More than just a brick in the wall


“We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

This 1979, song featuring a children’s choir and lines of masked children marching in an orderly fashion, was written as a satire, although the writer, Roger Waters, said that while he supports education, his personal experiences in school were negative (Songfacts). I wonder how many people could relate to this. School is great, it just wasn’t for me.  School is important, I just wasn’t the book type etc.  Enough wonderings let me get back on track.

This song began playing in my mind while reading one of the final readings for the course, “Toward a Posthuman Education“.  To back up even further, this all occurred while reflecting back on the course discussions and readings as I contemplated the metaphor I chose for curriculum at the beginning of the course.  The lego metaphor I chose to represent curriculum did a good job of explaining many components of curriculum, but was also lacking in many areas, particularly with regards to the complexity, the multifaceted face of the curriculum.

So, back to the article in question. This article caught my attention due to its dystopian and philosophical nature (Yes, I have a love for both dystopia and philosophy, perhaps due to reading an excess of stories with happy endings as a child…) and its radically different perspective on curriculum. Snaza et al. (2014) begins by discussing what post humanism can bring to the curriculum and then quickly leads into the following dystopian, yet truth containing, description:

“Young people enter primary schools and become instantly a part of the school as anthropological machine (Agamben, 2004; Lewis & Kahn, 2010; as cited in Snaza et al.,2014). They learn quickly to be quiet, stand in line, and place their finger over their mouths when in a hallway—or they will be punished by having privileges taken away, which also means no opportunities for experimentation through play. This machine demands a price from all young people. They become machines for the Educational Testing Services, future workers ready to play their part as money makers, and consumers patriotically saving the economy from recession, buying up anything just to rev up the engine we call an economy. If you are unable to fulfill your mechanical duties, the pharmaceutical machine will come to your rescue. Pills will allow you to do more than you thought possible. This machinic plugging in may cause a loss of appetite, listlessness, even thoughts of suicide but do not worry: the machine has many pills for you; one type is rarely enough. (p. 42)

If you haven’t seen the music video, I have included it here; you will soon see the connection.     (The marching starts at 2.22)

The purpose of all of this is to create what we call civilized citizens (Snaza et al.,2014).

Snaza et al., (2014) provides some good reasoning for rethinking curriculum from a post-humanist perspective.

  1. Education research, philosophy and curriculum is built and completed from a humanist/anthropocentric framework.
  2. It allows for a rebuilding of education where humans are connected to “animals, machines and things within life in schools at the K-12 and university levels” (p.39).
  3. Finally, it will allow for the explor[ation of] new, post-humanist directions in research, curriculum design, and pedagogical practice” ( p.39).

So, there is a post-humanism curriculum to consider, one that appears to have many benefits, but seems complicated in its execution.

Then there are aspects of the hidden curriculum, also striving to create civilized persons, ones that include “frontier colonial logic” (Donald, 2009. p.23).  The discussions by Donald, (2009) connect to Snaza et al’s (2014) discussions in that they both talk about how animality (which we are as humans; we are animals) is something to be overcome by creating civilized humans, through schooling. Snaza et al (2014) questions if this is better, these civilized humans, and notes the divisions this causes. They extend this even further to talk about how the ‘us and them’ mentality has also led to the destruction of the environment. Donald, (2009) echo’s the ‘us and them’ concept, stating that it creates a “condition to be overcome” (p.24). These ideas hurt people and support the continued colonization that goes beyond the teacher in the classroom and lies at the root of the curriculum.  “What is needed is a decolonizing form of curriculum theorizing that conceptualizes Aboriginal and Canadian perspectives as relational, inter-referential and mutually implicative” (Donald, 2009.,p 24 ).

Then there are Aoki’s many discussions of the lived versus planned curriculum and the tension between them.  Creating further complexity, Aoki (1996/2005) also described the curriculum as rhizomean. 

Is curriculum this complicated, or should it be left as the four simple principals created by Tyler (1949)? Unfortunately, while simpler is always nicer, looking at these four principals now, I can see the many layers of complexity built into each one; the planed, the lived, the hidden, the explicit, the extracurricular, the humanistic principals, colonization; all are layered into these four principles, something I see clearly now. The word curriculum has become something more complicated than a document and a teacher in a classroom; it now extends much further to those who develop curriculum, to those who theorize about curriculum, to the researchers, to those who create textbooks and digital content to support the curriculum and most importantly to the students we teach. We want to support the creation of great humans, ones who care about others, the world around them; ones who question and ones who are prepared to take on and help solve the many challenges our world will continue to face.

