Table Of Content
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Preface: Against Canonphobia. Curriculum as Political
- Part I. The Curriculum Field
- Chapter 1. Opening up Curriculum Canon to Democratize Democracy
- Chapter 2. Dewey and the Herbartians: The Genesis of a Theory of Curriculum
- Chapter 3. The Discursive Roots of Community: A Genealogy of the Curriculum
- Chapter 4. A Marxian and Radical Reconstructionist Critique of American Education: Searching Out Black Voices
- Chapter 5. Arresting the Decline of Integrity in Curriculum Studies in the United States: The Policy of Opportunity
- Chapter 6. Undoing Double Binds in Curriculum: On Cosmopolitan Sensibilities in U.S. Curriculum Studies
- Chapter 7. In Search of the Lost Curriculum
- Part II. The Political and the Power of the Personal
- Chapter 8. Dialectics and the Development of Curriculum Theory
- Chapter 9. Autobiography and an Architecture of Self
- Chapter 10. Subject Matters? Curriculum History, the Legitimation of Scientific Objects, and the Analysis of the Invisible
- Chapter 11. Curriculum Theory, Education Policy, and “The Recurring Question of the Subject”
- Chapter 12. Poststructuralism in Curriculum Policies in Brazil
- Part III. Curriculum Inquiry: Re-Thinking/De-Canon the Canon
- Chapter 13. Epistemicides: Toward an Itinerant Curriculum Theory
- Chapter 14. Revisiting the Question of the “Indigenous”
- Chapter 15. Renegotiating Epistemic Privilege and Enchantments with Modernity: The Gain in the Loss of the Entitlement to Control and Define Everything
- Chapter 16. Curriculum Inheritance: The Field, the Canon, and the Crisis of the Postmodern University
- Chapter 17. Canons as Neocolonial Projects of Understanding
- Part IV. The Dynamics of Ideological Production
- Chapter 18. Ideology and Methodological Attitude
- Chapter 19. The Voices of Women in Curriculum Tensions
- Chapter 20. Revisionist Ontology and the Historical Trajectory of Black Curriculum
- Chapter 21. The New Terms of Race in Light of Neoliberalism and the Transforming Contexts of Education and the City in the Era of Globalization
- Chapter 22. Early Education as a Gendered Construction
- Chapter 23. The Cape Verdean Language and Identity Question: Pride, Politics of Negation, or Willful Ignorance?
- Chapter 24. Globalization: The Lodestone Rock to Curriculum
- Part V. Curriculum (Counter)Discourses
- Chapter 25. Intercultural Curriculum in Neonationalist Europe: Between Neonationalism and Austerity
- Chapter 26. The Intercultural Curriculum: Networks and Global Communities for Collaborative Learning
- Chapter 27. Curriculum as Discourse: From Africa to South Africa and Back
- Chapter 28. Curriculum, Nuyorican Memoirs, and the Improvisation of Identity: From What to Make of “Them” to How “Them” Might Make Themselves
- Chapter 29. Under the Gaze of Neoliberal Epistemology: Dislocating the National Curriculum and Re-Engineering the Citizen
- Chapter 30. Voices of the Curriculum to the South of Latin America: The Subject, the History, and the Politics
- Part VI. Teacher Education, Narratives, and Social Justice
- Chapter 31. The Curriculum and the Classroom
- Chapter 32. “Who” Is Teacher Education? Approaching the Negative Stereotypes of Teacher Education
- Chapter 33. Curriculum, Didaktik, and Professional Teaching: Conceptual Contributions from the Intersections of Curriculum Studies in an Age of “Crisis” in Education
- Chapter 34. Counteracting the Power of the Single Story in Teacher Education: Teacher Narratives as Lions’ Voices
- Chapter 35. Exploding the Canon: Historical Contextualizing as a Means for Social Justice
- Chapter 36. Toward Academic Decolonization in Critical Curriculum Studies: Learning from the Japanese History Textbook Controversy over “Comfort Women”
- Afterword : Curriculum? Tentative, at Best. Canon? Ain’t No Such Thing
- Series index
What’s going on in education around the world is part of what I oftentimes called a recovery movement. A recovery of dominant power; whether it be colonial power with new forms of colonialism; whether it be gendered power with new forms of patriarchy; racial power with new forms of the recovery of white supremacy; whether it be class power with new forms of class elitism and of global Empire that exist and unfortunately no matter where I go now, Education plays the role of helping to support that empirical behemoth.
Instead, we are told—not surprisingly by the knowledge fund reformers and billionaire gurus – that schooling is about the production of trained workers; memorization is more important than critical thinking; standardized testing is better than teaching students to be self-reflective; and learning how to read texts critically is not as important as memorizing discrete bodies of allegedly factual knowledge.
We are living in dark times for education/schooling and the world. Democracy (United States’ style) is spread around the world at the point of a gun or from the ever-present targeted space of drones. Take our democracy or else. Fear dominates the landscape. Populations are willing to trade their freedom(s) for a false sense of security. Drones, security cameras, iPhone tracking, and advance imaging technology at airports all promise us security as our every ← ix | x → move is monitored. Educational institutions are monitored by cameras, metal detectors and alike. While this perpetual surveillance is in place, consumerism has become our way of life as consumption becomes the sine qua non of existence.
I was reminded recently by a colleague, who introduced a recent presentation of mine that she thought I had been writing about curriculum as a political text for thirty years or more. After thinking about it, I realized Julie Webber was right. And, that curriculum as a political text will be the focus of this preface and why The Curriculum: Decanonizing the Field is so important to the field of curriculum studies. Paraskeva, in his introduction to this volume, discusses his notion of the “itinerant curriculum theoretical (ICT) path.” In Paraskeva’s ICT address, he maintains, the flaws are within counter-dominant perspectives. It addresses the issue of a new hipster (my word) canon replacing the old canon (particularly a western canon) (see Paraskeva, 2011).
I began studying curriculum in the early 1980s. I came from the public school classroom with degrees in English education and before coming into the world of curriculum studies had only read about developing adequate plans to teach novels, plays, poetry, writing, grammar, and on and on. It was a time of teacher-proof materials and competency testing. I was angry about the ways in which these teacher-proof materials set out a complete pre-packaged plan for teachers and how my thinking concerning curriculum was simply about developing it. Now, pre-service teachers are instructed to construct scripted lesson plans, planning out exactly what to say minute by minute in their potential classrooms and that is curriculum. This all takes place within the test-driven/teach to the test milieu. Prepackaged curriculums plans, PowerPoint presentations, objectives, lesson plans, and on and on are available for purchase. This is part of our “consuming life” (Bauman, 2007) in education. It is an important part of an anti-intellectual view of education. Corporations now determined curriculum in schools. Pearson, one of the largest publishing companies in the world, has come to dominate not only public school curriculum but with the advent of edTPA is on the way to controlling the entry into teaching through the determination of the requirements and assessment of pre-service teaching requirements. Pearson owns a significant portion of the publishing industry—publishers such as Prentice-Hall Press, Puffin Books, Penguin, Viking Press, Addison-Wesley, Adobe Press, Allyn & Bacon, Cisco Press, Early Learning, Longman, Scott Foresman, and many others (see Job, 2014). Pearson has mounted the corporate takeover of education and teacher education. The company not only dominates the publishing ← x | xi → industry but the lucrative testing market as well. Pearson is the major corporate force determining not only what textbooks are available, but the requirements for pre-service teachers. All of their influence translates into marketable products to be consumed.
When I began studying and working during the reconceptualization, that phenomenon was for me an actual intellectual/life-changing experience. Now for educators immersed in contemporary schooling understanding, The Curriculum should likewise be an awaking. For those trying to understand curriculum in the 21st century, the field can seem overwhelming. Terms swirl about. Reconceptualization, post-reconceptualization, cosmopolitanism, internationalization, post-structuralism, and canonization are all terms that are encountered in the curriculum studies field. These are terms not in the current jargon of testing, accountability, assessment and standardization. They are discussed in the pages that follow and that is a significant contribution. Enhanced understanding(s) of curriculum can lead to enhanced understandings of ourselves and the world around us, which leads us to question the taken-for-granted.
Scholar/teachers as intellectuals investigating curriculum studies need to have a global historical understanding of the curriculum field. That historical understanding needs to not only be about the field since the reconceptualization in the 1980s, but to become an understanding that looks at the global “struggle” (Kliebard, 2004) over the curriculum since the field emerged. The Curriculum has ample examples of essays engaged with that historical understanding. As Pinar (2004) indicated, “in our time, to be intellectual requires political activism” (p. 10).
Giroux, H.A. (2012). Education and the crisis of public values: Challenging the assault on teachers, students & public education. New York: Peter Lang.
Job, J. (2011, November). The Pearson monopoly. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://teacherblog.typepad.com/newteacher/2012/11/on-the-rise-of-pearson-oh-and-following-the-money.html.
Kincheloe, J. (2007). Address for the Paulo Freire and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. Address at 150th Anniversary of the Faculty of Education at McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Kliebard, H.M. (2004). The struggle for the American curriculum 1893–1958 (3rd ed.). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
Paraskeva, João (2011). Conflicts in Curriculum Theory. Challenging Hegemonic Epistemologies. New York: Palgrave.
Pinar, W.F. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Reynolds, W.M., & Webber, J.A. (2004). Expanding curriculum theory: Dis/positions and lines of flight. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
The following chapters have been reprinted by permission.
Chapter 2. “Dewey and the Herbartians: The Genesis of a Theory of Curriculum” by Herbert Kliebard in Pinar, William (ed.), Contemporary Curriculum Discourses: Twenty Years of JCT (pp. 68–80). New York: Peter Lang. Chapter 8. “Dialectics and the Development of Curriculum Theory” by Henry Giroux in Pinar, William (ed.), Contemporary Curriculum Discourses: Twenty Years of JCT (pp. 7–23). New York: Peter Lang. Chapter 9. “Autobiography and an Architecture of Self” by William Pinar in Pinar, William, Autobiography, Politics and Sexuality: Essays in Curriculum Theory, 1972–1992. New York: Peter Lang. Chapter 14. “Revisiting the Question of the ‘Indigenous’” by George J. Sefa Dei in Dei, George Sefa (ed.), Indigenous Philosphies and Critical Education. A Critical Reader (pp. 21–33). New York: Peter Lang. Chapter 18. “Ideology and Methodological Attitude” by Patti Lather in Pinar, William (ed.), Contemporary Curriculum Discourses: Twenty Years of JCT (pp. 246–261). New York: Peter Lang. Chapter 22. “Early Education as a Gendered Construction” by Shirley Steinberg in Pinar, William (ed.), Contemporary Curriculum Discourses: Twenty Years of JCT (pp. 474–480). New York: Peter Lang.
Curriculum is one of the great apparatuses designed to produce and reproduce an hegemonic modern(ity) way of existing and thinking. It was undeniably one of the official apparatuses. The curriculum as we know it not only paves the way for a blind epistemology, but also it was forged within a blind epistemology to use Sousa Santos, (2001) terms. We are before a paradigm with its days numbered since its inception – despite some noteworthy achievements, let’s concede – that was “organized around a bounded discrepancy between social experience and social expectations” (Sousa Santos, 2001, p. 253). That is, the field was swimming in a paradoxical set of waves in which “seen from the perspective of social experiences, social expectations are excessive, and vice versa, seen from the perspective of social expectations social experiences are deficient” (Sousa Santos, 2001, p. 253). Curriculum engaged in a cruel philosophy of praxis, one that completely neglected that “all knowing is knowing of a certain ignorance and that all ignorance is ignorance of a certain knowing” (Sousa Santos, 2001, p. 253). The unsustainability of curriculum as a full ← 3 | 4 → blast apparatus of modernity emerged also from within, with a huge armada of radial critical scholars – swimming in a specific curriculum river – challenging curriculum’s lack of relevance (Paraskeva, 2011). Yet, it is undeniable that the struggle for relevance and for the determination of relevance (Sousa Santos, 2001, p. 255) gained a different ideological momentum, with the commitment towards an epistemology of blindness (Sousa Santos, 2001) and an overt epistemological disobedience (Mignolo, 2009) unleashed by de-colonial and Southern theories. Epistemological disobedience, Mignolo (2009) argues, implies a “political and epistemic delinking, as well as decolonializing and de-colonial knowledges, as necessary steps for imagining and building democratic, just, and non-imperial/colonial societies. Geo-politics of knowledge goes hand in hand with geo-politics of knowing” (p. 3). The de-colonial path fosters the diversity of the de-colonials (Mignolo, 2009). Let’s now pay attention to the historical wrangles in the field that determined epistemological ruptures (Sousa Santos, 2001) within and beyond modernity.
The field of curriculum studies is undeniably inexhaustible, incessantly moving forward and backward while showing the latitudinal and longitudinal borderless world of convoluted struggles. If there is a dynamic field within the copious U.S. matrix of social sciences, certainly that is the curriculum field. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the epistemological battles over “what knowledge is of most worth” and over the crucial sociopolitical function of schooling (Spencer, 1969; Kliebard, 1995; Pinar, 2004; Paraskeva, 2011) have revealed a field that looks pretty much like a complex set of tectonic plates in permanent ebullition—a multiplicity of ideological volcanoes spewing lava that smothers a myriad of epistemological impulses while simultaneously paving the way for many other perspectives—as documented in the works of scholars such as Kliebard (1995); Schubert (1980, 2003); Wraga (1994); Pinar (1975); Franklin (2000); Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman (1995); Watkins (1993); Paraskeva (2007, 2011); and Baker (2012), though from slightly different perspectives. For example, Kliebard’s (1995) masterpiece The Struggle for the American Curriculum mapped such epistemological impulses, highlighting the role played by the humanists, the social developmentalists, the social efficiencists, and social meliorists, who were led by Eliot, Harris, Hall, Rice, and Ward (Kliebard, 1995) in the intricate clashes over control of the field.
Schubert and Lopez’s (1980) Curriculum Books: The First Eighty Years unveils secular curriculum’s ideological and epistemological perspectives or discourses that emerged in each decade of the twentieth century—namely, the social behaviorist, intellectual traditionalist, experientialist, and critical reconstructionist. Drawing from a multitude of different epistemological terrains, the ← 4 | 5 → authors claim that each ideological perspective was indeed fighting for control of curriculum knowledge and its social function in U.S. society. That is, the social behaviorists with their empiricist cult, the intellectual traditionalists with an emphasis on the great works as the curriculum core, the experientialists with their focus on the curriculum based on vast experiences, and the critical reconstructionists with their hearts in social justice, all rub against each other. Each one tries to build the best argument possible to secure the acquiescence of the majority, thus winning the battle for a commonsensical understanding of what/whose knowledge is of most worth. Let us pause here and briefly frame—through Eliot, Harris, Hall, Rice, and Ward’s approach—how a superior cult of a particular Western episteme has been defended and legitimized since the turn of the twentieth century in the United States.
Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909 and chairman of the famous Committee of Ten, fought for an educational system based on common and higher standards and uniformity between both secondary and college admission prerequisites, claiming that education for life was education for college (Paraskeva, 2007, 2011).
