Curriculum Studies Guidebooks

Volume 1- Concepts and Theoretical Frameworks

by Marla B. Morris (Author)
©2016 Textbook 456 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 498


Curriculum Studies Guidebooks treat the (Post)reconceptualization of curriculum studies. The huge corpus of literature reviewed in this volume reflect current issues and discussions dealing with education. This volume is about the intersections among curriculum studies, history, politics, multiculturalism, gender studies and literary studies. These theoretical frameworks will provide students in the field of education with the tools that they need to theorize around the concept of curriculum. This is an interdisciplinary book and might be of interest to students outside the field of education as well who are studying history, politics, multiculturalism, gender and literary studies. It could be used in such courses as curriculum studies; social foundations of education; philosophy of education; critical and contemporary issues in education; the history of American curriculum; the history of American education; and narrative inquiry in education. Outside the field of education, this book might be of interest to students in courses on women's and gender studies, courses in political science, multicultural courses, and courses in literary criticism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Chapter 2. Historical Curriculum Concepts, Part 1
  • Chapter 3. Historical Curriculum Concepts, Part 2
  • Chapter 4. Historical Curriculum Concepts, Part 3
  • Chapter 5. Political Curriculum Concepts
  • Chapter 6. Multicultural Curriculum Concepts
  • Chapter 7. Gender Curriculum Concepts
  • Chapter 8. Literary Curriculum Concepts
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

← viii | ix →


I would like to thank Mary Aswell Doll for her ongoing support of this project. Through the ups and downs she stuck with me the whole way. Special thanks to Chris Myers who believed in this project and was there every step of the way. I would like to thank Shirley Steinberg for her support and words of wisdom throughout the process. I would like to thank John Weaver who taught me the virtue of perseverance. Special thanks to William Schubert who gave detailed feedback on the history chapters. I would like to thank Naomi Rucker who gave thoughtful suggestions and listened to me for endless hours on the difficulties of working on this project. Finally, I would like to thank all the reviewers and the copyeditor for helping make this book a better one. ← ix | x →

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The concept of a guidebook evokes travel through unknown terrain. The purpose of this guidebook is to introduce students, professors, and teachers to current concepts and theoretical frameworks in the field of curriculum studies. Both undergraduates and graduate students will benefit from reading this book. Students, after studying this book, will broaden their knowledge base and better understand current debates around curriculum studies and education. In this chapter I explore the notion of travel as a metaphor for studying curriculum theory. I unpack my general approach to this book. I discuss various scholars who have influenced my thinking. Finally, brief chapter outlines will conclude this chapter.

Travel as Metaphor

The terrain of the field of curriculum studies is vast. Indeed, a guide is needed. Studying the configurations of the field can be bewildering. These configurations are always on the move. The field changes as new ideas arrive on the scene, as new scholars enter the field. Travel is an apt metaphor for a field that is in flux. It is difficult to write about something that changes continually. But this is the nature of academic work. I have tried to capture current discussions ← 1 | 2 → in the field even though I know that in the future the field will be different. Pinar et al. (1995) put it this way:

Movement. From different traditions toward different ends each of the contemporary discourses points to an understanding of curriculum in terms of movement, even, we might say, velocity, knowledge prompting questioning that moves the student…from one “location” to another. (p. 858)

The aim of this guidebook is to evoke questions, not to settle things once and for all. Questions about the field of curriculum studies are always on the move. Scholars who work in this field raise a variety of questions that turn the field in different directions. Concepts and theoretical frameworks that shape the field shift over time. The student of curriculum studies is a traveler. A guidebook such as this one helps travelers find their way across difficult terrain. Ingrid Johnston (2003) states

The very notion of travel presupposes a movement away from some place, a displacement, a rupture, a crossing of boundaries. A journey, like good research, has a powerful ability to dislodge the framework in which it is placed; it always takes us somewhere, but not necessarily where we planned to go. (p. 3)

Intellectual travel moves scholars and students “away” from the taken-forgranted. This field is theory-rich, deep, wide, and exciting. Getting ready to travel somewhere should be exhilarating. As Johnston suggests, traveling leads to places that “dislodge.” Thought “dislodged” is what makes this field so exciting. Stanley Fish (2011) writes about the “twists and turns in the journey” of scholarship (p. 8). Curriculum studies has many “twists and turns” because it is a broad field with a variety of competing theoretical frameworks. And these frameworks change over time; none is written in stone. This guidebook explores the interstices of curriculum and history, politics, multiculturalism, gender, and literary studies. The second volume of the guidebook examines the interstices of curriculum with aesthetics, spirituality, cosmopolitanism, ecology, cultural studies, poststructuralism, and psychoanalytic theory. The terrain of curriculum studies is vast, as I mentioned earlier.

