I find one of the most difficult parts of curriculum design to be curation. At a time when millions of fascinating ideas, books, articles and resources are at your finger tips, it can be overwhelming to select the *perfect* reading to capture students attention while engaging them in higher level thinking and learning. More agonizing still is the process of deciding what to include and what to leave out in daily activities. We only have so much time with our students and there is so much we think we need to, want to, and aspire to teach. I've been in many conversations with colleagues over the years and it's often surprising what gets cast off in history because we just don't have time (from the Spanish Flu to voices of marginalized groups outside of the grand narrative).
I find it helpful to have touchstone questions for the courses I teach. When I feel lost or overwhelmed, I come back to these questions and they orient me towards where I would like my students to wind up. Unsurprisingly, President Obama, a man who is faced with overwhelming decisions of an entirely different magnitude and consequence, also frames his decisions and actions in the context of questions, which evolve over time. In a 2013 interview with the New Republic, Obama says, "so, I've been spending a lot of time just thinking about how do I communicate more effectively with the American people? How do I try to bridge some of the divides that are longstanding in our culture? How do I project a sense of confidence in our future at a time when people are feeling anxious? They are more questions of values and emotions and tapping into people's spirit." It's comforting to know that the most powerful person in the world uses questions as a guide.
When I teach geography, my three touchstone questions include: What is where? Why there? and Why care?
For all of my other classes, I try to design a curriculum that enables students to respond to these three questions: Who am I? Who are we? What is good?
I can't include everything in my curriculum, but I take solace in knowing that we are guided by questions that help my students develop their identities, sense of purpose and global citizenship.