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Curriculum is a detailed plan of study. For students attending a school, the curriculum defines which subjects should be studied, in which sequence, and at what age. The goal of the curriculum is to define the minimum body of necessary knowledge a good citizen should know. For example, in the Netherlands, only 58 general objectives are set at the primary level, and schools can develop their own curricula. An objective might require general ability to communicate in English.

Compulsory curriculum

A curriculum can be a useful guide in learning. It can inform students and parents in advance, which topics are worth exploring. In that sense, any good book can be used as a guiding skeleton for further explorations. However, in real life, the curriculum is often made compulsory, or it is imposed on students with coercive learning. This violates the Fundamental law of learning, which says that best learning should be based on the natural learn drive.

Due to its mandatory and coercive nature, the curriculum has become one of the greatest scourges of education. The curriculum lays at the root of the Problem of schooling. Instead of providing an enlightening guidance, the curriculum leads to a nearly universal hate of school.

Once a school adopts a curriculum it often needs to control all steps of the progress in learning. Departure from the adopted line leads to gaps and poor understanding. Kids that get sick, easily fall back. Kids that show little interest, progressively build gaps in knowledge that undermine the love of learning. "Perfectly" designed curriculum is like a house of cards that collapses with just a few missing component.

Early instruction

One of the most harmful aspects of the curriculum is the fossilized idea of the early academic instruction. The obsession with doing things early comes from the idea of critical periods and the alleged importance of instruction for brain development. Instead, in early instruction, pleasure of learning is replaced with the assembly of asemantic building blocks of knowledge. This slows down learning, and may lead to an early dislike of learning. There is a positive feedback loop between hard material, knowledge toxicity, dislike of learning, and the position of individual items in the curriculum (see: Tunnel vision of school letteracy).

For an alternative, see Mountain climb metaphor of schooling, in where the right semantic approach is guided by the learn drive.


Curricula are often written by people who have very little knowledge of teaching. This is how Sudbury Valley School was born in the mind of Danny Greenberg who was once writing a curriculum in physics and noticed the absurdity of his ignorant involvement in the process. See also: Curriculum lag

Political curriculum

In all political systems, curriculum is always used as a weapon that can shape young minds. This is most evident in totalitarian systems, where ideology must be ingrained early or face extinction in a clash with liberal thinking. The whole idea of compulsory schooling can also be seen as an ideology that has been engraved deep into modern cultures. When I insist that compulsory schooling must end, even the most enlightened minds raise opposition at first. It takes quite an effort to show a direct link between coercion, curriculum, pressure at school, stress, toxic memory, learned helplessness, and the loss of love of learning. It is hard to show that coercive schooling undermines societal intelligence. See: School curriculum is inherently political.

Curriculum problem

If a child choses to do all her calculations in the hexadecimal system, she might be on a path to change the way we see numbers. Should we prevent this from happening? Should we force a child to obligatorily have a look at "the right and superior" decimal system? Should we do it even if it inhibits the love of learning, the love of exploration, and the interest in her own individual quest?

If a kid chooses to create his own language or a coding system, should we stop it? Perhaps he will create a tool that will sweep the world within 5-15 years. The young generation easily adapts and readily adopts. The world might be transformed in a generation. Should we prevent it by using tools of coercion?

For a more comprehensive metaphoric explanation of the problem of the curriculum, see: Knowledge crystallization, Jigsaw puzzle metaphor and the Mountain climb metaphor of schooling.

Curriculum is intended to serve as a guiding light, instead it usually becomes a tool of coercion and a cause of slow learning and stunted creativity

This glossary entry is used to explain "I would never send my kids to school" (2017-2024) by Piotr Wozniak