The Committee of Ten searched for uniformity in both “secondary school programs and in college admission prerequisites” (Eliot, 1894, p. 107; also see National Education Association, 1894). As Eliot declared, “a single common course of studies, tolerably well selected to meet the average needs, seems to most Americans a very proper and natural thing” (p. 11). The Committee of Ten proposed a curriculum matrix for secondary schooling based on four programs or courses of study that were separately designated as classical, Latin-scientific, modern languages, and English (Krug, 1964). The report “disseminated a praiseworthy educational theory which attempted to create greater complicity between the secondary school system and colleges” (Eliot, 1894). The document spurred a wide range of heated reactions (see Sizer, 1964; De Garmo, 1894). The Committee of Ten was the victim of a well-spent popular psychology that defined education merely as a preparation for the faculties of the mind (Schurman, 1894).
William Harris, while more sensitive to the need for social transformation than Eliot, and quite engaged in certain reform causes such as women’s access to higher education, showed a conservative approach as well (Paraskeva, 2007, 2011). According to Harris (1880), education should open five windows of the soul (arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, and literature)—five provinces that would remain the means by which the culture would be propagated and perpetuated to the majority of citizens. The course of study for schools and colleges should have two functions. Harris adds: ← 5 | 6 →
It must furnish the best range of studies for discipline—or the subjective training of the powers of the mind, and it must present the objective world of nature and humanity in outlines complete enough to give to the youth a general survey of his relations to both aspects of the world. (p. 167)
On the front lines of the criticism directed at the recommendations disseminated in the Report of the Committee of Ten, one could find Stanley Hall (Paraskeva, 2011), the leading figure of an emerging powerful pedagogical movement in the United States: the child study movement. Hall’s ideological take was based on the recognition of a natural order of child development that he believed should serve as the scientific platform for determining what should be taught. Hall’s child study movement is based on three major areas:
[F]irst, it benefited the teacher by educating, stimulating, refreshing, and reinvigorating him; second, it had the child as its referent and enabled teachers to adapt their methods to the children in order to make alterations in the course of the teaching-learning process that were positively received; and third, the child study movement was an added value for science, since it involved contact between the best science and the best education of the time. (Paraskeva, 2011, p. 34)
Stanley Hall was a fervent believer that it was a fallacy that all students should learn the same way and for the same period of time, learning independently of their hypothetical destiny. Hall (1904) pointed to the fallacy of uniformity, noting that there is a “great army of incapables, shading down to those who should be in schools for the dullards or subnormal children” (p. 509). Also, Hall challenged the fallacy that all subjects are of equal importance and, therefore, should be taught in the same manner, which implies an overlapping priority of form over content. Moreover, Hall also understood as a fallacy that preparation for college is essentially the same as preparation for life. In Hall’s (1901) opinion, the established educational order should be inverted so that “the college depends on the high school, and not vice versa. The latter should declare its independence, and proceed to solve its own problems in its own way” (p. 487).
In his campaign against the state of the U.S. educational system and curriculum, Joseph Rice openly attacked the public at large, the superintendents and his staff, as well as the teachers for the educational chaos. Rice (1912) stressed that the level of crisis the education system had reached forced the imposition of a “scientific system of pedagogical management [that] would demand fundamentally the measurement of results in the light of fixed standards” (p. xv). He argued further: ← 6 | 7 →
The school has but a single purpose, which is that of educating children. Consequently, in the strict sense, scientific management in education can only be defined as a system of management specifically directed toward the elimination of waste in teaching, so that the children attending the schools may be duly rewarded for the expenditure of their time and effort. (p. viii)
According to Rice (1912), there was a direct proportionality between time and results that should never be belittled. Such proportionality would prove to be a polemical issue because, as Rice stated, educators could not reach a consensus on the two questions that dominated schooling practice: “(1) How much time shall be devoted to a subject? and (2) What result should be accomplished?” (p. 5).
Rice proceeded with his crusade, arguing loudly for scientific management of the schools, which was marked by criteria of efficiency and efficacy, and calling attention to the difficulties permeating rational education reform. For Rice (1912), “politics in school boards, incompetent supervision, [and] insufficient preparation on the part of teachers [were not] the ultimate cause” of public indifference and obstacles to educational progress; they merely constituted “the symptoms of a much more deeply hidden disease which permits all sorts of havoc to be played with the schools” (p. 20). The nation needed a professional teacher-training program, because the “incompetence and negligence” (Rice, 1914/1969, p. 15) that permeated the teaching profession at the time was malignant.
According to Rice (1914/1969), a school subjected to unscientific or mechanical management meant that it assumed as its principal function the practice of “crowding into the memory of the child a certain number of cut-and-dried facts—that is, that the school exists simply for the purpose of giving the child a certain amount of information” (p. 20). Conversely, “the aim of the new education was to lead the child to observe, to reason, and to acquire manual dexterity, as well as to memorize facts—in a word, to develop the child naturally in all his faculties, intellectual, moral, and physical” (p. 21).
Rice (1914/1969) highlighted three general principles that underlie his theory of scientific management:
The school system must be absolutely divorced from politics in every sense of the word so that all the elements of the board of education do not feel obligated or coerced into giving opinions about what they think best for the school. The supervision of the schools must be properly directed and thorough, [which translated into] creasing the professional strength of the teachers. Teachers must constantly endeavour to grow both in professional and in general intellectual strength. (pp. 17–18) ← 7 | 8 →
Rice, both despite and because of being associated with Herbartianism, diverged from the perspectives disseminated by Eliot and Harris and increasingly distanced himself from Hall. Rice ended up becoming the leader of the “third of the major curriculum interest groups that was to appear just before the turn of the century, the social efficiency educators” (Kliebard, 1995, p. 20). By its intention to depoliticize the education system, this social efficiency doctrine seemed to cast a common shadow with the notion of survival of the fittest, a leitmotif of Social Darwinism (Paraskeva, 2007, 2011).
At the front line of challenges to the Social Darwinist perspective was Lester F. Ward. According to Ward, “the laissez-faire position that the social Darwinists had advocated was a corruption of Darwinian theory because human beings had to develop the power to intervene intelligently, in whatever were blind forces of nature, and in that power lay the course of social progress” (Kliebard, 1995, p. 21). Ward maintained that Social Darwinists ignored “the crucial fact that with the emergence of mind the very character of evolution changes” (Cremin, 1964, p. 96), since “‘the mind is telic,’ [it] has purposes, [it] can plan [in other words, it is able to supplant] the relatively static phase of genetic evolution with a new dynamic phase” (p. 96).
In this sense, Ward (1883) maintained that “moral progress would largely depend on the intellectual direction of the forces of human nature into channels of human advantage” (p. 216). Spencer would transform his theory of knowledge evolution into a principle of curriculum (Kliebard, 1999) in which “the genesis of knowledge in the individual must follow the same course as the genesis of knowledge in the race” (p. 6). In contrast, Ward saw education as the great panacea for all social ulcers (Cremin, 1964) and believed that social progress would be achieved by the construction of a just and adequate educational system (Kliebard, 1995). Moreover, Ward (1883) maintained that social inequality was merely a reflex of the misdistribution of the social inheritance. Unlike Spencer and the Social Darwinists, Ward saw public education not as a cause of the erosion of parental responsibility but as the “only feasible device for turning evolution to the larger social good” (Cremin, 1964, p. 98).
By understanding education as a powerful instrument of social transformation, Ward distanced himself similarly from the humanist movement in general and, most particularly, from Eliot. However, it is important to note that, just like Eliot, Ward demonstrated an unwavering belief in the power of human intelligence (Paraskeva, 2011). In addition to denoting the nonexistence of class variations in the intellect, Ward (1883) characterized himself as a paladin of egalitarianism, fervently defending education as an instrument of diffusion and consolidation of social harmony. He strongly criticized the ← 8 | 9 → doctrine of the survival of the fittest and declared that the “denizens of slums are not inferior in talent to the graduates of Harvard College” (p. 290).
Undeniably, underneath each epistemological perspective was much more than just a particular political vision of a given society, but the imposition of a particular totalitarian episteme and view of epistemology, thus producing, reproducing, and legitimizing a specific Western canon—that is, a hegemonic epistemological canon, truly total, that saturates society.
However, as Kliebard (1995) insightfully claims:
No single interest group ever gained absolute supremacy, although general social and economic trends, periodic and fragile alliances between groups, the national mood, and local conditions and personalities affected the ability of these groups to influence school practice as the twentieth century progressed [and] in the end what became the [U.S.] curriculum was not the result of any decisive victory by any of the contending parties, but a loose, largely unarticulated and not very tidy compromise. (p. 25)
Kliebard’s claim is accurate. However, looking back at the history of the field, it is possible to understand which groups’—or movements’—orientations actually did and did not occupy the leadership of the field. If there is an orientation or a group that secularly has been able to influence the field’s leadership, it is the social scientificists—sometimes so misinterpreted, as William Wraga (1994) stresses. Without denying the accuracy of such a claim, Wraga (1994) addresses Tanner and Tanner (1990) and Kliebard’s (1995) call to historians for “a periodic revisiting of the original texts of foundational documents of the curriculum field” (Wraga, 1994, p. 6). In doing so, Wraga (1994) alerts and encourages the field for a more careful examination of the famous Cardinal Principles Report, which will avoid historical and ideological misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the social efficiency curriculum tradition. That report, Wraga (1994) stresses, “made calculated use of a contemporary catchword in an effort to widen its meaning as a slogan by employing it according to its conventional definition” (p. 8). Wraga (1994) argues that while educational scholars “have misrepresented both the intent and provisions of [the Report,] educational policymakers and practitioners have overlooked the critical unifying function” (p. 13).
What is also profusely clear, both in Kliebard and Schubert’s approaches, is that progressive curricular trends, despite all the dynamism and innumerable achievements, never occupied a key position within successive alliances that were formed throughout the twentieth century for the institutionalization of a particular curricular canon. Notwithstanding, such canon has undergone countless changes and metamorphoses; its ultimate goal was always a staunch defense of a particular episteme, an epistemological canon, that cast ← 9 | 10 → and clouded the way people thought about society, and concomitantly the very social function of schools and curriculum. More to the point, what I coined in another context (Paraskeva, 2011) as the critical progressive river—a non-organized group of radical critical intellectuals—was always and continues to be in general an anti-canon, a non-canon river. The struggles for the imposition of a particular curriculum canon are closely associated with a model of capitalist society defined by its modes of production and bloody relations created by such modes of production based on exploitation and social segregation. Education in general, and curriculum in particular, need to be understood within the complex matrix of the capitalist mode of production.
Pinar’s Curriculum Theorizing (1975), an unjustifiably inconvenient approach for many scholars in the field (see Paraskeva, 2011), travels and exposes a more contemporary map related to such epistemological battles played by the traditionalists, empiricists, and reconceptualists. Pinar (1975, p. xii) overtly claims that, while the reconceptualists are a minority (comprising less than 6% of scholars in the field), their importance “for the field far exceeds their number.” Conversely, to the traditionalists and empiricists, this minority group of curriculum scholars challenged a dominant canon driven by “how-to” or practical solutions relying only on methodological tools of social sciences to produce curriculum inquiry. Despite being counter-dominant, Pinar (1975) states that
the importance [of the reconceptualists] lies in both the theme and function of their writing. The importance of their work is not to guide practitioners, as it is with the traditionalists and to some extent with the conceptual empiricists. Nor is it to investigate phenomena with the methods and aims of behavioral and social science as they are understood today. (p. xii)
In the exhaustive, “unruly and cacophonic” exegesis Understanding Curriculum, Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman (1995, p. xiii) showed the complex metamorphoses both within the emergence and development of the field at the turn of the nineteenth century as well as the development of such a counter-dominant bloc, and those who became dominant, within this counter-dominant tradition. Pinar and fellow researchers (1995), through this master narrative—a “landmark contribution to the field” (Grimmet & Halvorson, 2010)—maps not only the field’s (a) creation and transformation processes, 1828–1927, (b) its crises, 1929–1969, and (c) the reconceptualization of the field, 1970–1979, but also the field’s contemporary discourses, thus bringing to the fore a major and different understanding of the curriculum as a synoptic ← 10 | 11 → text. In this regard, Pinar and collaborators (1995) judiciously unveiled curriculum as a racial, gendered, phenomenological, poststructuralist, deconstructed, postmodern, biographical, aesthetic, theological, international, and political text. Peter Grimmet and Mark Halvorson (2010), without denying the importance of Pinar and others’ (1995) work in moving the foci “away from the technical emphasis in the field, argue that a foci [should be] with[in] the life world of curriculum instead of a preoccupation with its system world” (p. 242). In such a context, Pinar and fellow researchers’ (1995) semiotic (non-)synoptic laudably flagged a strong counter-dominant movement with a multiplicity of perspectives, challenging the dominant secular curriculum canon based on a particular Western epistemological view, thus framing the production, reproduction, and transformation of knowledge—and its ideological, political, and cultural circuits—as well as what counts as official in a consciously selective way. In this struggle, one cannot deny the crucial role played by African American intellectuals so well documented and examined by scholars such as William Watkins, as well as the so-called romantic critics, the Civil Rights Movement, and the student revolts.
Watkins (1993) insightfully brings to the fore what he calls a preliminary approach to his insightful “Black Curriculum Orientations,” inserting such orientations within and with profoundly leading roles in the struggle for the U.S. curriculum field. As Watkins (1993) reveals, such overlapping orientations—that is, the functionalist, accommodationist, liberal, social reconstructionist, Afrocentrist, and Black nationalist—need to be seen as an integral part of Black curriculum theorizing impulses intractably connected with the experience of Black communities in the United States. It is impossible to fully grasp the political economy of U.S. education without a clear understanding of “slavery’s contribution to the emergence of America’s rise to world power” (Watkins, 2001, p. 12).
Also, “the romantic critics brought a breath of fresh air to society in general and to the education field in particular by exposing a combination of radical positions and solutions” (Paraskeva, 2011, p. 102). It is actually impossible, as I (2011) and others (Apple, 2000; Ayers, 1992) have noted, “to understand the period of the middle 1960s without reading Herb Kohl, Jonathan Kozol, Jules Henry, Paul Goodman—people known as the romantic critics” (p. 102). In addition, I emphasized in a previous volume (2011) the role played by the Civil Rights Movement within the course of U.S. curricular history. The Civil Rights Movement’s struggle for a just society “cannot be separated from the long tradition of social struggles in the United States—for example, against a ← 11 | 12 → eugenic society or a segregated education system—that were led by W.E.B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and many others” (Paraskeva, 2011, p. 98). I also added that
The 1960s saw worrisome levels of social instability, perpetrated as much by the Civil Rights movement as by student and teacher revolts. The decade bore witness to the passing of legislation that defended human rights. Among the many notable events of the time, two assumed particular significance for the national and international memory: one occurred in Birmingham, where commercial areas … still had segregated drinking fountains and public facilities; the other occurred on August 28, 1963, when 200,000 people, led by Martin Luther King Jr., marched on Washington in a peaceful protest of the oppression of Blacks [see Williams, 1960; and Dellenger, 1960]. King shook the conscience of even the least attentive members of U.S. society with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. (Paraskeva, 2011, pp. 97–98)
This chain of unstoppable political events, led by the so-called “counterculture intellectuals” (cf. Schubert, 2008, p. 405) such as the romantic critics and, one must add, the Civil Rights intellectuals and student leaders, rattled the nation. On June 19, 1964, just 7 months after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Congress approved what would be known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which had a huge impact on education and curriculum in the United States.
