School Curricula Statement
At Royal Fireworks we are creating a new class of curricula because we think that traditional curricula are unsatisfactory. Our curricula are different because they begin at a different point, view education differently, and are focused on long-term goals rather than short-term objectives.
First and foremost, our curricula begin at a different starting point. The beginning point for curricula should be the child. Traditional curricula have the subject wrong. Traditionalists think that the subject is algebra, or geometry, or physics, or history or English or Latin. We know that the subject is the child. Traditional practice is to set standards as to how much material we can cram into the child. This is backwards; the challenge is to get the child into the material, not the material into the child. We want each child involved with the material, interested in it and invested in it. And we emphasize the child—not the children; learning is at its core an individual act, no matter how large the classroom.
Second, we view education in different terms from the producers of traditional curricula. Royal Fireworks curricula are relationship-oriented and are based on the understanding that education is not a thing to be obtained or possessed but rather a series of relationships between an individual and an area of study. Our aim is to enhance those relationships. Once we view curricula as enhancing a series of relationships, there is no endpoint, and we cease to think in terms of standards as providing meaningful ends or measures. We have moved the primary emphasis from the material to be mastered to the child’s connection with that material. Moreover, the concept of a “subject” in the traditional academic sense immediately seems narrow and lifeless.
This is not to say that the material is unimportant. In fact, the material is a crucial part of this relationship, and in our frame of reference, it bears the double burden of attracting the child and enthusing the teacher. It must be presented creatively and imaginatively to engage the child and to make him or her want to enter into it. It also must be pedagogically important enough that the teacher is enthusiastic about it and can convey that enthusiasm to the students. It cannot be the continual slough of teaching to the test or the stifling steps of rote memorization. It has to be real learning, opening children’s eyes, widening their horizons, and changing their lives. And more than that, it has to be accessible enough so that each child in the class can relate to it. It must be organized to progress organically so that each child can acquire the knowledge and skills to grow in the relationship. It has to have checks so teachers can know that each child has entered into the relationship and is growing in it. It has to be flexible enough so creative teachers can adapt and shape it to their teaching style. It has to have the essential content so that when standardized tests are given, every child can exceed the goals that lesser curricula struggle to meet. Each child must be able to exceed expectations because real teaching and learning are much more powerful than thoughtless test preparation. Lastly, the material has to be bound together in a way that it can be delivered successfully within the span of a semester or a year.
Third, Royal Fireworks curricula are more ambitious in considering life goals, and as an important consequence, they are interdisciplinary and wide-ranging. Traditional curricula are narrowly focused by academic discipline, limiting not only the vision but also the questions students are encouraged to ask and the answers they can expect. We seek to broaden children’s interests and frames of reference, to expand their range of knowledge, to introduce them to how one set of ideas may be related to another, to extend their ability to recognize and appreciate the complex relationships that exist in the wider world. People who engage in interdisciplinary thinking are frequently the most creative and high-achieving adults. We seek to help your students become these people.
Fourth, our curricula are built on Socratic questioning, on asking the large questions, on broadening perspectives, on students posing questions and seeking answers. We avoid the worksheets of traditional curricula. Small questions that can be answered on short lines are not worth asking in the first place. Worksheets are passive activities that divert students with trivial questions. The students should be encouraged to pose questions and seek answers.
Fifth, Royal Fireworks relationship-oriented curricula have emotional content at their core; joy, fun, humor, and intellectual play are essential and integral parts. Our curricula do not ask students to perform the drudgery of drill and practice, to memorize endless lists of mind-numbing rules, or to marshal an army of disconnected and meaningless facts. Children are more apt to have good relationships when they enter into them with enthusiasm and find enjoyment, humor, fun—and important meaning. The emotional content is essential; higher emotional investment leads to greater engagement with the content.
Sixth, our curricula are packed with the greatest thinkers, writers, world leaders, architects, artists, and builders. In any relationship, you are the company you keep. We want your students to keep the very best company the world has ever known, and we range through three millennia of thought and statecraft and art and architecture and literature and culture to introduce children to friends for life: Plato and Shakespeare, Keats and Yeats, Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, and so many others. We are not interested in introducing children to cartoon characters who abuse one another or to trivial fools who play mindless games. Children will meet these characters all too frequently in our culture, and we do not need to facilitate those meetings. No, the relationship we want is between your students and the best. Your students will meet plenty of dumbed-down textbooks that are the staple of traditional curricula, but none of them will have Royal Fireworks Press on the cover, and none of them need be in your classroom.