Sven Birkerts (2006) argues that thought is “a kind of narrative travel” (p. 13). Thinking through these competing theoretical frameworks in curriculum studies is an experience in “narrative travel.” The narratives of each of these theoretical frameworks differ and change over time. Each different narrative tells a different tale. Travelers in the field of curriculum are introduced here to the complex intersections of current theories. John Sallis (2006) tells ← 2 | 3 → us that “travel narratives are oriented to…disclosive openings” (p. 1). Curriculum studies in all of its complexity encourages “openings” in interdisciplinary study. This is a wide open field. And this field could be configured in numerous ways. Every time a new theoretical framework is introduced new “openings” in thought emerge. Frederic Gros (2014) writes

Walking through these new megalopolises [or new theoretical frameworks]…you passed through districts that were like different worlds, separate, apart. Everything could vary: the size and architectural style of the buildings, the quality and scent of the air, the way of living, the ambiance, the light, the social topography. (p. 176)

Curriculum in the interstices of history or the interstices of politics, for example, is akin to being in “different worlds.” Each chapter of the guidebook takes travelers to different worlds, different “social topograph[ies].” And indeed “the size and architectural style” of theoretical frameworks “vary.” For example, curriculum in the intersections of history is dauntingly enormous and “architecturally” speaking it is labyrinthine. Conversely, the “size and architectural style” of curriculum in its intersection with literary studies, for example, differ in “social topography” as it is smaller in size and has a different “ambience” than curriculum in the intersections of history. All of the chapters in this guidebook vary in size and ambience, if you will, depending on the current discussions in these areas.

Michel Serres (2000) writes

No learning can avoid the voyage. Under the supervision of a guide, education pushes one to the outside. Depart: go forth. Leave the womb of your mother, the crib, the shadow cast by your father’s house and the landscapes of your childhood. (p. 8)

This guidebook serves to “push” intellectual boundaries. Every chapter explores different aspects of curriculum which require, on the reader’s part, an open mind. The guidebook pushes readers to travel outside their comfort zone. This voyage hopefully changes the way readers think. And changing thought and undoing habit are the purpose of education.

Curriculum studies is an interdisciplinary field. The notion of interdisciplinarity evokes travel between one’s home discipline and fields outside of curriculum. Curriculum scholars travel back and forth between the field of curriculum studies and fields other than curriculum. Curriculum scholars are generalists, not specialists. Working in the interstices between, say, curriculum and psychoanalytic theory does not mean that one is a specialist or an expert in psychoanalysis. Curriculum scholars work in a third space between ← 3 | 4 → these two disciplines. Terry Eagleton (2003) captures the work of interdisciplinarity as he suggests that scholars are

inside and outside a position at the same time [which I call the third space]—to occupy a territory while loitering…on the boundary—[this is]…where the most intensely creative ideas stem from. It is a resourceful place to be. (p. 40)

Curriculum scholars, then, travel between their own territories while moving toward a boundary. Not only do curriculum scholars move toward a boundary, say, in psychoanalysis, but cross over the boundary, with care, to do interdisciplinary work. There is always danger once crossing over the boundary because, again, curriculum theorists are generalists, not specialists in other fields. According to J. E. Malpus (2007), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1977) writes

I am trying to conduct you on tours in a certain country. I will try to show that the philosophical difficulties [or curricular difficulties]…arise because we find ourselves in a strange town and do not know our way about. So we must learn the topography by going from one place to another, and so on. (cited in Malpus, p. 41)

Like philosophers, curriculum theorists too “find” themselves “in a strange town” while working in other fields. To some extent these strange towns remain strange. Interdisciplinary work is strange because one never finds a home in other fields but remains, in some sense, on the outskirts. Studying curriculum theory means that scholars travel “from one place to another,” as Wittgenstein puts it. In this guidebook students are required to travel between curriculum and a variety of other fields. This is not easy work. But it is exciting work. Jacques Derrida (2002) writes