The social instability expressed in the revolts by the Civil Rights Movement and by students and in the powerful criticism of various sectors of U.S. society led certain defenders of the disciplinary doctrine to reconsider some of their stances. Phenix and Schwab, great theorists of knowledge on this subject, significantly altered their positions in response to the student movement of the 1960s. Phenix (1969) saw that a curriculum approach fundamentally driven by the subjects could lead to a fragmentation of the curriculum that would be insensitive to certain societal issues. Despite holding curriculum notions similar to those of Tyler (see Schwab, 1970), after considering the issues of the student movement, Schwab (1969) noted that “our students are man and woman without a country” (p. 41). He added that “students are almost entirely deprived of proper curriculum occasions, especially sufficiently early occasions, for discovery, assay, and exercise of their competences with respect to form and structure, coherence and cogency, evidence and argument, recovery and formulation of meaning” (p. 40). The notion of change was gaining ground, and “the big mistake most schools have made is in showing reluctance to meet the child in his home territory” (Fantini & Weinstein, 1969, p. 6). In fact, education needed to become more appropriate for the disadvantaged, and “the educator’s commitment is to produce thinking, well-informed, healthy, happy democratic American citizens” (Crary, 1969, p. 5; Metcalf & Hunt, 1970). ← 12 | 13 →
In my examination of the history of the field in Conflicts in Curriculum Theory (2011), I also examined and emphasized the importance and accuracy of such multifarious approaches but respectfully tried to move beyond them. In this particular respect, my aim was/is threefold: first, to bring to the fore the importance of movements such as the romantic critics, the Civil Rights Movement, and the student revolts in the complex struggle for the U.S. curriculum; second, to unveil the needs, limitations, and challenges of a particular critical progressive curriculum river in the struggle against the dominant tradition that has been able to impose and maintain a particular curriculum canon; and third, to denounce how curriculum has been secularly engaged in what I called curriculum epistemicides, and to call for the opening of the canon of knowledge.
The work of intellectuals such as Greene, Apple, Giroux, Pinar, and others needs to be understood in this context—that is, a context that made the curriculum’s lack of relevance one of the leitmotifs of these scholars in the struggle for a more just society. In fact,
many critical educators initiate a unique and intricate journey through the field of education by challenging curriculum relevance, based on a particular kind of Marxist/neo-Marxist perspective (or in reaction to such perspectives) on the theme of the (absence) of conflict in curriculum. The urgent need for school and curriculum relevance became a non-negotiable claim for critical progressive curriculum scholars. (Paraskeva, 2011, p. xx)
For them, it was the fundamental issue in the complex struggle for social justice and equality (Wexler, 1976). On the front lines of educational reform in the 1970s and 1980s, critics were claiming the need for a political reading of education in general and the curriculum in particular. They were also challenging the non-polluted curriculum perspective and its social relevance. One cannot minimize the influence of Huebner, Macdonald, Apple, Giroux, Freire, Wexler, Pinar, and McLaren, who themselves were strongly influenced, albeit in different ways, by complex epistemological zones such as analytical philosophy, symbolic interactionism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, critical theory, poststructuralism, literary criticism, and (neo-)Marxism, and by the developments emerging from what would be coined the new sociology of education/curriculum and the works of Willis, Bernstein, Young, Dale, and Whitty, among others (Paraskeva, 2011). They were able to bring to the fore towering concepts that would reshape the field: ideology, hegemony, common sense, hidden curriculum, power, reproduction, resistance, transformation, emancipation, class, gender, and race, among others (Paraskeva, 2011). ← 13 | 14 →
Looking at the front line of the counter-dominant political realm that challenged the curriculum canon, one must highlight Apple and Giroux’s approaches. Despite fiery tension within the counter-dominant armada, Pinar and colleagues (1995) stated:
Wexler emerged [in the 1970s] as the most sophisticated critic on the Left of Apple and Giroux, and quite possibly the most sophisticated theoretician on the Left in contemporary field, [but] … one cannot ignore the massive dominance portrayed by Apple and Giroux. The effort to understand curriculum as a political text shifted from an exclusive focus upon reproduction of the status quo to resistance to it, then again, to resistance/reproduction as a dialectical process, then again—in the mid-1980’s—to a focus upon daily educational practice, especially, pedagogical and political issues of race, class, and gender. The major players in this effort continued to be Apple and Giroux, Apple through high voluminous scholarship and that of his many students, and Giroux through his prodigious scholarly production. (p. 44)
However, these are not similar approaches. According to Aronowitz (1981), Giroux was able to go “further than many of his contemporaries such as Apple and Willis who grasp the contradictory character of schooling but have not conceptualized the moment when the classroom becomes open to change” (p. 3). Thus, we confront two different approaches and arguably distinct political projects. One needs to see such differences, upgrades, and detours as part of the critical history of the field. While Apple and Giroux target the same issues, they actually end up showing different ways to understand them, and, in so doing, they end up edifying distinct yet powerful curriculum approaches (Paraskeva, 2011). Although each in his own way was able to semantically stretch particular critical pedagogy insights to the limit, it seems that Giroux pioneered the will to play and explore new poststructural and postmodern perspectives (cf. Apple, 2010; Giroux, 1981).
Having as its epicenter the theme of conflict and struggle for schools and curriculum relevance, a number of critical theorists restructure the question formulated by Spencer, complexifying it but also making it more just (Paraskeva, 2011). Apple, for example, asks not what knowledge is of the most worth, but whose knowledge is of the most worth. In other words, the predominant issue is not knowledge itself but precisely whose knowledge. Whose vision does it represent? Who benefits? Faced with a school system that can be framed, as Giroux (1981) claims, as a social construct that serves to mystify rather than illuminate reality, one cannot deny the importance of challenging meaningless curricula (Paraskeva, 2011). In short, what is at stake, and always ← 14 | 15 → has been, is knowledge (selected, diffused, and evaluated)—a particular canon that has been failing the majority by its lack of social relevance.
However, some of these educators faced severe criticism from both conservative and progressive liberal platforms. The more severe and devastatingly heated debates occurred precisely within the very marrow of so-called progressive liberal and critical platforms. In different ways, Apple, Giroux, and Freire were not able to avoid straightforward, incisive criticism from Bowers, Wexler, Ellsworth, and also Pinar. As I was able to reveal extensively in another context (Paraskeva, 2011), particular radical and critical curriculum approaches have been under fire from some critical scholars frustrated with puzzling and unacceptable silences within the critical progressive curriculum river. Critical pedagogical theories not only exhibited an explicit functionalist approach, ignoring vital empirical research (see Liston, 1988; Paraskeva, 2011); they also showed a reactionary impulse—that is, particular concepts of critical pedagogy, such as empowerment, student voice, dialogue, and even the term “critical,” are representative myths that perpetuate relations of domination (see Ellsworth, 1989; Paraskeva, 2011). Paradoxically, despite the fact that particular radical critical neo-Marxist approaches were criticizing functionalist dominant and counter-dominant traditions, the reality is that they relied precisely on a functionalist approach (Paraskeva, 2011).
I am not claiming here that critical pedagogical theories had an inconsequential impact on the field. Also, one cannot undermine the critique that radical and critical pedagogical theories faced from within, which aimed to eliminate the profound transformative influence that critical perspectives had on the lives of millions of individuals from all over the world. In fact, this critique of particular radical and critical pedagogical theories laudably also emerges from within: an evolving process of self-conscious critique to address enigmatic silences in order to help better understand the educational complex. As Quantz (2011) claims, there is no such thing as perfect theory or plus que parfait theory. It is interesting to note, though, that it was through the struggle against a specific curriculum canon that a huge crater opened within the counter-dominant tradition in which one particular group was blamed not precisely for its inconsequence in interrupting and destroying the dominant curriculum canon, but precisely for inadvertently building a sort of anti-canon canon.
As I mentioned in Conflicts in Curriculum Theory (Paraskeva, 2011), such claims and counterclaims deserve a properly deep and detailed analysis. Although sensitive to the limitations and challenges of radical critical ← 15 | 16 → pedagogical approaches before an ever-more-complex global reality that is flooded with poverty and inequality like never before, critical scholars engaged in addressing such intricacies. In doing so, not only did they end up reinforcing the role of radical critical pedagogical approaches; they also made it a stronger platform for challenging the current neoliberal curriculum canon. In the frontline of such forces, one should highlight, for example, the approaches of Giroux, Pinar, and McLaren, as well as a particular group of decolonial and Southern theorists who were profoundly engaged in the complex process of addressing the Freirean question of “reinventing critical pedagogy.” In fact, the struggle for social relevance and social justice needs to be pushed into a struggle for cognitive justice—one of the great leitmotifs of the decolonial and Southern path.
At a time when the field laudably claims internationalization as a must, it is impossible to try to produce an internationalization that would look like Western expansionism within what I would call the fourth hegemonic period of capitalism (see Arrighi, 2005)—that is, an internationalism that in internationalizing the West (or a very particular West) wipes out (or attempts to wipe out) all other cultures, economies, and knowledges. This is unacceptable. And it is not a minor issue, as the concerns of many Western scholars testify. Pinar (2000) did not mince words when he addressed the LSU conference on the Internationalization of Curriculum Studies:
Is this project simply another American effort to expand its market for intellectual property in this instance the global market for its conceptual products in education? While this “call for conversation” is sincere given the cultural and linguistic complexity of the world, how can democratic dialogue possibly proceed without the dry formalism of those diplomatic exchanges associated with, say, representatives to the United Nations, or with the more nakedly political manipulations associated with cultural and economic imperialism? While it is I who has raised these questions, it will be each of us who must answer them for himself or herself. (p. 1)
Trueit (2010) claims that one needs to move beyond “the nationalistic, colonizing, and imperialistic values and tendencies that persist in modernist speech genres and practices” (p. xiii). Drawing on the work of U.S. leading philosopher Richard Rorty, Trueit (2010) carves out a clear distinction between dialogue and conversation, unveiling conversation as praxis and as inquiry. She argues that through conversation—as a praxis of the self and as a mode of inquiry—it is possible to “honor difference, to learn from each other [by keeping] the conversation going [thus] working toward understanding incommensurabilities [to keep] from imposing our values and beliefs on others” (Trueit, ← 16 | 17 → 2010, p. xiii). In fact, if the United States is to become a great nation guided by a moral compass, Kincheloe and Steinberg (2010) state, “it can do so only by way of its relationships with other nations and cultures” (p. 4).
Moreover, and following such a context, Baker (2009) claims that “transnational educational research has convincingly shown, for example, that former theoretical constructs, such as self and nation state, no longer remain adequate to the task of describing or understanding current issues in schools” (p. 25). Until quite recently, she adds, “curriculum history was produced as a national affair looking to what is rather than what was falling away, and refused or escaped ontologization” (p. 29). Baker (2009) vehemently stresses that
education strategies and issues spring from beyond the bounded territoriality of each specific nation-state while the advent of new and irreducible cultural sources of subjectivity, especially for children and youth, and urgent problems such as the eco-disaster produce notions of belonging and responsibility that may include, exceed and/or reject the symbolic work of union that flag and anthem were thought to achieve. (p. 25)
Peter McLaren, in his Marxian Ruminations around decolonizing democratic education (2008), also describes the need to pay attention to anti-canon, anti-decolonizing insensibility within certain ranks of critical theory. Profoundly influenced by Grosfoguel’s insightful anti-post-ideological politics and decolonizing approach, McLaren (2008) acknowledges that often the arrogance of the North American scholar “leads him or her to believe not only that knowledge is immune from the structural antagonisms of geopolitics of gender, and class struggle, but there is such a thing as a state of universal consciousness that is coterminous with the intellectuals who represent the advance guard of Western civilisation” (p. 47). More to the point, McLaren (2008) subscribes and encourages “critical educators to teach critically as a way of decolonizing democracy” (p. 49). Part of this process is undeniably the need for radical critical educators to interrupt and deconstruct empirical fabrications of particular social phobias such as Islamophobia. As Kincheloe and Steinberg argue (2010), Islamophobia is “the West’s effort—especially after the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries—to depict its own superiority” (p. 3). Kincheloe and Steinberg (2010) argue that radical and critical educators need to engage in an anti-Islamophobic education, one that expresses a real commitment to historicizing Islamophobia and other eugenic impulses. That is, contemporary Islamophobic miseducation of the West has been driven by the permanent need for a conflictive cultural model as the only way to save the West from the rest. In other words, “the miseducation of ← 17 | 18 → the West emerges from a long history of distorted Western knowledge about Islam … Islamophobia fanned by numerous scholars and the media” (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2010, p. 22) as well as the overt and hidden mechanisms related to the production and reproduction of popular culture. Sensoy (2010, p. 112) challenges what she terms Bugs Bunny pedagogical forms that legitimize the Muslim/Middle Eastern identity as scary, irrational, lazy, laughable, and easy to fool.
Social sagas such as intolerance, fundamentalist zealotry, and inhuman terrorism, portrayed by the media in a distorted way, “can also be found in all cultures and religions and … Western scholarship and education has often painted a Eurocentric black and white picture of who is ‘civilized’ and who is not” (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2010, p. 22). Islam is really part of the solution and needs to be contextualized with the Western colonial and imperial macro project. One cannot forget that the entire project of colonialism and exploitation has also been paved through education (see Abdi, 1999), both in its form and content, which is profoundly connected to the fact that whose knowledge is taught (and how) is meticulously implicated in the production and legitimation of a coloniality of being and power (cf. Mignolo, 2000; Quijano, 2000). To decolonize, Sleeter (2010) argues, encourages “educators to think critically about power relationships locally and globally today, power relationships on which society was historically constructed, and alternative relationships and ways of conceiving of life that are possible” (p. 201). Also, according to Sleeter (2010), to decolonize implies that “educators think critically about who they dialogue with and listen to when considering these issues, and who they have learned to dismiss” (p. 201). In his essay “The Subjective Violence of Decolonization” (2008), Pinar challenges the reader to interface colonization—decolonization beyond the intricacies of a political phenomenon. Drawing on Frantz Fanon’s rationale, Pinar claims that to decolonize implies not just a political repudiation of colonial oppressor forms but also a concomitant, complex psychological process of self-negation and subjective reconstruction of the oppressed. In this context autobiography, given its revolutionary impulses, plays a key role.
As I was able to claim in another context (Paraskeva, 2011), a deterritorialized approach—an itinerant curriculum theoretical (ICT) path—is the best way not only to challenge the secular dominant curriculum canon, but simultaneously to address in a timely manner some sinkholes within the very counter-dominant perspectives. In turn, ICT helps destroy any supercilious velleity of replacing a particular canon with another canon. ← 18 | 19 →
Like any other theoretical exercise for understanding the educational world in order to transform it (see Pinar, 2004), ICT certainly exhibits a latitudinal and longitudinal borderless space to deepen certain claims. Among many issues, ICT highlighted the dangers of linguistic imperialism framed by the English language and culture as one part of the genocide. Sentient of this linguistic imperialism as a crucial part of the genocide, ICT looks respectfully, for example, at how “camfrenglish”—“a language used in Cameron cities, invented and created daily by the Cameron’s urban youth”—a language that deliberately violates the linguistic rules of French and English and thus desacralizes Imperial languages (Ela, 2013, p. 24). In cities such as Yaonde, “Camfrenglish” is the people’s language. ICT also warns about the need to challenge any form of indigenitude or the romanticization of the indigenous cultures and knowledges, and it is not framed in any dichotic skeleton of West–Rest. In fact, it challenges such functionalist forms. Its itinerant dynamic pushes the theorist in a pluridirectional (non-necessary) direction. ICT challenges book worship (Tse Tung, 2007, p. 45). In fact, ICT also encourages us to pay attention to the multiplicity of forms to read the wor(l)d.