Seventh, and so important that it deserves special mention, we place particular emphasis on visual art, including painting and drawing, sculpture, and architecture. Exposure to visual art provides a wellspring for children’s imagination and creativity. Imagination and creativity are essential ingredients in the achievements of the world’s most successful people, and we encourage their development in your students in every way possible.
Eighth, Royal Fireworks curricula are rigorous; we are not interested in building a false self-esteem that will only lead to embarrassment and deluded expectations. Great relationships are ones that children have to do their best to maintain. There is no lifetime benefit in being mediocre, so why enter your students into a relationship that expects only mediocre performance from them? In whatever ways we broaden, enhance, shape, and extend the material, we always are concerned with children relating to, learning, and internalizing it so that it is theirs at a far higher level than traditional publishers think is attainable. We make higher intellectual demands because a relationship that does not ask children to be their best is one that is beneath them. And we never limit students to the levels set by state or national standards or the Common Core.
Ninth, we want to entice children to enter relationships with well-designed and beautiful curricular materials. Beauty is an inducement to interact; it is not sufficient in and of itself, but it is preferable to be pleasing to the eye rather than repelling. We try to provide children with a visual treat every time they open one of our books. The design of our curricula extends to an emphasis on presenting concepts and relationships that have not only a verbal iteration but also visual expression. And for the message to be clear, the page should be clean and uncluttered, the focus on the concept and its expression or representation, the color subordinate to the meaning. Students’ relationships with the material are facilitated through the texts, and the texts should be formatted to enhance those relationships and should never be compromised by the economics of producing them. This is one of the easiest-to-discern differences between our curricula and that of traditional publishers, and it is an outcome greatly facilitated by our emphasis on visual art. It is a difference made viable only because nearly three decades ago we developed the expertise to print and bind our own books; we can do for ourselves and for your classroom what other publishers find it impractical to pay printers to do.
Tenth, our curricula are designed to be flexible so they can accommodate your teaching and your students’ learning preferences, as well as your classroom environment and objectives. In some of our curricula, the order of the materials can be rearranged to suit your preferences. Further, the parts can stand alone, so it is possible to introduce successfully only one or two topics rather than the full range of the curriculum. Moreover, we are producing material in a variety of formats, including electronic delivery via Apple’s iPad and Google Chrome. We will continue to expand into new media when the technology offers attractive opportunities for communicating with students. Insofar as we can when the technology allows it, we will expand our curricula to include music and performance art.
Eleventh, we are mindful that some of your students have limitations. We endeavor to make our books readable and comprehensible for students who have dyslexia or other visual and/or processing issues. Many publishers pack every inch of every page with type—often small type—that provides a formidable challenge even for children with good eyesight. Those children with visual or processing issues are excluded from the relationship. We think about these children because some of us suffer some of those conditions ourselves, and we will never forget our childhood struggles in classrooms where understanding and sympathy were scant. Our curricula materials are designed in every way to facilitate your students’ interaction with the material, and so we not only make them beautiful but also easily processed—a naturally symbiotic combination.
Twelfth, Royal Fireworks curricula are evolving. We think every day about how we can offer better curricula, how we can help to enhance the relationships your students are forming. We listen to you when you tell us about your experience with our curricula. We improve our books whenever we think that they are no longer the best that we can do, and we bring out new editions of our texts because—and only because—you and your students deserve the absolute best we can do today. We are determined to give you nothing less than that, and we are relentless in our drive to improve ourselves. We are focused entirely on our part in helping you foster great relationships in your classroom, and we are acutely aware that an opportunity missed now may be an opportunity missed forever.
Because our focus is a lifetime, we think in terms of designing our curricula to develop enduring skills and traits that are important throughout the entire life of the individual. This is one of the reasons why we place emphasis on problem-based learning (PBL). Experience in PBL activities helps students develop enduring lifetime skills of actively participating and positively contributing to group problem solving. These are skills that adults deploy in medical teams, software-writing units, intelligence-gathering organizations, marketing strategy, product development, financial investment decision making, and much scientific research. We are committed to PBL also because we think that students who are engaged in problem-based activities learn more deeply and widely and with greater enthusiasm than in many other forms of educational activity. And we are certain that developing these life skills will have an immediate payoff that helps to make the classroom environment better right now.
Enduring lifetime skills come with traits and values that we regard as crucial. We want to present to students a nexus of traits shared by people who do the best in life: a positive attitude, confidence, creativity, resourcefulness, resilience, and persistence. We strive to present relationships that model and help develop character, honesty, respect for others, good citizenship, integrity, and personal responsibility. Your students deserve no less.
Thomas Milton Kemnitz
Royal Fireworks Publishing