Whether one wants it or not, one is always working in the mobility between several positions, stations, places, between which a shuttle is needed. The first image that comes to mind when one speaks of negotiation is that of the shuttle, la navette, and what the word conveys of a to-and-fro between two positions. (p. 12)

In interdisciplinary work scholars “negotiate” between “two positions.” There is, in a way, a certain give and take when negotiating. For Derrida, negotiating means never finding one’s home in any one discipline. But I find this rather problematic. It seems to me that Derrida does, in fact, have an intellectual home in poststructural philosophy. And, too, curriculum theorists have an intellectual home in curriculum studies. Interdisciplinary work is tricky because if the traveler-scholar spends too much time in other fields, she might ← 4 | 5 → lose her way and forget her home. This is why William Pinar (2007a) calls for more focus on disciplinarity because he worries that some curriculum scholars lose their way in other fields. At any rate, curriculum scholars must travel hither and yon—and then—come home again. Derrida (2002) suggests that this movement requires a “shuttle” (p. 12). What would that shuttle be? Perhaps the shuttle is a state of mind. Alain de Botton (2004) speaks to this issue as he says

What, then, is a travelling mind-set? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. Receptive, we approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting. (p. 242)

Students of curriculum studies, then, must be receptive and humble when approaching other fields. Students interested in the intersections between curriculum and politics are sometimes not, for example, open to studying psychoanalytic literature because they think it is not a science. But as psychoanalyst Adam Phillips (2013) puts it, psychoanalysis is a form of poetics. Sometimes scientifically oriented students are not open to poetics. If students are wedded, for instance, to cognitive psychology, they have a difficult time thinking in metaphors. What kind of a shuttle, as Derrida puts it, is needed for students who are not receptive to new ideas? That remains an open question. Like de Botton (2004), Wittgenstein (1977) suggests that intellectual work requires a particular sort of mind-travel if you will. He states: “If you want to go down deep you do not need to travel far, indeed, you don’t have to leave your most immediate and familiar surroundings” (p. 50e). For Wittgenstein, then, travel is an inner, psychological metaphor. Intellectual work demands soul searching—or inner travel. But unlike the philosopher, the curriculum theorist must leave her “familiar surroundings” and venture forth into other fields.

General Approach to this Guidebook

My approach to this guidebook is subjective. The chapters reflect my position on the state of the field. If someone else had written this book, different chapters would probably appear. This study is perspectival. This is by no means a comprehensive document on the field of curriculum studies. I write about what strikes me. I take the conversation in myriad directions and suggest ways in which the field might advance. Again, someone else would take the discussions in different directions. Jeffery Gray (2001) puts it this way: “Few serious ← 5 | 6 → readers believe any longer in a view from nowhere” (p. 51). This guidebook is, indeed, “a view” from somewhere. I take positions. I argue. I make suggestions. I explore new terrain and retrace old terrain in my own way. Madeleine Grumet (2006) writes

I recognize that subjectivity is suspect. Our ways of speaking of it reveal the distrust and uneasiness that it evokes when it emerges in public discourse, as if some private internal fluid has begun to leak and threatens to leave a permanent stain. (pp. 71–72)

Traditional scholars who worked in the social sciences, say, twenty years ago prided themselves on objectivity. More poststructural social science scholars today argue that discourse is situated, partial, and incomplete. Objectivity is impossible. Surprisingly, these debates in the social sciences are not over, not finished. At any rate, I write from my perspective which is, again, situated, partial, and incomplete. William Pinar (2012) argues that curriculum scholars should have “subjective engagement with what we study” (p. 6). And as feminists remind us the personal is political. I have particular interests, particular tastes, and work in particular areas of the discipline. My worldview is limited of course. But I attempt in both volumes of these guidebooks to see things from a broad perspective. I have, for example, a particular interest in history, although I am not a curriculum historian. This explains why there are three rather lengthy chapters on curriculum in its intersection with historiography in volume 1. I also have a particular interest in psychoanalytic theory, which teaches that subjectivity and the study of the self are paramount to understanding scholarship. As Derrida might say traces of my personhood and personality are everywhere in these guidebooks. Robert Nash (2004) speaks to these issues as he states