The struggle against curriculum epistemicides is a struggle to open the canon of knowledge (Sousa Santos, 2007). The main goal for critical progressive educators should be social justice and real democracy, coupled with an acknowledgment that there is no social justice without cognitive justice (Sousa Santos, 2005; cf. Paraskeva, 2010, 2011). This is not a minor issue, given that the field speeds toward internationalization in a moment paced by terrestrial globalization (Sloterdijk, 2013). The meaning of terrestrial globalization, Peter Sloterdijk (2013) argues, “reveals itself when one recognizes in it the history of space-political externalization that is seemingly indispensible for the winners and unbearable for the losers, but inevitable for both” (pp. 28–29). In a spaceless world (Bauman, 2004) profoundly segregated by neoliberal globalization doctrine, critical pedagogy, in its different windows (Kincheloe, 1991), needs more than ever to win the battle to democratize democracy. This battle and its triumph rely heavily on one’s capacity to open up the hegemonic canon of knowledge and expose the hidden compartments that have concealed counter-dominant knowledges from memory and legitimacy. The schools and the curriculum have a key role in such a struggle (cf. Counts, 1922). In fact, as Aronowitz (2001) argues, the reinvigoration of the Left depends on this.
This is above all a struggle over cognitive justice as well. As I have had the opportunity to state in great detail elsewhere (Paraskeva, 2008; Paraskeva ← 19 | 20 → & Torres Santomé, 2012), the very best way for schools to fight for a truly just and equal society—especially given the current impact of neo-radical centrist policies and strategies—is to engage in a struggle that respects what Sousa Santos, Nunes, and Meneses (2007) call epistemological diversity. As they argue, there is no such thing as “global social justice without cognitive justice” (p. ix). In fact, by claiming as “official” particular kinds and forms of knowledge, schooling participates in what Sousa Santos (1997) called epistemicides—a lethal tool that fosters the commitment to imperialism and White supremacy (hooks, 1994), and denies the existence of other forms of episteme beyond the Western episteme. More to the point, we have a reality at time of just and equal as seen through the current curriculum movement but the “real” (cf. Žižek, 2006) as experienced by youth and teachers is not about equity or justice but about equal and “rigorous” standards, which in turn becomes the “rigor mortis” of curriculum and education or the death of cognitive justice.
Sousa Santos and colleagues (2007) claim quite astutely that the “suppression of knowledge” from indigenous peoples of the Americas and of the African slaves “was the other side of genocide” (p. ix). Their argument is worth quoting at length here:
Many non-Western (indigenous, rural, etc.) populations of the world conceive of the community and the relationship with nature, knowledge, historical experience, memory, time, and space as configuring ways of life cannot be reduced to Eurocentric conceptions and cultures …. The adoption of allegedly universal valid, Eurocentric legal and political models, such as the neoliberal economic order, representative democracy, individualism, or the equation between state and law often rests … on forms of domination based on class, ethnic, territorial, racial, or sexual differences and on the denial of collective identities and rights considered incompatible with Eurocentric definitions of the modern social order. (Sousa Santos et al., 2007, pp. xx–xxi)
Thus, one cannot deny that “there is an epistemological foundation to the capitalist and imperial order that the global North has been imposing on the global South” (Sousa Santos et al., 2007, p. ix). What we need, as Sousa Santos (2004) argues, is to engage in a battle against “the monoculture of scientific knowledge” and fight for “ecology of knowledges,” which is
an invitation to the promotion of non-relativistic dialogues among knowledges, granting “equality of opportunities” to the different kinds of knowledge engaged in an ever broader epistemological dispute aimed both at maximizing their respective contributions to build a more democratic and just society and at decolonizing knowledge and power. (Sousa Santos et al., 2007, p. xx) ← 20 | 21 →
Thus the struggle for cognitive justice is a struggle against curriculum epistemicides—a struggle against any canon. The target should be fighting against the coloniality of power, knowledge, and being(s) (see Quijano, 2000; Mignolo, 2000; Paraskeva, 2011). According to Sousa Santos and fellow researchers:
In doing so, one will end up challenging particular floated notions, concepts, and practices of multiculturalism which are profoundly Eurocentric, created and describe cultural diversity within the framework of the nation-states of the Northern hemisphere … the prime expression of the cultural logic of multinational or global capitalism, a capitalism without homeland at last, and a new form of racism, tend[ing] to be quite descriptive and apolitical, thus suppressing the problem of power relations, exploitation, inequality, and exclusion. (Sousa Santos et al., 2007, pp. xx–xxi)
We need a critical multicultural approach for curriculum, sensitive to a linguistic-system world as well (Grimmet & Halvorson, 2010, p. 255), that is based on emancipatory content and is aimed mainly at the articulations of difference, not for mere celebration of diversity through political or rhetorical gestures, but through critical emancipatory pedagogy and a curriculum that challenges teachers and students to see beyond the difference to the difference that remains occluded. Thus we will be allowing for the fruitful conditions of what Sousa Santos (2004) calls the sociology of absences. In other words, what we have here is a call for the democratization of knowledge that is a commitment to an emancipatory, nonrelativistic, cosmopolitan ecology of knowledge:
Bringing together and staging dialogues and alliances between diverse forms of knowledge, cultures, and cosmopologies in response to different forms of oppression that enact the coloniality of knowledge and power. [We actually need] to learn from the South [since] the aim to reinvent social emancipation goes beyond the critical theory produced in the North and the social and political praxis to which it has subscribed. (Sousa Santos et al., 2007, p. xiv)
This is a Herculean task, but one that we cannot ignore if we are truly committed to a real and just society. The struggle against the Western eugenic coloniality of knowledge is the best way to transform schools and their social agents into real, critical transformative leaders who engage in the tough endeavors to democratize democracy. As Sen (1999) claims, the emergence of democracy was an event of the twentieth century, and the real issue is to perceive how a particular community prepares itself through democracy and not try to scrutinize whether or not it is ready for a democratic society. Sousa Santos (2005) argues that this “is a paradoxical time”; on the one hand, “our ← 21 | 22 → current time is marked by huge developments and thespian changes, an era that is referred to as the electronic revolution of communications, information, genetics and the biotechnological” (p. vii). On the other hand,
It is a time of disquieting regressions, a return of the social evils that appeared to have been or about to be overcome. The return of slavery and slavish work; the return of high vulnerability to old sicknesses that seemed to have been eradicated and appear now linked to new pandemics like HIV/AIDS: the return of the revolting social inequalities that gave their name to the social question at the end of the nineteenth century; in sum, the return of the specter of war, perhaps now more than ever a world war, although whether cold or not is as yet undecidable. (Sousa Santos, 2005, p. vii)
Giroux (1994) claims that the role of teachers as public intellectuals is to decentralize the curriculum in such a way as to separate it from its Westernizing forms and content. The real issue is “how to democratize the schools so as to enable those groups who in large measure are divorced from or simply not represented in the curriculum to be able to produce their own representations, narrate their own stories, and engage in respectful dialogue with others” (Giroux, 1994, p. 289). Anchored in Euben’s approach, Giroux (1994) further argues that one good way to do it is to consciously understand the difference between political and politicizing education:
[While the former,] which is central to critical pedagogy, would encourage students to become better citizens to challenge those with political and cultural power as well as to honor the critical traditions within the dominant culture that make such a critique possible and intelligible [meaning] decentering power in the classroom and other pedagogical sites so the dynamics of those institutional and cultural inequalities that marginalize some groups, repress particular types of knowledge, and suppress critical dialogue can be addressed, [the latter] is a form of pedagogical terrorism in which the issue of what is taught, by whom, and under what conditions is determined by a doctrinaire political agenda that refuses to examine its own values, beliefs, and ideological construction. (p. 18)
Opening up the canon of knowledge includes challenging and destroying the coloniality of power, knowledge, and being, thus transforming the very idea and practice of power. The task before us is tough and difficult, yet it needs to be done. It is a struggle to save democracy by democratizing it—probably one of the most crucial battles of our generation. This volume needs to be seen in this context, a context that addresses the conditions for a new critical theory and a new emancipatory practice.
Sousa Santos (2006, p. xx) argues that “contrary to their predecessors, this theory and these practices must start from the premise that the epistemological ← 22 | 23 → diversity of the world is immense, as immense as its cultural diversity and that the recognition of such diversity must be at the core of the global resistance against capitalism and of the formulation of alternative forms of sociability.” One cannot ignore that some of the so-called Western grand narratives are responsible for the imposition of a particular scientific hegemonic Western canon that helped create a particular course of history, showing an incorrigible Eurocentric cult, and that these narratives “were in conspiracy with the colonialist looting of the world” (Sloterdijk, 2013, p. 4). Globalization, Ulrich Beck (2002) argues, “is not destiny. It can be shaped and influenced. Indeed, it has the capacity to reinvigorate what has classically been known as ‘politics’ and to give it new foundations” (p. xiii). It cannot drive to another canon of disaster. It is our task to challenge this cult, to decanonize the field. The curriculum field as a public right, a public agora, a public responsibility, as well as a public good, needs to play a key role in interrupting the predatory imperial impulses of globalization and reshaping it toward epistemological justice. The new itinerant curriculum theoretical (ICT) space and time in challenging any form of canon (dominant or counter-dominant) is committed to the fact that (a) all natural-scientific knowledge is social scientific, (b) all local knowledge is total, (c) all knowledge is self-knowledge, and (d) all knowledge aims to be common sense (see Barbosa de Oliveira, 2006; Sousa Santos, 2007). If, on the one hand, the struggle against the Western secular hegemonic curriculum canon cannot engage in the construction of another canon (the task is not to replace canons), then, on the other hand, one cannot deconstruct and decolonize such dominant canon just from a fixed Western epistemological platform, however radical-critical and counter-dominant it might be. The Western epistemological platform in its most sophisticated radical critical perspective is insufficient and inadequate to explain and change its own effects (Seth, 2011). In the process of challenging the dominant Western hegemonic canon, we need to simultaneously dare to address some sinkholes in the Western counter-dominant and non-Western perspectives and, in so doing, decolonize it. A good way to do this is to be committed to an ICT that deliberately disrespects any canon.
Structure of the Book
This volume is divided into six parts. Part I, The Curriculum Field, brings to the fore an examination not just of the emergence of our field, but also its different national and international theoretical contours. In this regard, Herbert ← 23 | 24 → Kliebard’s classic piece “The Genesis of a Theory of Curriculum” examines the crucial influences of John Dewey and the Herbartians in the emergence of what would end up being called “theory of curriculum.” Following Kliebard, Dewey’s interface with Herbartianism is essential to an understanding of his educational and curriculum theory. In fact, Herbartian concepts such as correlation, concentration, and culture epoch played a central role in Dewey’s democratic vision of the curriculum apparatuses. In “The Discursive Roots of Community: A Genealogy of the Curriculum,” historian Barry Franklin looks back at the period from 1890 through the first three decades of the twentieth century and examines such texts as the National Education Association’s Report of the Committee of Ten (1893) and the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education’s Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education (1918) to frame the discourse of how the purposes of public education became defined, and how its definition, nature, and structure remain virtually unchanged a century later. Franklin draws on the philosophies of Thorndike, Finney, and Dewey and examines how their formations cemented the foundation for public schooling. Through Foucauldian genealogy, Franklin looks at what these discourses can tell us about the state of the U.S. curriculum as movements in the field ebb and flow with the times. In “A Marxian and Radical Reconstructionist Critique of American Education Searching Out Black Voices” William Watkins examines the non-monolithical (Black) Marxian-Socialist critique of public education in the United States. In so doing Watkins assumes such task as a tricky endeavor since one is before many varieties of Marxism. As he claims ‘aside from myriad ideological differences, there are vast continental, regional, and national differences alongside modern and postmodern renditions’. Watkins unfolds the Social Reconstructionist movement and the contributions of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois within that radical dialogue in U.S. education. The chapter ends with a “call for more research into such relevant topic in the present era of school politics.”
William Wraga, in “Arresting the Decline of Integrity of Curriculum Studies in the United States: The Policy of Opportunity,” analyzes the misrepresentations of Tyler in curriculum scholarship. By examining other historical misrepresentations within the field of curriculum studies, Wraga argues that the contemporary U.S. curriculum field has become undermined in its intellectual integrity. The chapter further posits that the field of curriculum studies has become politically self-serving, irrelevant to schools, and not student focused. A different research take is offered by James Jupp’s “Undoing Double Binds in Curriculum: On Cosmopolitan Sensibilities in U.S. Curriculum Studies.” In ← 24 | 25 → working toward a creative undoing of conservative double binds in the U.S. curriculum, Jupp’s chapter develops the notion of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies as a means of adding needed historical verticality to a field imbricated in cultural studies’ new wave strategies. Jupp critically interprets developments in the U.S. reconceptualist curriculum field, including international transplantamiento, an analysis of cultural studies’ new wave strategies, and a reading of curriculum studies’ next moment that historically conjugates the present, past, and future. Jupp goes on to demonstrate how cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies do not negate cultural studies’ influences on curriculum studies, but rather provide a recursive and historical return for reinvigorating curriculum studies in the next moment. Finally, Spanish leading intellectual José Félix Angulo Rasco begins his “In Search of the Lost Curriculum” with a narrative of the journey of his discovering the notion of curriculum and how it is complicated by numerous descriptions and multiple authors trying to lay claim to its definition. While recognizing that the curriculum is inextricably tied to politics, Rasco finds a greater link between curriculum and culture. Curriculum is a cultural tool used to frame reality and constitute legitimacy. The linkage between curriculum and culture, Rasco argues, has been much overlooked, as the curricular focus has been placed on the pragmatic in contemporary times. Thus, as the curriculum is the vehicle by which culture is reproduced, special attention needs to be paid in this regard.
