the last century,
breaking up its subjects and academic pacing according to the decisions reached by the

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Committee of Ten in 1892 (National Education Association, 1892, pp. 6-7). To move into the
21st century, teachers and students must rethink these subjects, most importantly by giving these
subjects a global context.
Teaching with a global context would align all subjects with global concepts. English
should teach world literature to explore different perspectives; social studies should take greater
prominence, seeking to do more than give a basic civics background for American students;
science should make the world its laboratory and treat bigger issues that affect different areas,
like epidemics, climate change, and multinational scientific initiatives; the arts should also take
greater prominence and highlight artistic contributions of other countries that include
contemporary examples as well as traditional ones; and math should be heavily emphasized and
reinforced at all levels since it truly an international language (Stewart, 2010, pp. 105-106).
Above all, all subjects must emphasize the great need for students to learn with the whole
world in mind. There is more than one story in the world as writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
relates in her talk, “The Danger of the Single Story” (July 2009). Students who fail to realize this
will face increasing dissonance between expectations and reality as they encounter different
people from different cultural backgrounds.
Relationships
Although the rest of the developed world (and much of the developing world) makes it a
priority to have their students be bilingual, American students stubbornly speak English and
neglect instruction in any other language.
To address this serious issue, the district curriculum mandates only a couple of years of
Spanish in high school, but this does little. A bilingual education must start earlier and it should
include different, and potentially more significant, languages like Arabic and Chinese (Stewart,

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101, p. 107). To measure proficiency, students should not only speak the language, but also be
able to learn in that language.
Furthermore, with increased access and use of Internet, teachers should offer
opportunities to their classes to communicate with other classes around the world (Stewart, 2010,
p. 108). If the students are currently doing this on their own at home or later in their jobs, they
should certainly start doing this in their classes.
Learning a new language and actually using this language to communicate with other
students will help students in the district to forge relationships, both in a specific and general
sense. In a global community, it not simply a matter of what a student knows, but how he knows
and whom he knows. Technology has made everyone in the world a neighbor, not just the people
in the house or apartment next door. In the past century, creating this relationship with other
people and other cultures was a luxury for international enthusiasts; today, it is a fundamental
skill for all people all over the world.
Conclusion
To be fair, implementing these suggested changes would be difficult, but keeping to the
same path will seriously jeopardize our students’ ability to succeed. Globalization can either be
something wonderful that opens up new opportunities for all, or something terrible that deprives
certain nations of the few opportunities they used to enjoy. Depending on the changes made to
the curriculum, our students will either thrive in the first group, or languish in the second.

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References
Adichie, C.N. (2009, July). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of the Single Story. [video
file] Retrieved from
http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?
language=en
National Education Associaton (1892). Report of the Committee on Secondary School Studies.
Washington: Government Printing Office.
Stewart, V. (2010). “Chapter 6: A Classroom as Wide as the World.” In Jacobs, H.H. (Ed.),
Curriculum 21 (pp. 97-114). Alexandria: ASCD.