Continuum vs. Curriculum

I was fortunate to attend a meeting with a group of progressive educators yesterday and was struck by one aspect of the conversation: the idea of an educational continuum as opposed to a curriculum.

After some deep thought on this matter I find that this concept is inherent in contemporary society, and key to being an effective modern citizen.

A curriculum, after all, suggests an endpoint. It’s a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. What’s more, it often excludes self-reflection. We each are segregated into one aspect of something, be it work, play, or learning. Instead, someone else – yes, like a teacher – assesses you. The idea of a curriculum depends on there being a second or third party as a gatekeeper to allow you to progress through it.

A continuum is an all-encompassing iterative approach to living, working, and learning. There is no end, and our dependencies on others become a matter of collaboration more than exclusion. Our steps in a process are small and circle back on themselves. We are required to have a fuller awareness of ourselves, our surroundings, and our social groups.

The concept of continuum is embedded in our evolving society. Think of games. The board games of the last century had a beginning and end. Video games are all about repetition and self-evaluation, often in a never-ending pursuit of constant improvement. Think of Minecraft. Then there’s the old concept of a “career,” with a pension and full-on retirement at the end. That’s no longer relevant. Instead, as life and work overlap, there is a growing approach to professionalism that involves cycling through a variety of jobs through life right up until death.

Life is not linear. It’s an ever-evolving cycle. It’s a continuum, not a curriculum. It’s nice to see learning moving that way.