Part II, The Political and the Power of the Personal, unveils a specific approach to the curriculum field that challenges the dominant curriculum forms overwhelmingly framed within the reductive canon based on the cult of positivism. In “Dialectics and the Development of Curriculum Theory,” leading public intellectual Henry Giroux argues that we must consider new forms of discourse and practice to maintain the field’s critical posture. Giroux notes the importance of the concept of dialectic for the field in encouraging new avenues for interpreting its theory and praxis, thus forcing us to think within a new conceptual model to read the field critically. In “Autobiography and an Architecture of Self,” William Pinar shows the field to be otherwise. Pinar examines how autobiography and the architecture of the self are crucial to the construction of an authentic humanity. Autobiography, Pinar argues, helps one to better understand issues of power and dominance. Pinar claims that autobiography is a method, a crucial space for mediation of a plethora of impulses, memories, and dreams. It is a crude reformulation of history and life histories of the self, a self that we create and embody, as we read, write, speak, and listen. Bernadette Baker, in “Subject Matters? ← 25 | 26 → Curriculum History, the Legitimation of Scientific Objects, and the Analysis of the Invisible,” pays close attention to the tension between social science and historiography. Drawing on Munslow’s insights regarding the importance of nineteenth-century debates, Baker engages in an examination of the lack of settlement regarding the endowment of objects for study with the status of the scientific. In doing so, she insightfully denounces how curriculum studies in Anglophone-dominated platforms neglect to challenge how epistemological debates have been tied to human-centric imperatives in ways that “protect and isolate their primary categories from external accountability.” In “Curriculum Theory, Education Policy, and ‘The Recurring Question of the Subject,’” Tero Autio argues that “bigger, tighter, harder, and flatter” are the four pillars of the political reform strategy that is sweeping education, wherein the globalized “knowledge economy” curricula focus on competition, control, and surveillance rather than intellectual curiosity, creativity, or moral awareness. By “bigger,” Autio refers to scripted and paced pedagogy intertwined with market competition systematics. “Tighter” is the evidence-based curriculum and testing that translates into “harder” data-driven instruction as well as a “flatter,” back-to-basics, de-intellectual curriculum that is totally void of spaces for democratic voices of dissent. While this neoliberal maneuvering is predominant within the Anglo-Saxon nations, a substantial pushback from students, parents, and communities is emerging. To this end, Autio asks the salient question: “What might come next?” Alice Casimiro Lopes and Elizabeth Macedo, in “Poststructuralism in the Curriculum Policies in Brazil,” propose an examination of the curriculum as a transnational construction. Looking at Latin America through a poststructural lens and with particular interest focused on Brazil, Lopes and Macedo argue that curriculum theory should be conceived as structurally decentralized and focused on decentered identities. The chapter negotiates how Brazilian curriculum studies from the 1990s to the present continue to be an “identity-fixing project.” While these social change projects are rooted in politics, social change projects that instead engage in the political struggles for identity and the “ways of being” should be embraced.
Part III, Curriculum Inquiry: Re-Thinking/De-Canon the Canon, offers different perspectives regarding the need for a non-stop struggle against dominant traditions, both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic. In this context, João Paraskeva’s “Epistemicides: Toward an Itinerant Curriculum Theory” examines how the curriculum field has been securely engaged in an “epistemicidium” by producing realities beyond the Western epistemological platform as non-existent. Paraskeva challenges the functionalism of dominant and certain ← 26 | 27 → counter-dominant traditions and suggests the Itinerant Curriculum Theory as a possible future to challenge epistemicides. In “Revisiting the Question of the ‘Indigenous,’” George Sefa Dei claims his indigenous roots within the intricate complexities of a diasporic context. Relying on an anthropological anti-Eurocentric stance, Dei examines how Eurocentric, “fabricated” standards are inconsequential to the understanding of the value of indigenous epistemes. Moreover, Dei insightfully advises us to avoid any monolithic position regarding non-Western epistemologies; such a eugenic position only reinforces the danger of the cult of Eurocentric dominance. Dei examines how indigenous knowledges and methodologies are a profoundly contested terrain, a “non-unifying concept” that cannot be examined from a Western perspective. Vanessa Andeotti’s “Renegotiating Epistemic Privilege and Enchantments with Modernity: The Gain in the Loss of the Entitlement to Control and Define Everything” exposes the challenges of theorizing the renegotiation of epistemic privilege in education—accomplished through the use of conceptual tools for analyses and articulations of the difficulties of teaching and learning about inequalities and complicities, as well as through reflections on the translation of insights into in-service and pre-service educational contexts.
Dennis Carlson, in “Curriculum Inheritance: The Field, the Canon, and the Crisis of the Postmodern University,” argues that it proves problematic when those working to de-canonize the curriculum field are all products of the same canon themselves—a canon based on a Marxist platform comprised mostly of elite European White males. This is what Carlson calls a “crisis of identity” within the curriculum field. The chapter unpacks this crisis by exploring the public university’s Kantian framing in the modern era, pitting neoliberal pragmatism against liberal arts praxis as the curriculum field attempts to resist the neoliberal canon without boxing itself into its own corner. In “Canons as Neocolonial Projects of Understanding,” Susan Jean Mayer considers canons as forms of remembering and reconstructing the American colonial and neocolonial heritage. Throughout the Americas, European perspectives and theoretical constructs continue to exert a disproportionate influence within the world of educational theory, contributing in insidious ways to the ongoing oppression of people of color. Yet these perspectives constitute a past and a present that must be seen and theorized in relation to future aims—to galvanize scholarly engagement with a fraught intellectual history that has both crushed and inspired movements toward human liberation and dignity.
Part IV, The Dynamics of Ideological Production, exposes crucial contributions for a relational analysis of education in general and curriculum in particular. Patti Lather’s “Ideology and Methodological Attitude” ferociously ← 27 | 28 → challenges methodological-dominant traditions voicing and legitimizing a specific canon. Influenced by Hall’s motto “there is no social practice outside of ideology,” Lather argues that the explosion against reductive behaviorist methodological approaches—phenomenology, hermeneutic, naturalistic, critical, feminist, neo-Marxist, postpositivism, constructivist, postmodernism, poststructuralism, post-Marxism, postfeminism—created a “transdisciplinarity disarray regarding standards and canons” that redefines “what it means to do educational research.” Lather unveils how three “framings of framings,” namely post-Kuhnian, critical, and poststructuralist, tangled ideologically and methodologically. “The Voices of Women in Curriculum Tensions,” by Ana Sánchez-Bello, discusses how rarely issues of gender are voiced in discussions of cultural conflict or globalization, though they are key to such analytical debates. Women, rather than being centered within these contexts, are often objectified as symbolic representations of a cultural community. This chapter aims to develop a “feminist cultural interpellation” that allows de-stereotyped voices to attain social capital in order to battle inequality and injustice. Through the curriculum, such voices can be given space to open doors of opportunity and choice for girls through social emancipation. The curriculum can accomplish this, Bello argues, by critically analyzing the role of women in various cultures and by analyzing issues of identity while forming a “women’s culture.”
Drawing on Charles Mills’s (1998) notion of “revisionist ontology,” LaGarrett J. King, Crystal Simmons, and Anthony Brown’s “Revisionist Ontology and the Historical Trajectory of Black Curriculum” explores how African American scholars and activists revised and repudiated the racial imagery of African Americans in schools and societies. The authors argue that these curricular revisions were not just about adding stories to the mainstream curriculum discourse, but were instead racial projects contextualized by the racial narratives that surrounded and existed within the official curriculum discourse. Two periods during the twentieth century when African Americans sought to revise the school curriculum are explored: the “New Negro Renaissance Movement” (Gates, 1988) and the “Black Renaissance Movement” of the 1960s. King and colleagues further argue in this chapter that discussions about Black curriculum have largely been absent within the pervasive narrative of curriculum history and curriculum studies in the United States. Cameron McCarthy, in his “The New Terms of Race in Light of Neoliberalism and the Transforming Contexts of Education and the City in the Era of Globalization,” argues that there is often a profound methodological individualism associated with ← 28 | 29 → contemporary scholarly treatments of the topic of race: a tendency, particularly as it translates into policy discourses and practices of multiculturalism, to separate the discussion of race from other critical discourses such as Marxism, neoliberalism, and globalization. McCarthy situates the topic of race within the context of a discussion of globalization, neoliberalism, and the class conquest of the city, focusing attention on new philosophical and practical challenges to address the topic of racial antagonism within the school and the university. This chapter is formulated against the backdrop of important changes in social, economic, and cultural dynamics taking place on a global scale—dynamics that have profound implications for racial affiliation and “its” cultural and social use in the new century as “they” have for the organization of knowledge in schooling. Shirley Steinberg’s “Early Education as a Gendered Construction” examines the marginalization of women’s work in early education. Steinberg denounces and scrutinizes the asymmetrical power relations between women and men, challenging the paternalist construction of the ethics of caring that fundamentally contributes “to the exploitation of women and the subversion of critical vision of professionalism among early childhood education.” By accepting the ethics of a caring pastoral, Steinberg argues that women not only “subordinate their own concerns and needs, but also reinforce patriarchal relations between their husbands, male principals, bureaucratic supervisors and themselves.” Soraya Isabel de Barros, in her “Cape Verdean Language and Identity Question,” examines the relationship between language and identity formation in Cape Verdean communities, as well as the author’s personal and professional experiences as a Cape Verdean-born citizen of the United States. She highlights three different variants of the relationship between language and identity experienced by, but not limited to, Cape Verdean immigrants: pride, denial, and ignorance. She declares the need for a different curriculum theory and poesis, a deterritorialized position, to accurately grasp the linguistic diversity of minorities as a way to build a more just and democratic society. Finally, Elizabeth Janson, in “Globalization: The Loadstone Rock to Curriculum,” shows how education and curriculum policies and rhetoric, in an era of technology and globalization, have focused on preparing students for the international economy. Schools and curriculum serve as forgers of power relations. They rein in students, teachers, and administrators with policies that promote standardization, as exemplified by Common Core. However, by holding students to equal standards, schools fail to recognize how these curriculum standards serve to homogenize the identities of students who are diverse individuals with their own realities, experiences, and beliefs. The value of an ← 29 | 30 → individual mind becomes paradoxically undermined by a system that prides itself on its equality, diversity, and liberty. Janson claims that the United States symbolizes democracy and freedom, yet within its schools, disempowerment and regulations mold its future citizens. In addition, Janson examines how the conflicts and tensions caused by globalization have helped cultivate initiatives for cosmopolitanism and global citizenship in order to educate youth for world peace and a universal consciousness, undermining the importance of utopias. By employing a review of literature and critical discourse analysis, Janson’s chapter seeks to examine how globalization has heightened the need to analyze education in relation to social, political, and cultural beliefs.
Part V, Curriculum (Counter)Discourses, offers a diverse set of counter discourses concerning the intercultural curriculum and identity discourse, as well as neoliberalism and (neo)(de)colonialism and its implications in the construction of the subject. In “Intercultural Curriculum in Neonationalist Europe: Between Neonationalism and Austerity” Giovanna Campani argues that nationalism is the by-product of a politically structured curriculum that silences multicultural studies. Neo-assimilation movements, Campani claims, have rooted out intercultural and socially diverse curricula from mainstream education in Europe. The effects of this exclusion are manifested in the underperformance of students of immigrant backgrounds. However, while hegemonic forces call for greater standardization to bring into line the educationally and socially problematic “other,” it is precisely the lack of a multicultural and intercultural curriculum that proves to be the weak point of European education systems. Jurjo Torres Santomé’s “The Intercultural Curriculum: Networks and Global Communities for Collaborative Learning” examines how the shock of the global economic crisis has served as a pretext for defining and framing an educational crisis. As is often the case during crises, democracy becomes tethered, and authoritarian control is implemented. This authoritarian education is marked by uniformity and a redefining of purpose. Such neoliberal-controlled education systems then produce cultures and individuals focused on competition, consumerism, and the exploitation of “others.” This chapter examines how democratizing the school not only leads to greater individual educational success, but also translates into the creation of a better community for all. In “Curriculum as Discourse: From Africa to South Africa and Back,” Shervani Pillay claims that the field of curriculum studies is running the gauntlet. One of the key issues that Pillay addresses and foregrounds this debate with is the degree to which curricula have become sites of control and exclusion. Pillay argues that the extent to which curricula have and still ← 30 | 31 → continue to uncritically legitimate Western epistemologies—to the detriment of alternative ones—needs to be the focus of attention and vigilance. Using the contexts of Africa and South Africa, this chapter aims to undergird the role of higher education and the role its dominant epistemologies have played and continue to play in the colonization of African epistemologies and the African identity. Pillay calls for the field of curriculum studies to become more epistemologically vigilant and proactive in retrieving and “unmasking” the colonization of both the curriculum and the canon that provides its foundational basis. José Rosario’s “Curriculum, Nuyorican Memoirs, and the Improvisation of Identity: From What to Make of ‘Them’ to How ‘Them’ Might Make Themselves” exposes how the canonized curriculum “subvertly”—and sometimes overtly—is employed to “manufacture certain kinds of people.” Taking an oppositional stance, Rosario aims to see curriculum as a tool for allowing individuals to make a life for themselves. This is accomplished by examining the current social science narratives, looking at the notions of achievement, and employing memoirs to witness how lives are made. In “Under the Gaze of Neoliberal Epistemology: Dislocating the National Curriculum and Re-Engineering the Citizen,” João Rosa analyzes the construction of identities in the curricular models structured in the post-independence realities of the newly established Republic of Cape Verde in light of sociohistoric shifts in sociopolitical formations. Utilizing textual analysis and interviews, Rosa calls for a restructuring of the curriculum so as to create spaces of engagement where educational institutions can foster the development of a critical citizenry capable of challenging not only the current conceptualizations of curriculum but also the trajectory of the institution. Silvia Redon, in her “Voices of the Curriculum to the South of Latin America: The Subject, the History, and the Politics,” examines and discusses the configuration of a subject who has developed himself or herself within a historical-political context from a dominant culture that reproduces itself through the official curriculum. Bearing in mind such a framework, the chapter begins with the trip of this subject through the Latin American continent, specifically in the history of Chilean education. Redon’s aim is to understand the situated curriculum as a cultural field of power forces reproducing a subject with an “ideal” education that has been invented by a dominant power since the conquest of America, the ideals of the Modern Nation State, and finally captured by the neoliberal and commodification of the education.
