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This article presents students’ interpretations of school curricula as found in past ethnographic research. According to this research, students are learners with an active ability to interpret, instead of just passively following the curricula provided by educators. These students do what every curriculum designer will do: they assess the value of the curriculum, classify it into different categories, decide what they want/don’t want to learn, decide the learning sequence and evaluation criteria. Yet most students interpret school curricula in a different, even an opposite way from that of educators do. According to past research we see that (1) English white boys defined the school curriculum as being “feminine”; (2) American black students viewed it as being a product of white culture; (3) American Punjabi students perceived it as a tool to help them accommodate American society; (4) Advanced math and science were thought to be worthless for Punjabi girls; (5) Math and English were thought to be useless for older Taiwanese adult students; (6) Kansas’s medical students in the US studied what professors wanted them to know; (7) Students in a Taiwanese junior high school only studied specific subject content which they thought they had to perform well or get punished by teachers. This article then discusses the students’ interpretation(s) of their curricula in terms of Willis’ notion of cultural production, and presents some implications for educational practice.
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