Textbooks are limited by a knowledge-cramming attitude

Each governmental change (even of a minister) is accompanied by vows to radically overhaul the curricula of primary and secondary school education. The changes are always presented as a reform of the educational system without the reasons for the failure of the previous curricula ever being explored. Today, after two radical revisions of the curricula in the last four years, it’s time to call a spade a spade. In Greek schools’ curricula, the content of what is taught continues to be their core. The endless list of contents betrays that the criteria of choice are not educational in nature but the result of a distorted, and anxious, desire to cram as much knowledge as possible into the curricula, down to the most unimportant details. This anti-educational logic leads, inevitably, to the composition of textually dense schoolbooks, in terms of subject matter and mental overload, in which new knowledge is marginalized. As a result, teachers are forced to think that covering all the material is the alpha and omega of teaching. At the same time, while textbook compilers declare their «openness,» curricula are in fact organized in such a way as to develop a plethora of heterogeneous and contradictory aims and activities, capped by strict time limits for the teaching of each unit. This maximalist union of more modern with more traditional methods gives rise to a complete indifference to what and how you learn. In this context, the teacher, lacking basic training and further education, is called upon to carry out educational tasks that have been decided for him by others. His role in designing and organizing the lesson, in producing teaching materials, has been degraded to simply executing orders, obeying directions and administering exams. This serves to perpetuate the attitude that teaching is, and should be, a set of absolutely predictable and strictly programmed (and thus controllable politically) steps which can be realized by every teacher-cum-tool, who transmits the knowledge to students-cum-objects. This suffocating design debases both pupils and teachers to will-less receptacles of stage-managed teaching, a situation that does not tie in with the «free and autonomous citizen» that is hypocritically overemphasized by the basic aims of the curriculum itself. We should not deceive ourselves. However many changes are made to the curriculum, nothing will change if teacher and student remain frantic consumers of educational products and are not themselves participants in, and shapers of, the educational process. Reversing this would be a shining achievement by ambitious reformers and visionaries of a living and creative school. (1) Costas Angelakos is a lecturer in pedagogy in the Department of History at the Ionian University.