Part VI, Teacher Education, Narratives, and Social Justice, examines the complex mantra of teacher education that, especially under the gaze of neoliberalism, has been reduced to training. In this section, scholars engage in ← 31 | 32 → different analyses of the connection between teacher educational and social justice, emphasizing the voices of educators greatly concerned with dangerous multi-dimensional de-skilling processes affecting the daily lives of teachers. In this context, Joe Kincheloe, in “The Curriculum and the Classroom,” examines how teacher education has been converted into teacher training, undermining the practitioner as a real public intellectual and scholar and imposing the view of teachers as technicians. Kincheloe unmasks how teacher-training policies and practices have been framed by and within a particular market agenda, an agenda that promotes (a) the return to so-called traditional values, (b) the formation of a neoclassical, market-driven economic policy, (c) the reassertion of long-term racial and gender relations, (d) the establishment of a school curriculum grounded on the transmission of “the truth,” not on inquiry and interpretation, and (e) the authorization of a top-down, fragmented, accountability-friendly, teacher-as-rule-follower system of public education. Silvia Edling’s “‘Who’ Is Teacher Education? Approaching the Negative Stereotypes of Teacher Education” argues that what can be observed internationally in political and public debates regarding schools are concerns about the results presented in, for example, TIMMS and PISA, that claim pupils’ knowledge skills have decreased alarmingly during the past decade. In order to address the problem, Edling cites several reforms that have either been implemented or are about to be, that focus on measurability, accountability, and control. These trends are not isolated but unite a number of countries worldwide. Three concepts are addressed in this chapter: (1) the reason for the decline in pupils’ knowledge is mainly due to the defects in teacher education, (2) the negative critique of teacher education is approached in general terms as if it were a singular organism, and (3) the solution to reversing the negative trend is through order and control such as essentialist values and more exams. Citing research from postcolonialism, feminist theory, critical theory, and queer theory, Edling argues that a central feature of oppression is the use of prejudices that damage the possibilities of acting. In “Curriculum, Didaktik, and Professional Teaching: Conceptual Contributions from the Intersections of Curriculum Studies in an Age of ‘Crisis’ in Education,” Anneli Frelin highlights the conceptual contributions from one of the many intersections of this field, that of the Anglo-Saxon Curriculum Studies and the German/European didaktik tradition. Teachers and researchers trying to make a difference in the current educational climate may benefit from a reminder of the rich sources and traditions that the field of curriculum studies carries for critically inquiring into educational practices. The language and the very concepts used today ← 32 | 33 → are often derived from the corporate sector, not the educational field. This chapter further explores the concept of teacher professionalism, connecting it to these long-standing traditions wherein the notion of education is not narrowed to mere employability but connects to wider aims such as human prosperity and solidarity. Maria Alfredo Moreira, in “Counteracting the Power of the Single Story in Teacher Education: Teacher Narratives as Lions’ Voices,” claims that the field of teacher education and supervision is filled with technical analyses of the work of teachers; it is filled with “how-to” procedural approaches to teaching subject A or B, with techniques for classroom observation, classroom communication, classroom management, assessment, technology, and so on. However, seldom in these analyses do we hear teachers’ and learners’ voices. Teachers’ narratives, as accounts of practice from an insider perspective, can be a powerful source for understanding teachers’ thinking and the way they construct professional knowledge. They also shed light on the constraints and struggles that teachers face in their daily lives in an attempt to make sense of educational aims, curriculum development, teaching practices, learning processes and outcomes, and so forth. Moreira’s chapter focuses on the way teachers’ narratives of practice can constitute valid sources for the construction of powerful educational knowledge against and beyond any canon. In “Exploding the Canon: Historical Contextualizing as a Means for Social Justice,” Thad LaVallee looks at how textbooks, of which the history and social studies canon is almost entirely comprised, serve as the basis for a national curriculum of history education for almost every school-age citizen. As a result, history and social studies courses have become less about history and more about his-story, that is, a viewing of the past exclusively through the lens of conservative, White, Christian, straight, wealthy U.S. males. While it can be a challenge to introduce the works of non-canonized historians into the public history classroom for a number of reasons, LaVallee employs a personal narrative of a year teaching in an urban high school to objectify the ways for history/social studies teachers to subvert the canon and to introduce authenticity to their students’ learning in order to historically contextualize and socially frame students’ individual and communal struggles for justice. Keita Takayama, in his chapter “Toward Academic Decolonization in Critical Curriculum Studies: Learning from the Japanese History Textbook Controversy over ‘Comfort Women,’” discusses one of the controversies over Japanese history textbooks in recent years—the controversy over textbook references (or non-references) to what is euphemistically called “comfort women.” More specifically, Takayama’s discussion of this case ← 33 | 34 → addresses three analytical and methodological agendas. First, Takayama problematizes the use of hegemony in critical studies of official knowledge, wherein struggles over school knowledge are defined primarily within the framework of a nation-state, or methodological nationalism. Second, he problematizes the use of counter-hegemony in the existing critical literature. In particular, he critically examines Michael Apple’s notion of “heretical thinking,” which he proposes as a key counter-hegemonic strategy. Finally, Takayama points to contradictions and to spaces of possible action surrounding the disputed Japanese history textbooks that arise from the inherent discrepancies between the domestic conservative hegemonic configuration and the regional hegemonic arrangement in Asia, of which the former is a part.
Educational projects are intrinsically ideological, political, and collective. No one would be able to accomplish a project of this nature singlehandedly. Many people contributed to the final concept, the structural arguments, and the legitimacy of this volume. We would like to express our profound respect for the late Joe Kincheloe as well. Joe’s encouragement, support, love, and care were crucial. We cannot forget the constant support and encouragement of the chapters’ contributors. To all of them, a fine thanks. Also, a word of profound gratitude to Chris Myers for his constant support, patience, and solidarity—not only in terms of this project, but also for his unconditional support for the macro project of critical thinking. A good word of appreciation to Bernadette Shade as well. Bernie has been a tremendous professional and her commitment to this project has been remarkable. Last but not least, thanks to our outstanding graduate students in the doctoral programs in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth—in particular Elizabeth Janson and Thad LaVallee, doctoral students in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Liz and Thad worked tirelessly to help us face the challenges of an edited volume.
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Pinar, W. (1975). Curriculum theorizing: The reconceptualists. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.
Pinar, W. (2000). Introduction: Toward the internationalization of curriculum studies. In D. Trueit, W. Doll, Jr., H. Wang, & W. Pinar (Eds.), The internationalization of curriculum studies (pp. 1–13). New York: Peter Lang.
Pinar, W. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Pinar, W. (2008). The subjective violence of decolonization. In A. Abdi & G. Richardson (Eds.), Decolonizing democratic education (pp. 35–45). Rotterdam: Sense.
Pinar, W., Reynolds, W., Slattery, P., & Taubman, P. (1995). Understanding curriculum: An introduction to the study of historical and contemporary discourses. New York: Peter Lang.
Quantz, R. (2011). Rituals and student identity in education: Ritual critique for a new pedagogy. New York: Palgrave.
Quijano, A. (2000). Colonialidad del poder y classificacion social. Journal of World Systems Research, 6(2), 342–386.
Rice, J. (1912). Scientific management in education. New York: Hinds, Noble & Eldredge.
Rice, J. (1969). The public school systems of the United States. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times.
Schubert, W.H. (1980). Curriculum books. The First Eighty Years. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Schubert, W.H. (2003). The curriculum-curriculum: Experiences in teaching curriculum. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 5(1), 9–21.
Schubert, W.H. (2008). Curriculum inquiry. In F.M. Connelly (Ed.), The Sage handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 391–419). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Schubert, W.H., & Lopez, A.L. (1980). Curriculum books: The first eighty years. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Schurman, J. (1894) The Report of Secondary School Studies. School Review, 2, 83–97.
Schwab, J. (1969). College curriculum and student protest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Schwab, J. (1970). The practical: A language for curriculum. Washington, DC: National Education Association, Center for the Study of Instruction.
Sen, A. (1999). Democracy as a universal value. Journal of Democracy, 10(3), 3–17.
Sensoy, O. (2010). Mad man Hassan will buy your carpets! The bearded curricula of evil Muslims. In J. Kincheloe, S. Steinberg, & C. Stonebanks (Eds.), Teaching against Islamophobia (pp. 111–133). New York: Peter Lang.
Seth, S. (2011). Travelling theory: Western knowledge and its Indian object. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21(4), 263–282.
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Sousa Santos, B. (2004). A gramatica do tempo. Porto, Portugal: Afrontamento.
Sousa Santos, B. (2005). Democratizing democracy: Beyond the liberal democratic canon. London: Verso.
Sousa Santos, B. (2006). Epistemologias do sul. Coimbra, Portugal: Almedina.
Sousa Santos, B. (Ed.). (2007). Another knowledge is possible. London: Verso.
Sousa Santos, B., Nunes, J., & Meneses, M. (2007). Open up the canon of knowledge and recognition of difference. In B. Sousa Santos (Ed.), Another knowledge is possible (pp. ix–lxii). London: Verso.
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* My most recent work has been profoundly influenced by a compound epistemological yarn of Western and non-Western approaches, and countless debates with a myriad of colleagues and friends around the world. Within this yarn I would like to highlight the work of Boaventura de Sousa Santos.
When at the age of 20, John Dewey was offered a teaching position in Oil City, Pennsylvania, by his cousin, the principal of the high school, he readily accepted. It is likely, however, that this decision was reflective of a young man uncertain about himself and his future rather than an early manifestation of Dewey’s interest in education. During the time that he held the position in Oil City High School, between 1879 and 1881, Dewey taught Latin, science, and algebra. It was in 1881 that Dewey submitted his first article to the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, accompanied by a letter to the editor, William Torrey Harris, America’s leading Hegelian, describing himself as “a young man in doubt as to how to employ my reading hours” and asking Harris for advice as to whether his article on metaphysics showed “ability enough of any kind to warrant my putting much of my time on that sort of subject.”1 After he left Oil City, Dewey taught for a time in a village school in Charlotte, Vermont, near his home in Burlington.
Dewey did not mention his early experiences as a schoolteacher in his only published autobiographical account,2 and it remains a relatively obscure chapter in his life. Although he appears to have been a rather successful high school teacher, there is still no reason to believe that, at this point in his life, he seriously entertained the idea of devoting a major portion of his career to professional education. Rather, the earliest indications of Dewey’s interest in ← 39 | 40 → education as a major scholarly pursuit seem to have had their inception in his graduate work in psychology, particularly in his latter years at Johns Hopkins University, as well as in certain opportunities that were available to him as a faculty member at the University of Michigan.
Dewey began his graduate work at Johns Hopkins in 1881 working under George Sylvester Morris, but when Morris returned to his regular academic post at the University of Michigan in 1883, Dewey concentrated his graduate study in psychology under G. Stanley Hall. Dewey’s choice of a Ph.D. dissertation topic, “The Psychology of Kant,” a dissertation completed early in 1884, reflected Dewey’s growing identification with psychology as a major scholarly focus. Dewey is known, for example, to have delivered a paper entitled “The New Psychology” to the Metaphysical Club at Johns Hopkins in March of 1884, which was later published in the Andover Review.3 Although this article, unlike Dewey’s four earlier philosophical articles, has been appropriately described as “incomprehensible,”4 it does reflect a high optimism, a euphoria, about the future of psychology.
Dewey’s Appointment at the University of Michigan
There is little doubt that George Sylvester Morris was responsible for Dewey’s offer of an appointment as instructor in philosophy and psychology at the University of Michigan when he completed his Ph.D. degree in 1884. Apart from Morris’s apparent recognition of Dewey’s ability, he was probably concerned about the growing dissatisfaction among the students at Michigan about the preoccupation of the philosophy faculty with German idealism and the neglect of what was regarded as “the whole modern scientific school of philosophy.”5 Although philosophically committed to idealism himself, Dewey also possessed the “scientific” credentials that the students apparently felt were needed, and it was this feature of Dewey’s scholarly interests, rather than as a Hegelian, that seems to have been his early professional identification at Michigan. Morris himself taught the course in History of European Philosophy, Ethics, Aesthetics, and Real Logic, while Dewey’s teaching responsibilities included Empirical Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Speculative Psychology, and Special Topics in Psychology (Physiological, Comparative, and Morbid).6 Dewey’s work in these courses undoubtedly led to the publication of his first book, Psychology, which he began writing within a year of his arrival in Ann Arbor. ← 40 | 41 →
Apart from his work in psychology, Dewey participated in at least two other major activities during his tenure at the University of Michigan. His principal extracurricular activity seems to have been in the field of religion. Dewey became a trustee of the Students’ Christian Association and involved himself actively in their work.7 His numerous lectures on religious topics on behalf of the Association led one Ann Arbor newspaper to comment, “no one can afford to miss the privilege of hearing him.”8 One of these lectures, entitled “Christianity and Democracy,” drew an audience of about 400.9 While these activities did not lead to an abiding interest in theological issues, one of Dewey’s other university activities, his gradual and tentative involvement in education at the elementary and secondary levels foreshadowed a lifelong commitment to philosophy of education, which reached its peak in the period of the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago between 1896 and 1904.
The University of Michigan, in the late nineteenth century, offered its faculty a rare opportunity to see education beyond the university setting. In 1869–70, the University had undertaken a program of admissions based on the observations and evaluations of its faculty in secondary schools. In essence, this was an attempt to assess the preparation of applicants to the University through direct examination of the secondary schools they attended. The University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin adopted similar plans, and, by 1895, this approach to college admission culminated in the creation of the North Central Association, a voluntary association of secondary schools and colleges designed to provide “accreditation” for the secondary schools that met their standards. In this respect, its functions were similar to other regional associations such as the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of the Middle States and Maryland and the Preparatory Schools of the Southern States. In 1886, two years after Dewey’s arrival at the University of Michigan, the Michigan Plan, as it was then called, evolved into the Schoolmaster’s Club, and Dewey was a founding member. At its first meeting, Dewey, still reflecting his fascination with psychology, read a paper entitled “Psychology in High Schools from the Standpoint of the College.”10 (His first article related to education, and his only publication of the previous year was a brief commentary on a study conducted by the association of Collegiate Alumnae on the question of the effects of college life on the health of women.)
During the remainder of his tenure at the University of Michigan, Dewey published almost nothing concerned directly with education. Although he ← 41 | 42 → is listed as a co-author of Applied Psychology, originally published in 1889, and while it is true that the book is subtitled Principles and Practice of Education, it is difficult to find in it anything that reflects Dewey’s distinctive psychological interpretations or any educational ideas not directly tied to the standard psychology of the period. There is even much that is substantially different from Dewey’s position. The book is a typical, even pedestrian, normal school textbook of the period. It appears to be almost entirely the work of McLellan, a director of normal schools in Ontario, Canada, rather than Dewey. In fact, Dewey was not listed as co-author in the first edition of the book but is thanked for his contribution and cited by McLellan in the preface as someone “whose work on Psychology has been so well received by students of philosophy.”11 It is likely, as Boydston had suggested, that Dewey’s name was added as a co-author in later printings in order to take advantage of his then established position in education.12
If Applied Psychology, a popular textbook, is indeed only nominally attributable to Dewey, then it is difficult to find any concrete basis for the outstanding reputation he was unquestionably building in education. There is some evidence to indicate that Dewey, despite his shy manner, had a powerful effect on people with whom he came into contact, and it may have been through his personal associations with teachers’ groups, professional educational associations, and speaking engagements, rather than through his published writings for formal teaching, that Dewey’s reputation in the field of education became established in this early period.
One particular event during his tenure at the University of Michigan seems to have had a profound effect on the course of Dewey’s evolving theory of education. When the National Education Association met in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1892, a prominent group of educators, including Charles DeGarmo, Frank and Charles McMurry, Elmer E. Brown, Nicholas Murray Butler, and Joseph Mayer Rice organized the Herbart Club. By becoming a charter member of the group and later involving himself actively in its affairs, Dewey aligned himself with a particularly zealous group of educational reformers who had undertaken to challenge the existing order in American education. Several of the leading Herbartians had studied pedagogy in Germany, particularly at Leipzig and Jena. By 1895, they reorganized into the National Herbart Society for the Scientific Study of Education and, in that same year, they took the occasion of the committee of fifteen’s subcommittee report to mount an attack on the dominant figure and conservative spirit in American education, William Torrey Harris, who was the principal author of ← 42 | 43 → the report. The atmosphere at that meeting was so charged and the clash of ideologies so strong that 38 years later, DeGarmo, at the age of 85, was moved to write his friend Nicholas Murray Butler, “No scene recurs to me more vividly than on that immortal day in Cleveland, which marked the death of the old order and the birth of the new.”13 In America, the Herbartians were regarded as the major force for progressive educational ideas, and Dewey’s association with them set in motion a lifelong commitment to educational reform.