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that it is impossible to utter even two or three sentences without letting others know where you stand in life, what you believe, and which people are important to you… . It’s the recognition that you can never be fully outside your writing. (p. 24)

I write about theorists whom I find important in the field of curriculum studies; I write about theorists whom I find important in other fields as well. Books that evoke, that provoke, are the texts with which I grapple. There is nothing wrong with “letting others know where you stand in life.” David Bleich and Deborah Holdstein (2001) argue that “one’s own experience may well matter in one’s way of announcing knowledge” (p. 2). How does one detach one’s experience from one’s writing? Is that even possible? And if so, why would ← 6 | 7 → a scholar want to do that? Scholarship is shot through with personal experience, even if that personal experience is not explicit in the text at hand. Alberto Manguel (1996) speaks to these issues here:

Like every reader, [and I would add any writer] Rilke was also reading [and writing] through his own experience. Beyond the literal sense and the literary meaning, the text we read acquires the projection of our own experience, the shadow, as it were, of who we are. (p. 267)

Reading and writing about curriculum studies and fleshing out a variety of theoretical frameworks reflects my experience. For example, I write in this guidebook about the intersections of curriculum and politics. I am not a political scholar, but I have written about political implications of the Holocaust (Morris, 2001) and European history during the fin-de-siècle (Morris, 2006). These books inform my take on issues of representation, on European debates about fascism, and on Jewish identity. Thus, my previous books shape my writing of this guidebook. Sven Birkerts (2006) remarks that “serious reading [and writing] is above all an agency of self-making” (p. 87). Writing these guidebooks has been a daunting endeavor to say the least. I believe that the experience of delving into many areas has broadened my perspective not only of the field but in life. Harold Bloom (2001) writes that “one of the uses of reading [and writing] is to prepare ourselves for change” (p. 21). I must say that writing these guidebooks has changed me, especially in my writing practices, especially in the revision stages. Endless revisions taught me much about the virtue of patience. And more important I see the world differently now. I have a broader perspective on life. I understand the field better now. I think more about the craft of language and the care of words. Not that I didn’t do this before, but now these issues have become more focused. Wittgenstein (1977) states

Working in philosophy [and I would add curriculum studies]—like work in architecture in many respects—is really more a working on oneself. One’s own interpretation. On one’s way of seeing things. (p. 16e)

Like Wittgenstein, William Pinar, throughout his work, suggests, too, that scholarship is about working on the self. The self-work, if you will, becomes public when the work is published. Thus, working on the self is not merely a narcissistic exercise. David Jardine (1998) writes that “the interpretation is thus unavoidably linked to me” (p. 44). My interpretation of the texts examined in this guidebook is “unavoidably linked to me.” My interpretation might ← 7 | 8 → be very different from someone else’s interpretation. This might seem commonsensical but it is not. Interpretation is personal and political. Interpretation is psychological. Interpretation is socially constructed and culturally mediated. Terry Eagleton (2013) says

Literary works [and here too I would add work done in curriculum studies] may best be seen not as texts with a fixed sense, but as matrices capable of generating a whole range of possible meanings. They do not so much contain meaning as produce it. (p. 144)

The purpose of interpreting texts is indeed to produce knowledge. Scholars, by fleshing out passages, by arguing certain points, by comparing and contrasting other texts are producing knowledge. But again these knowledges are perspectival and, in fact—as Eagleton (2013) suggests—texts can “generate a whole range” of “meanings.” There is little consensus, for example, in curriculum studies on theoretical frameworks. The way I see the field is very different from the way someone else sees the field. The theoretical frameworks that I have chosen for these guidebooks are not fixed in stone. There are many ways of seeing the field. The theoretical frameworks that I chose to work on were ones that I thought represented the current scene in curriculum studies. But different scholars might have chosen different theoretical frameworks. I chose books that I thought were notable in the field. Others might have chosen different books to work on. Nadine Gordimer (2003) states:

A journey through realms of how far, wide and deep writing can venture in the endless perspectives that you have to find your way to yours, at the urge of the most powerful sense of yourself—creativity. (p. 60)

