It’s been a surreal week as the Elite 8 cohort has struggled to read and respond to Derek Rowntree’s Learn How to Study: Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university. While I couldn’t locate but one insignificant review on this book, I jumped in to the reading in true Adler and Van Doren style. I implemented my level 2, 3, and 4 reading techniques and – low and behold – found my golden nugget in “The Hidden Curriculum”. What is the hidden curriculum? According to Rowntree, “The hidden curriculum is what you have to satisfy in order to survive and prosper in your situation. It may include such qualities as punctuality at classes and speaking differently to different tutors. It may include reading a wider range of material than appears to be required for the course. It will almost certainly be reflected in what tutors are truly looking for in your work.”
Working in higher education, I immediately started to evaluate my own duplicity in a hidden curriculum – Do I have a hidden curriculum in my courses? Does the university have a hidden curriculum? And the most disturbing question – have I hindered a student’s success by hidden norms, hidden rules, and hidden expectations? (To be honest I’m not sure I’ve answered these questions for myself yet, but I’m acutely aware that I need to review and evaluate my courses and interactions with students). I appreciate Rowntree’s idealism surrounding critical thinking “Such a reflective, questioning approach, once you get used to it, should be yours for life.” My personal reflection and questioning on this topic led me to do significant searching/reading on the term “hidden curriculum” and boy is there a lot of material out there! The truth is, hidden curriculum is larger than just punctuality and reading material – hidden curriculum “consists of the “norms, values, and expectations” that govern interactions among students, faculty, staff and administrators. To excel in college, at-risk students must navigate a world of new social norms – typically those of the white middle class, she argues”. And then it hit me – hidden curriculum is just another form of oppression. It’s more than course policies and assessments. It’s more than changing my teaching approach to a flipped classroom. It’s more than implementing competency based education. It’s changing the culture of higher education. While the solutions are complex, Taylor identifies three focus areas in addressing culture: language as a medium, space as a medium, and structure as a medium. Speaking of evaluating culture, isn’t that what this Leadership and Global Perspectives Program is all about? Maybe we’ll have the perfect solution(s) by the time we achieve our DMin!
I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this – but let’s be honest – there is certainly a “hidden curriculum” in church. John Ortberg’s article in Christianity Today asks “What do people learn from you about the Christian life? Sometimes it’s what you never intended to teach.” He goes on to say, “But we have a hidden curriculum. Who gets fawned over, and who gets ignored? How do the staff and leaders get along when they’re off the platform and think nobody’s looking? How does a small group respond when someone shares a problem that is untidy and unresolved? Do leaders respond with panic or irritation or confidence or gentleness when a problem strikes? When there is a conflict, do people face it head on or go into avoidance mode? Does the church staff run on fear?” I think I can safely say we’ve all either played a role, and/or been a victim of a hidden curriculum. And this is why Christians are frequently labeled hypocrites. Why is it so pervasive in the Christian church? Especially in a community committed to learning and emulating Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time. It’s sobering to think our churches are participating in oppression.
Speaking of oppression, Erin Lord Kunz, guest contributor to feminismandreligion.com with her article The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy, identifies patriarchy as the “leftover from conservative America that remains”. Whether patriarchy is “hidden curriculum” may be questioned by some (only in that it feels quite overt if you’re a woman). A point of clarification – Erin is not referring just to men taking leadership roles, she is more concerned with women being “subordinated and oppressed both knowingly and unknowingly”.  This includes economics, politics, and cultural discourse. She does make a compelling argument with the following statement “Until Christian Evangelists legitimately let go of all the privileges white, middle-class patriarchy has granted them for so many years, Christianity is going to be massively unappealing to anyone who isn’t white, middle-class, and male.” What a powerful statement and a challenging concept.
So, what are you willing to do? Will you evaluate your professional/personal world to seek out hidden curriculum? Are we willing to accept the probability that it likely exists in some way, somewhere? Perhaps the biggest challenge is that our hidden curriculum is so hidden it will take significant searching, reflection, and evaluating to locate it. I implore you to take the risk – “seek and you will find”. Can you believe it? I truly believe I found a golden nugget in Rowntree’s Learn How to Study.
 Derek Rowntree. Learn How to Study: Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university: A virtual tutorial with Professor Derek Rowntree. Kindle ed. (Wappingers Falls, NY: Beekman Books, 1989). Location1219
 Rowntree, Learn How to Study, loc143
 Taylor, K.B. (2008). Mapping the intricacies of young adults’ developmental journey from socially prescribed to internally defined identities, relationships, and beliefs. Journal o/College Student Development, 49(3),215-234.