Dewey and the Herbartians
Apart from the sheer zeal they brought to the cause of reforming American education, the Herbartians came equipped with a particular set of concepts and ideas that they used to challenge “the old order.” Whether these ideas were faithful to the work of the German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart, who died about a half a century before, is open to serious question,14 but they did present a more or less coherent system of thought with respect to education. At the very least, the Herbartians were successful in introducing a new vocabulary into the educational discourse of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Dewey became involved in the controversies surrounding the definition of their key terms and the clarification of the concepts they represented. Dewey, for example, was drawn into the fray over the Herbartian concept of interest. The concept of interest had become a focal point in the clash between Herbartian psychology and the then-dominant faculty psychology. Characteristically, Dewey found fault on both sides.15
Dewey also became involved in the controversy over the meaning and utility of the central Herbartian concept in curriculum: culture epoch. His attempt to reinterpret the concept of culture epochs provides the best illustration of how his early involvement with the American Herbartians profoundly influenced his thinking in curriculum matters. The first Yearbook of the National Herbart Society included a long and presumably definitive article on the subject by C.C. Van Liew, a major American Herbartian theorist. Van Liew reviewed the historical development of the idea that “the individual recapitulates the experience of the ‘race’” through the work of such philosophers as Kant, Goethe, and Pestalozzi, with particular attention, however, to the application of the idea to curriculum by Tuiskon Ziller, a leading disciple of Herbart.16 The parallelisms that Ziller and others perceived between the historical stages in the development of the human race and the stages of ← 43 | 44 → development in the individual human being were seen as applicable to certain major curriculum questions. “This parallelism, applied to curriculum,” said Van Liew, “suggests not only a motive for the approach to the study of nature, but also the general character of the material in the various grades.”17 In other words, the Herbartian concept of culture epochs provided not only a justification for teaching certain things at various levels of schooling, but the very materials from which these things would be taught. Thus, “the superstitious fear of the savage race … finds its parallel in the fears of the child in its earliest years,” and the products of this epoch in race history provide the materials for the child to study while undergoing that stage in his development. This was generally interpreted to be a “natural” order of studies in which the interest of the child could be evoked. As Van Liew put it, “the principal [sic] of succession in the curriculum must be sought in the humanistic institutional movement in culture; that material which is selected on the principal [sic] of culture epochs will be able to call forth lasting interest in the child.”18
Dewey took issue with this position on at least two counts. First, Dewey argued that unless the parallel stages were exact (which admittedly it was not), it made a great difference, educationally speaking, if we start with race history and make inferences to child development or vice versa. To Dewey, it was obvious that the sequence of development in the child was the critical factor in whether or not a parallel could be found in race history. Dewey put it this way:
We must, in all cases, discover the epoch of growth independently in the child himself, and by investigation of the child himself. All the racial side can do is to suggest questions. Since this epoch was passed through by the race, it is possible we shall find its correlate in the child. Let us, then, be on the lookout for it. Do we find it? But the criterion comes back in all cases to the child himself.19
Dewey also objected to the inferences the Herbartians were drawing from culture epochs regarding the amount of time devoted to the various stages. Even if we were to accept the idea that there is a stage in individual development that corresponds to the hunting epoch in human history, do we have a right, Dewey asked, to “condemn” children to a whole year of study corresponding to that epoch?
Dewey’s second major objection to the culture epochs curriculum pertained to its assumption that the products of each of the historical stages were the appropriate objects of study for the child undergoing the parallel stage in individual development. Herbartians assumed, in other words, that a child ← 44 | 45 → who is experiencing the “agricultural” phase in his development should study the products—particularly the literary products—of the parallel historical epoch. If the theory makes any sense at all, Dewey argued, “the agricultural instinct requires … to be fed in just the same way in the child in which it was fed in the race—by contact with earth and seed and air and sun and all the mighty flux and ebb of life in nature.”20 In this sense, Dewey’s objection was not to the general idea of a parallelism between individual development and the historical development of the human race, but to the interpretation of this parallelism as a kind of mystical union between the individual and his ancestors through the works of those ancestors. What was implied by that parallelism, according to Dewey, was direct participation in the activities that characterized the historical period.
Dewey’s criticism of the central Herbartian concept of culture epochs evoked no less than three published replies. Charles McMurry, a leading Herbartian spokesman, was the first to spring into the fray. He conceded one of Dewey’s major points—that the child, not the historical epoch, is the proper “center” from which to draw curricular inferences. He denied, however, that present manifestations of a particular epoch are to be preferred over historical ones. “First find out,” McMurry argued, “what present society has to offer that the child needs. If the child is the center, the argument against imposing materials on him is just as strong on one side as on the other. Present society, just as past history, has a great many things for which the child has no use at all.”21 McMurry’s argument against Dewey’s notion of substituting direct experiences for cultural products was a much weaker one. He suggested that since the child comes to school already having experienced much direct activity through his senses, the school should provide the influence from history and literature that the child presumably lacks. Naturally, these “cultural products” should be tested so as to ascertain their relationship to children’s interests.
A second response to Dewey’s criticism of culture epochs was wholly laudatory. The superintendent of schools of Great Bend, Kansas, wrote the editor to say that the article “by Professor Dewey is worth a whole year’s subscription to The [Public School] Journal.”22 He went on to speculate that the “greater part of the culture epoch theory comes from the inner consciousness of the pedagogical philosopher”23 rather than from the true instincts and interests of the child, a noteworthy insight. Van Liew’s own response initially criticized Daum, the school superintendent, for interpreting culture epochs doctrine in terms merely of the interest that children allegedly show in the products of historical epochs, such as myths or fairy tales. In turning to Dewey’s ← 45 | 46 → criticism, Van Liew accused Dewey of not actually attacking the theory of culture epochs “rightly understood,”24 referring rather mysteriously to a letter he received from “Dr. Dewey” in which culture epochs is “viewed in the light of [Dewey’s] philosophy.” According to Van Liew, Dewey’s letter revealed him to be “not an opponent of the doctrine in question.”25
Van Liew’s puzzlement regarding Dewey’s position on this key curriculum issue is probably due to an assumption that Dewey’s criticism of the master’s teaching amounted to a rejection of the concept of culture epochs as the basis of curriculum organization. Dewey’s writing on curriculum during the period of his direct association with the Herbartians indicates that while he was obviously critical of certain features of the theory, he accepted the overall framework of recapitulation along with his fellow Herbartians. Acceptance of this basic frame of reference is especially significant since this was the period in Dewey’s development when he was beginning to move away from the mere translation of psychological concepts into educational terms and starting to consider the curriculum principles that were later to form the basis of the program of studies at the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago.
Dewey’s Brigham Young Lectures
Dewey’s early fascination with Herbartian educational theory was also reflected in a little known series of ten lectures that Dewey delivered at Brigham Young Academy in 1901.26 They were published by the Brigham Young Summer School under the title Educational Lectures by Dr. John Dewey. The lectures reflected not only Dewey’s early interest in psychology, and the application of psychology to educational affairs (which was actually the major thrust of the lectures), but also the new direction in which his interaction with Herbartian concepts was leading him.
In line with Dewey’s predominantly psychological approach to education during this early period, his summer session lectures were drawn heavily from his maturing psychological theory. In his very first lecture, for example, Dewey announced that his lectures would deal with “psychological topics in their bearing upon education.”27 Indeed, most of the lectures deal with the conventional psychological topics of the day, including “How the Mind Learns,” “Imagination,” and “Habit.” Interestingly, Dewey’s ideas on these psychological matters did not reflect direct Herbartian influence; for example, in evoking an image of the mind, he specifically rejected the idea that “the mind is like a piece of blank paper, to which it is sometimes compared, nor like a waxed ← 46 | 47 → tablet on which the natural world makes impressions.”28 Instead, Dewey invoked a digestive metaphor, declaring the child’s “hunger to be an active thing, so active that it causes him to search eagerly for food.”29 In extending the metaphor, Dewey asserted that “The Child supplies the hunger but he does not supply the food.”30 Why, then, Dewey asked, do children so often find their school studies so repulsive? The answer Dewey supplied is that “The food is not being presented in the shape they recognize as food.”31 Such an active concept of mind is more reflective of Hegel than it is of Herbart.
In two of the lectures, however (the second and the eighth), Dewey departed from the basic psychological orientation of the course. In these instances, the influence of a Herbartian frame of reference was unmistakable. In his lecture on the “Social Aspects of Education,” for example, Dewey dealt with the curriculum question of how the school subjects may be interrelated. In this context, Dewey introduced the Herbartian concept of correlation, first in connection with tying the educational opportunities in the home with those in the school. Pointing out that the school is only one of the educational agencies within a community, Dewey applauded the introduction of cooking, sewing, and household management into the schools curriculum, seeing it as a way of correlating family life with the work of the school.32 Here, Dewey characteristically took a familiar educational concept and twisted it. By correlation, the Herbartians meant, generally, the interrelationship among school subjects. Thus, a single topic could be used to “correlate” the various school subjects around a central theme; for example, if fish were the theme, a day’s activity in geography, arithmetic, science, and literature would all revolve around the topic, thus achieving, presumably, a unifying effect. Dewey conceived of this unity in terms of the child’s overall experience rather than in traditional Herbartian terms. Of even greater significance to Dewey was that the connection between home and school afforded an opportunity for the child to understand and experience the social origins of school subjects. People did not invent arithmetic, Dewey pointed out, in an advanced abstract form. Arithmetic, like all school subjects, arose out of practical necessity. As Dewey put it, “we may trace one study after another to a period where it grew originally out of the actual necessities of social life.”33 Ultimately, this epistemological development from basic social activities to abstract subject matter became the core of Dewey’s curriculum theory.
As soon as Dewey introduced this principle, he turned to the general notion of recapitulation, which was then already popular as a basis for curriculum—one particularly favored by the Herbartians. Dewey described ← 47 | 48 → the position as holding that “just as the race goes step by step from the lower to the higher plane, so the child must go thru [sic] similar stages of evolution.”34 Dewey twice described this idea as “absurd” but was careful to qualify this judgment on both occasions by indicating that this opinion was confined to those who took it too literally. Obviously, the young child was not actually a savage, comparable in any literal sense to the “savage” stage in human history. In fact, when Dewey returned to the question of the value of school subjects, he asserted a qualified, but unmistakable, endorsement of the theory. “So far as these branches [of study] are concerned,” Dewey said, “we might accept the statement of the race development theory.”35 What Dewey seemed to be reaching for, but which he did not enunciate fully until later in his career, was a refinement and reinterpretation of the recapitulation metaphor as central to his curriculum theory, a metaphor that he recognized was constantly being misinterpreted as a literal statement.
When Dewey turned his attention once more to curriculum issues in his eighth lecture, his staring point was again Herbartian doctrine, this time referring to it explicitly by name. Using the terms “correlation” and “concentration” more or less interchangeably, Dewey objected particularly to the use of literature as the integrating core around which the school subjects should be concentrated. (In later years, Dewey expressed the idea that geography as a study possessed such integrating properties.) Dewey regarded the Herbartian emphasis on literature as leading toward artificiality, pointing out that in German schools, where the race-development theory had both a religious and a secular side, German children, at one state in the curriculum, “get their arithmetic by adding, dividing, multiplying, and subtracting the Twelve Tribes, and by dealing numerically with the various incidents of history, the number of people engaged in battle, the number of miles in Palestine from this point to that and so on.”36 Apart from the sheer artificiality of this organization of the curriculum, Dewey again objected to the attempt merely to correlate subjects with one another. Correlation must be achieved not only among the various school subjects, Dewey insisted, but between the school subjects as a whole and the life experiences of the child.
It is in the context of trying to explicate this idea that Dewey first used the term “occupations,” a concept that was crucial in developing the curriculum of the Laboratory School in Chicago. As Dewey introduced the concept there, occupations were to be pursued not for specific didactic purposes, but for their own sake. Children, Dewey said, “cook for the fun of cooking … not ← 48 | 49 → for the sake of making a scientific study of the chemistry of foods.”37 Occupations such as cooking, furthermore, not only “follow out the child’s own end,” but “recapitulate” the social world that surrounds the child. Dewey argued that if such fundamental human activities as woodwork, ironwork, cooking, and weaving “were to be made part of the curriculum they would give the child a chance to reflect from within the school and social interests and activities of the home.”38 As yet, Dewey did not seem to have incorporated the notion of occupations fully into his general recapitulation theory. Against the possible charge that these activities may be too utilitarian, for example, Dewey argued only that much of the activity of mankind is directed toward utilitarian pursuits and that the school may be a good place to “idealize” them. Later, he would have denied that occupations, as part of the curriculum, had any direct utilitarian purpose.
Apparently, however, Dewey did have in mind an overall plan for the curriculum based on three distinct groups of studies that would be arranged more or less sequentially. The first group, “hardly studies in the technical sense,” would be those occupations that “the child must shortly follow for a livelihood,”39 a characterization that Dewey would not have used in more sophisticated versions of his curriculum theory. Even here, however, Dewey argued that the basic occupations “can be made to teach a broader view of the evolution of civilization down the avenues of history.”40 As an example of the first group of studies, Dewey cited the making of clothing from the raw wool of sheep through the various stages required to bring it to a refined and useful state. Accounts of the activities of the Dewey School actually report this as a major activity of the youngest age groups.
The second group of studies would be directed mainly to providing the background for social life and comprised, essentially, history and geography (including nature study). Dewey deplored the emphasis on history on the “military side,” arguing that its proper focus should be on “finding out how people lived, and how they came to live as they did—I mean the common people—the difficulties they were laboring under, the struggles they had to make, the victories they won—not the military victories so much as the human victories—the artistic advances, the educational movements, and the moral and religious conquests.”41 History, Dewey said, ought to be “a sort of moral telescope”42 through which we can gain a perspective on the present. In the same vein, geography should be seen as “a study of the theatre of life,” with an emphasis on human value. One of the problems here, according to Dewey, was that the specialist so influences what should be taught in ← 49 | 50 → fields like history and geography that technicalities begin to dominate what is taught instead of elements of our common experience. The child, Dewey argued, does not even need to know the particular names of the subjects he is studying. “The very moment you put one of those labels on the study,” Dewey said, “you isolate it.”43
The Herbartian Influence on Dewey’s Curriculum Theory
Dewey’s interaction with the ideas of the American Herbartians had not only earned him a reputation as a promising educational leader and reformer, but provided him with the anvil on which he was to forge his major educational theories. Herbartian concepts such as correlation, concentration, and culture epochs represented ways by which central curriculum issues could be addressed. His early work at the University of Chicago Laboratory School gave him a chance to test these theoretical concepts in an actual school setting. Although Dewey ultimately did not accept the traditional Herbartian interpretations of these concepts, he did accept them as potent ways of considering those issues that almost inevitably arise when one undertakes to construct a curriculum.
Of particular significance was Dewey’s acceptance of recapitulation as the central frame of reference for his curriculum theory. Although he rejected any kind of strict or literal notion of race recapitulation in the individual, he seems to have accepted the idea of a temporally ordered curriculum paralleling stages of individual growth. Delivered a year before Dewey’s major essay on curriculum, “The Child and the Curriculum,” the Brigham Young lectures indicate that Dewey was thinking in terms of individual stages in human development on one hand, and, on the other, the stages by which the human race moved from one state of knowing to a higher one. While Dewey saw no special merit in a curriculum that simply recapitulated the history of the human race, he began to see some promise in the idea that, through the curriculum, children may recapitulate the stages in which the human race acquired knowledge, from the most primitive and direct ways of knowing to the most sophisticated and abstract.