So, I began building a new metaphor:

  1. A layered chocolate cake. This one tried to make the cut but was too sweet and lacked the complexity needed.
  2. A “Jack in the Box”. It’s a nice and tidy square box with bight primary colours on the outside. The surprise is what’s inside. Each time you turn the handle you do not know when or what will be exposed. This may connect to the hidden curriculum, the lived and planned curriculum, and one could argue that every time you spin the handle a new component is uncovered. However, it is still missing some key components… and there is the inherent creepy factor….
  3. Perhaps a better metaphor for curriculum is a crystal (Non-living things that grow). I spent some time tossing this one over with knowledge that crystals are not considered to be alive, yet they grow and change (as the curriculum does). They are structured (much like the curriculum. Crystals are created from disorder, much like the messy teaching that takes place, that may not look like teaching and may not seem organized but may produce something beautiful. Crystals need room to grow, much like students do and like crystals, the only limits to growth is space. How much space is there in the curriculum ( in its many aspects) for students to grow? Carbon can grow both graphite and diamonds, both considered to be crystals; it is dependent on the process. Just like the process, curriculum, can create or lead to the outcome, the result depends on the process chosen. The bigger question might be, do we want more pencils or diamonds (What are Crystals?)

Tossing this metaphor away, my mind wandering, I searched further for a more fitting metaphor for curriculum. As I searched, I began to wonder about some of my practices. Do I arrange students according to my intentions? Are the resources I am using excluding students? What hidden and excluded components are included in the curriculum as planned and the curriculum as lived, in my biases, in the biases of my students?  As I do this, a house begins to unfold in front of me. This house looks perfect on the outside; orderly, clean with a well-manicured lawn and garden. As you wander through the front door, your eyes first catch a few things that seem out of place, some dust, a book askew on the shelf, but it still seems orderly.  Opening a door, you find a room full of old books, old toys; some broken, all dusty. Nearby is a closet, you open it and are almost knocked to the ground as garbage, bags and bags of it tumble down on you, and around you. Wandering further, you glance out smudged windows to see vines, climbing and trying to make their way through the cleanly manicured garden. A sudden movement catches your eye and you turn to see a winding staircase, you blink, and it has disappeared. Closing your eyes, you breathe in, quickly opening then, and you see it again. It’s continuing to move in an irregular pattern, and you notice that some steps are missing, others look half rotten. After a number of attempts, you manage to grab the rail and pull yourself up, almost falling off as one step cracks under your weight. Making your way to the top you find a room, a room with no ceiling.  Struck by the beauty, you gaze at the stars above and begin reflecting on how hard it was to get to this space, and how it would be even more challenging for others.  The initial first impression of the perfect house now gone, you begin to look around and observe. You observe the vines that have been cut back that are still trying to grow, and you decide to let them grow. You go back to the closet full of garbage and begin to throw these things out, things that are not needed any more; colonial ways of knowing (Donald, 2009) and teacher ego (Aoki, 1993). You go back into the room with the old and broken books and toys and begin dusting them off, some you throw out and some are kept; as they still have value. Perhaps some of these toys connect to students lived experiences, these are placed on a shelf, a reminder of the uniqueness of each. As you place each and reflect on each student, you realize some of them won’t be able to make it up those stairs; won’t be able to see the beauty above. The phone rings and the voice on the other end tells you that in order to live here you will need to park in the lines on the driveway and keep the lawn clean, free of clutter and garbage, and make sure the house gets a fresh coat of paint (grade based reporting). Hanging up the phone, you begin to see that the inside, where we live, our lived curriculum can flourish and grow, we can exist between the lived and planned curriculum.

Perhaps the notion of a house is inappropriate in that it may very well be seen as a symbol of colonialism (or maybe this makes it more appropriate) and I wonder again about the song presented at the beginning, the bricks. Perhaps rather than thinking of each student as a brick, perhaps we rethink the house, and what house means; or we crack open the bricks, to see what lies inside. Perhaps we are dismantling the curriculum and rebuilding, to make room for decolonizing, to make room for post-humanism. This may be years in the making and so, for now, I must continue to keep my front lawn manicured and the cars parked perfectly, but I will continue to look in the closets, the empty rooms, I will throw things out and take things back in, I will let the vines grow and I will find ways for each student to climb the stairs. And, I may begin to break some bricks.

We do not need to create students that are faceless renderings of each other, tramping single file in prescriptive lines, we do not want to create this.  Students are more than just another brick in the wall, and it is clear that some of the walls built, specifically those that exclude and those that support colonization need to be dismantled, brick by brick.


  • Aoki, T. T., (1993), Legitimating Lived curriculum: towards a curricular landscape of multiplicity. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision8(3). 255-268.
  • Aoki, T. T. (1996/2005). Spinning inspirited images in the midst of planned and live(d)curricula. In W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin (Eds.). Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (pp. 413–423). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • In James Nahachewski & Ingrid Johnston (Eds.), Beyond Presentism: Re-imagining the personal, social and historical places of curriculum (pp. 23–41). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Donald, T.D (2009). The Curricular Problem of Indigenousness: Colonial Frontier Logics, Teacher Resistances, and the acknowledgment of ethical space.
  • Snaza, Nathan, Peter Appelbaum, Siân Bayne, Dennis Carlson, Marla Morris, Nikki Rotas, Jennifer Sandlin, Jason Wallin, John A. Weaver. 2014. “Toward a Posthuman Education.” Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 30 (2): 39-55.
  • Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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