Curriculum is Dead

A few days ago, I was scanning through some old presentations, looking for a picture that I remembered using years ago. I ran across a particular slide with the following text:

In the 20th Century, education was defined by its limits!

In the 21st century, education must be defined, not by its limits, but by its lack of limits.

The classroom that I taught in, in rural South Carolina, was green. It offered a 1942 map of the world, a broken black board, a bulletin board, thirty-five student desks, and windows that let in the light and circulated warm air out near the ceiling. Through textbooks and what I could draw on the corners of the chalk board, I taught world history, earth science, and basic mathematics to 12 and 13 year-olds — from inside that room. The desktop computer, as we know it, had not been invented.

In the 20th century, our image of the classroom and the stories that we told about teaching and learning were all defined by what could be done within the walls of our rooms and between the covers of our textbooks. Curriculum was a road map or blueprint that defined what and how we could teach our children about the world that they lived in — from inside of a box — a classroom. Education had to be symbolized. Teaching and learning had to be mapped out, sequenced, prescribed, and measured against arbitrary standards of performance — and scientific research helped us to determine which symbols, sequences, and prescriptions worked best.

The windows of the 21st century classroom let in more than light and they are no longer a distraction. We can now make our classrooms transparent, bring the world that our children are learning about into their classrooms, help them to learn by dialoging with their world, give each child a lens on which they can telescope and microscope their past, present, future, their place and time, their culture, and society. Within the context of a world-connected education, students will learn what humans do, they will learn to think and they will learn to communicate. No need for curriculum. Just guides and the tools to help them examine and interact with their world.

My point? I’m getting tired of hearing people continue to ask for the evidence that technology helps students learn. It doesn’t matter. We know — that good teachers help students learn. We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.

2¢ worth.

Photo Manipulation Source:
Hornung, Travis. “2004.06.05 Justin’s Pool, Inn n out, Sierra Drives 049.” Travis Hornung’s Photostream. 14 Apr 2006. flickr. 22 May 2006 <>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.