Least Objectionable Curriculum

In the 1960’s, a television executive proposed the concept of the least objectionable program. According to this idea, programmers will broadcast the shows that are least likely to offend large parts of the population. It has been argued that adhering to this principle led television executives to support programming that was uninspired.  

In the time since the number of channels expanded, then digital platforms emerged to greatly expand the number of platforms, the least objectionable programming has largely been abandoned. Innovative programs, complex storylines, controversial issues, and previously unheard voices and untold stories are finding their way into the popular culture.  

The push to standards-based education in the last few decades of education seems to have applied the principle of least objectionable programming to education. The resources we have available, the test used to evaluate our work, the guidance we get from leadership, the professional development goals we define are all supposed to align with the standards. 

While I am not opposed to the concept of a “high-quality” curriculum, I am convinced we have accepted the equivalent of the least objectionable program in the move to standardizing the curriculum. When done “at scale,” a standard curriculum must become information centric, and view students as recipients of that information. To do otherwise introduces too many variables to be manageable. 

The problem is those variables are where education and curriculum become relevant, meaningful, and engaging. The least objectional curriculum has become the school for the “average,” but average does not exist.