There are endless perspectives on what constitutes the discipline of curriculum studies. There are endless perspectives on which theoretical frameworks should be used when talking about curriculum. At the end of the day, as Gordimer explains, it is creativity above all that allows writers to write what they do. I see scholarship, at bottom, as a creative adventure. I do think that to advance a field scholars must be creative in finding new ways of talking about issues. Interpretation, too, is a creative adventure. In fact, Umberto Eco (2012) says that “a text is a machine conceived for eliciting interpretations” (p. 6). I hope this guidebook opens spaces for a multitude of interpretations. ← 8 | 9 →

Theorizing Curriculum

There are many ways of theorizing curriculum. And there are many things to think about when it comes to theory, generally speaking. In fact, Verlyn Klinkenborg (2013) says

Every work of literature [or curriculum studies] is the result of thousands and thousands of decisions. Intricate, minute decisions—this word or that, here or where, now or later, again and again. It’s the living tissue of a writer’s choices. (p. 33)

Scholars—like novelists or poets—make “thousands and thousands of decisions.” It is not enough to have ideas. One must write about these ideas. One must communicate these ideas. Not only that. Scholars might think about writing more eloquently or even poetically. But most scholars do not concern themselves with eloquence or poetics. Finding the right words is a beginning. This is difficult. And as Klinkenborg puts it, writers have an infinite amount of choices to make. Revisions are about making new choices. To revise means to change your mind. This guidebook, for example, went through many, many, many revisions! My goal in rewriting passages was to make for a more readable book. I do not consider myself a writer per se, but a scholar who struggles with language. And what a struggle it is. John Dewey (1991) remarks in his book How We Think

Thinking [or curriculum theorizing] begins in what might be called a forked-road situation, a situation which is ambiguous, which presents a dilemma, which proposes alternatives. As long as our activity glides smoothly along from one thing to another, or as long as we permit our imagination to entertain fancies at pleasure, there is no call for reflection. Difficulty or obstruction in the way of reaching a belief brings us, however, to a pause. In the suspense of uncertainty, we metaphorically climb a tree. (p. 11)

Theorizing curriculum is that “forked-road situation.” There are times when scholars do not know which road to take. There are many dead ends. And there are many false starts. It is interesting to note that Dewey suggests that thinking takes place in difficulties and in uncertainty. Nothing is clear cut in scholarship. Oftentimes you cannot find your way. But then—after much study and work—you do find your way. Patience and frustration are, at least for me, the root of theorizing. Perseverance helps. Yet one can still be unsure of where one is going. ← 9 | 10 →

Like Dewey, Jorge Luis Borges—according to Umberto Eco (1995)—also uses the metaphor of forking paths when it comes to writing. This way, or that, which road to take? Sometimes it is so hard to know where to go next. Alberto Manguel (1996) and Geoffrey Hartman (1982) talk about the labyrinthine nature of reading and writing. This image is of importance to me because in the first three chapters on history in this guidebook, I wanted to make the experience of reading feel like being in a labyrinth, to somehow capture the nonlinearity of history. This more postmodern approach reflects lived experience. Nothing happens in a straight line. Life is like an ongoing tangent. Nothing is finished. Things seem chaotic. History is happening all around us but to try to capture the past—as well as the present—is nearly impossible. Madeleine Grumet (2006) says, “Theory is in constant flux” (p. 67). History is in constant flux. So is life. So too are academic fields. Curriculum theory is continually changing. Theoretical frameworks, too, are continually changing. But, as Jonathan Culler (2011) points out, there is more to theory than change. He states

Treating contemporary theory as a set of competing approaches or methods of interpretation misses much of its interest and force, which comes from its broad challenge to common sense, and from its explorations of how meaning is created and human identities take shape. (p. xi)


ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
Multiculturality Cosmopolity Education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 456 pp.

Biographical notes

Marla B. Morris (Author)

Marla Morris (PhD, Louisiana State University) is Professor of Education at Georgia Southern University. Morris is the author of On Not Being Able to Play: Scholars, Musicians and the Crisis of Psyche; Teaching Through the Ill Body: A Spiritual and Aesthetic Approach to Pedagogy and Illness; Jewish Intellectuals and the University; and Curriculum and the Holocaust: Competing Sites of Memory and Representation. Morris is author of numerous journal articles in the field of curriculum studies. She won the Critic’s Choice Award (Educational Studies Association) the Jack Miller Award for Scholarship and Creativity at Georgia Southern University in 2004.


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469 pages