Dewey’s reconstruction of the theory of culture epochs began to take shape shortly after his appointment at the University of Chicago. In particular, Dewey took the first tentative steps toward substituting a social and ← 50 | 51 → epistemological basis for the historical and literary one that the Herbartians favored. It seems clear that Dewey did not reject the fundamental metaphor by which an individual’s growth and development are seen as paralleling a historical dimension of the human experience. It was the particular conception of the historical side of that analogy and not the recapitulation analogy itself that Dewey rejected. In fact, his own theory of curriculum rests on almost the same metaphor. Instead of the naive conception of discrete stages in human history, which the Herbartians favored, Dewey took as his parallel to individual development the growth of ever more refined ways of knowing over the course of man’s social history.
I am indebted to the John Dewey Foundation of Carbondale, Illinois, and the Research Committee of the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin for grants that supported research reported here in part.
No copy of Dewey’s Ph.D. dissertation is known to exist.
Only Dewey’s article in Educational Review in 1893, “Teaching Ethics in High School,” can be regarded as dealing with precollegiate education. Even that was probably an offshoot of his syllabus for a course in ethics that he published a year later.
1. John Dewey to W.T. Harris, 17 May 1881, quoted in George Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973), 23.
2. John Dewey, “From Absolutism to Experimentalism,” in George P. Adams and William P. Montague, eds., Contemporary American Philosophy, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1930), 2: 1327.
3. John Dewey, “The New Psychology,” Andover Review, II (September, 1884), 278–289.
4. Neil Coughlan, Young John Dewey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), 42.
5. Dykhuizen, Life and Mind of John Dewey, 45.
6. Ibid., 46.
7. John A. Axelson, “John Dewey,” Michigan Educational Journal, XLIII (May, 1966), 13.
8. Ibid., 14.
10. John Dewey, “Psychology in High Schools from the Standpoint of the College,” Michigan Schoolmaster’s Club, Papers (Lansing, Mich.: H.R. Pattengill, 1886).
11. James A. McLellan, Applied Psychology (Toronto: Copp, Clark and Company, 1889), vi. ← 51 | 52 →
12. Jo Ann Boydston, “A Note on Applied Psychology,” John Dewey: The Early Works, 1882, 1898 III 1889, 1892 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969), xiii, xix.
13. Charles DeGarmo to N.M. Butler, 15 December 1933, Butler Papers, Columbia University, quoted in Walter H. Drost, “That Immortal Day in Cleveland—The Report of the Committee of Fifteen,” Educational Theory, XVII (April, 1967), 178.
14. Harold B. Dunkel, Herbart and Herbartianism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
15. C.C. Van Liew, “Culture Epochs,” First Yearbook of the National Herbart Society (Bloomington, Ill.: The Society, 1895), 70, 123.
16. Ibid., 97.
17. Ibid., 106.
18. Ibid., 117.
19. John Dewey, “Interpretation of the Culture Epoch Theory,” Public School Journal, XV (January, 1896), 234.
20. Ibid., 235.
21. C.A. McMurry, “The Culture Epochs,” Public School Journal, IX (February, 1896), 298.
22. N.F. Dam, “Culture Epoch Theory,” Public School Journal, XV (May, 1896), 509.
23. Ibid., 509, 10.
24. C.C. Van Liew, “Culture Epoch Theory,” Public School Journal, XV (June, 1896), 546.
26. John Dewey, Educational Lectures (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young Academy Summer School, n.d.).
27. Ibid., 1.
28. Ibid., 3.
29. Ibid., 4.
30. Ibid., 6.
31. Ibid., 7.
32. Ibid., 38.
33. Ibid., 45.
34. Ibid., 45.
35. Ibid., 46.
36. Ibid., 175.
37. Ibid., 180.
38. Ibid., 181.
40. Ibid., 186.
41. Ibid., 188.
42. Ibid., 189.
43. Ibid., 192.
One way of understanding educational policies and practices is to explore the discourses through which we frame their features. Such discourses represent “those textual ideas, concepts, and statements that not only provide meaning but constitute systems of power to affect social organization and human behavior” (Franklin, 2010, p. 8). They can include but are not limited to their origin and history, their purpose and mission, their ideology, their organization, their stakeholders, their interplay with other institutions, and their strengths and weaknesses.
The American curriculum is a case in point. Since a course or sequence of study—formal or informal—is a constitutive property of efforts to institute and perpetuate group living in succeeding generations, there may be no definitive, universally accepted starting point for such a consideration. We could begin our account with the efforts of seventeenth-century Puritan settlers to provide for the socialization and tutelage of their children in the new American colonies. We might, however, focus our attention on the establishment of the mid-nineteenth-century common school movement. Or we could, as a starting point, look at the expansion of primary schools—also early in the nineteenth century—into different forms of secondary education. ← 53 | 54 →
My own preference for this chapter is to launch my study during the decade of the 1890s and continue looking through the first 30 or so years of the twentieth century. I have selected this period because these were the years in which the urban, comprehensive high school, the institution that I have focused my attention on in most of my research, was shaped through the publication of reports that defined the nature, purposes, and structures that American secondary education would come to assume thereafter. Further, I have made this choice because this is more or less the period during which American educational reformers defined what I have argued is a key purpose for public schooling in this country: the building of a sense of community among its citizenry.
The starting point for this chapter is an examination of the discourses that framed the initial understanding that school reformers held of the comprehensive urban high school in the years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. I have located the sites for these discourses in two National Education Association reports, the Report of the Committee of Ten (National Education Association, 1893) and the 1918 Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education’s report entitled Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.
The importance of these reports for our purposes is that they provided a vision of the notion of community held by school reformers of the day. Having laid out the communitarian thinking subscribed to by these reformers, I will look at how they organized the curriculum into a mechanism for building community. Here I will pay particular attention to the discursive formations framed by three key individuals, Edward L. Thorndike, Ross L. Finney, and John Dewey. Having explored these discourses, I will then turn to how they played themselves out in a number of concrete efforts in programs and proposals for the comprehensive high school. Finally, I will look at what our consideration of these discourses tells us about the state of the American curriculum. My account is not a traditional history with a linear trajectory that links the present curriculum to its supposed early origins. Rather, the story that I will tell is more in the form of a genealogy in the Foucauldian sense of that term to highlight the important discourses that over time have come to the fore, retreated into the background, and reemerged in the framing of the curriculum.
The course of study in the first American high schools in the early nineteenth century represented an extension and expansion of the common school ← 54 | 55 → curriculum comprising work beyond that which was offered in the elementary grades. There were two configurations that this curriculum took. One was the classical curriculum, which had its roots in the educational ideas of Greece and Rome, the medieval university, and the Renaissance. In its original form it was comprised of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). The focus of this course of study as it appeared in the nineteenth-century American high school was on the classical languages of Latin and Greek and arithmetic. It was a program that was designed for the small number of students who were preparing to enter the university. There was a second and more popular configuration known as the English curriculum. Its roots lie in an effort to render the classical curriculum more practical and relevant to the world of commerce and business and included such so-called “modern subjects” as history, science, modern foreign languages, and literature. Some versions of the English curriculum also included subjects that had a vocational application, including trigonometry and bookkeeping. In smaller, rural high schools it was not uncommon to find a course that included Latin along with many of the subjects that comprised the English course (Angus & Mirel, 1999; Krug, 1964; Tanner & Tanner, 1990).
Proponents of the high school offered two rationales for these curricular patterns. One was the humanistic argument, which was most forcefully advanced by William Torrey Harris, who early in his career led the St. Louis Public Schools and later served as U.S. Commissioner of Education. He advocated a common curriculum comprised of subjects that offered students access to the key elements of the nation’s Western heritage. These subjects constituted “windows of the soul” and represented the routes whereby students are infused with their cultural memory.
Arithmetic, he argued, conveyed our understanding of the quantitative, geography, our understanding of organic and inorganic nature; history, the will power of the nation; grammar, the inner workings of the mind; and literature and art, our guiding sentiments and convictions. Education for Harris was a process whereby the individual was to be socialized into the rules of the school and more broadly into the larger culture (Kliebard, 2004; Reese, 2000).
The second justification was that of mental disciplines. The purpose of the curriculum was for mental development. It was a viewpoint supported by the dominant psychological theory of the day—faculty psychology. According to this rationale, the mind was seen as being comprised of any array of mental capacities such as reasoning, memory, observation, and judgment that could, with proper training, be developed. Much as we exercise the body to develop ← 55 | 56 → physical strength, we exercise the mind through the study of certain subjects, which—according to its proponents—conveniently turned out to be the disciplines that comprised the classical course (Kliebard, 2004; Ravitch, 2000).
An important feature of these curricular rationales was a view of the school program as an instrument for building a sense of community or common purpose among the American population. Community, however, is one of those concepts that is often labeled as a floating or empty signifier, to point to the fact that it is a word without a single or specific referent. The theologian Elizabeth Bounds (1997) has offered a number of what she calls “desires” to describe a search for community. They include a longing for like-mindedness and unanimity, a quest for a past and simpler time, and a wish to reclaim a lost set of traditions in the face more dominant outlooks. Quoting Rosemary Hennessy (1993, p. 14), Bounds goes on to talk about the notion of community as “the array of sense making practices” that we employ to describe the existing reality. Community, in other words, is a term that is used in multiple ways to suggest with respect to schooling such “desirable goals … as working for the common good, cooperating with one’s colleagues, [and] overlooking differences.” It is a notion that fulfills “the role of joining individuals to collectivities of various sorts” (Franklin, 2010, pp. 8–9).
The Committee of Ten, which was organized in 1892 by the National Education Association, promoted this communitarian ideal in the view of the curriculum that they advocated. Their 1893 report called for four courses of study for the high schools: Classical, Latin-Scientific, Modern Languages, and English. Each of these programs included roughly the same pattern of courses in English, history, mathematics, and the natural sciences, but differed in their foreign language requirements (Kliebard, 2004; Ravitch, 2000).
In preparing its report, the committee addressed a number of key questions, the answers to which helped frame their recommendations. For our purposes, the most important of these questions was whether a subject should be taught differently for students depending on their post-high school educational or career plans. The committee said no. Every subject that is taught in secondary school, they argued, should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to all students (National Education Association, 1894; Reese, 2000). In answering this question in the way that it did, the committee was asserting support for a common school ideal. Although such a principle has never been completely realized in U.S. schools, it does advocate providing all children with the same educational experiences in the same settings (Franklin, 1994; Reese, 1988). ← 56 | 57 →
A communitarian theme was also embedded in the report of the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education (1918). At the heart of this report was a set of seven objectives. These objectives—“health, command of fundamental processes, worthy home membership, vocation, citizenship, worthy use of leisure, and ethical character” (p. 5)—were to be the goals that would be provided to all students. The theme of community comes through most clearly in the report in the effort of its authors to link schooling to the ideals of democracy. Such ideals require that individuals and groups attain specialized vocational goals that are necessary for the progressive development of the nation, while at the same time becoming unified. The report goes on to say that “without unification in a democracy there can be no worthy community life and no concerted action for necessary social ends” (p. 15).
The route to attaining these two ends, according to the authors of the report, was the comprehensive high school that provided “all curriculums in one unified organization.” There were curriculum elements known as constants that would provide for the attainment of the seven goals of the high school. There were curriculum variables whose goal was to provide for the vocational needs of students. And there were free electives to enable students to pursue their unique interests (Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, 1918, pp. 18–19). As the report’s authors saw it, the comprehensive high school was the best mechanism for attaining the unification required in a democracy:
Through friendships formed with pupils pursuing other curriculums and having vocational and educational goals widely different from their own, the pupils realize that the interests which they hold in common with others are, after all, far more important than the differences that would tend to make them antagonistic to others. Through school assemblies and organization they acquire common ideas. Through group activities they secure training in cooperation. Through loyalty to a school, which includes many groups, they are prepared for loyalty to State and Nation. In short, the comprehensive school is the prototype of a democracy in which various groups must have a degree of self-consciousness as groups and yet be federated into a larger whole through the recognition of common interests and ideals. (Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, 1918, p. 20)
As I noted earlier in this chapter, American school reformers in the years around the turn of the twentieth century used the notion of community in ← 57 | 58 → different and conflicting ways. Those of a conservative bent—the American psychologist Edward A. Thorndike (1874–1949) being a prime example—have used the term in an exclusionary manner to point to those characteristics that separate individuals and groups from each other, including differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and culture. Talking about community in this way serves first to limit membership to certain individuals and groups, and once that has been done, to constrain, isolate, and even eliminate them. Although a feature of the notion of community that is viewed favorably by those who are within it and a part of it, it allows for its invocation to legitimate racism, sexism, and a host of other forms of control and exclusion. Thorndike and other early twentieth-century American intellectuals used this understanding of the notion of community to oppose the increasing flow into the country of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. They viewed this increased immigration as constituting a threat to the stability of American society and ultimately to democracy itself. For them, the idea of community was a defensive notion designed to curb the social disruption and dislocation that they identified with the growing diversity of the American population. To combat this threat, they proposed efforts to restrict immigration. Beyond trying to prevent these immigrants from entering the country, they proposed using the schools and other social institutions as mechanisms of social control to instill in these immigrants what they perceived to be correct values and attitudes. What they sought was a like-minded and homogenous American community rooted in the values, beliefs, and standards of behavior of the native-born population of Western European origins.
Adhering to this view of a desired social order, Thorndike and other like-minded individuals subscribed to what he labeled a “connectionist psychology.” This school of thought was in essence a behavioral conception of the relationship between individuals and society. This was essentially a one-way relationship in which individuals were shaped by external stimuli to which they responded. The properly socialized individual was one whose behavior followed the dictates of these external stimuli. In other words, the goals of learning were for individuals to respond to the demands of these external stimuli by behaving in accordance with them. Improper socialization occurred when these same individuals acted in ways counter to these stimuli (Franklin, 1986). Thorndike offered the clearest explanation of how his psychology served as a mechanism of control and regulation in his famous Law of Effect: ← 58 | 59 →
Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other things being equal, be more firmly connected with the situation so that when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur; those which are accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal will, other things begin equal, have their connection with the situation weakened so that when it recurs, they will be less likely to occur. The greater the satisfaction or discomfort, the greater the strengthening or weakening of the bond. (Thorndike, 1911, pp. 15–16)
This psychological principle was effectively Thorndike’s statement of what we call conditioning or behavior modification today.
There were a number of educational reformers who sought to apply this psychological principle to social organization and the design of schools. In that vein, Thorndike framed his proposals in discourse that advocated increasing the number of able people in the population while decreasing those of less ability. He advocated the creation of marriage and child allowances, which would be given to the nation’s most intelligent men between the ages of 21 and 30. He believed that the money would enable these men in the prime of their youth to marry women he believed would be of equally high intelligence and to produce a new generation of able children.
The less able segments of the population should, he argued, be prevented from reproducing. He pointed out that “genes which make able and good people also tend to make competent and helpful homes, and the argument for sterilizing anybody near the low end of the scale in intellect and morals whenever it can be done legally is very strong.” It was a policy, he stated, “that would result in a reduction in the number of individuals who were institutionalized for mental deficiency as well as a decline in the number of violent crimes and rapes, and it would allow the resources of society to be used for hospitals and schools instead of for the custodial care of the genetically defective” (Thorndike, 1940, pp. 458–460).
The educational sociologist Ross L. Finney (1875–1934), writing at about the same time as Thorndike, saw the same principle as providing a script for the ordering of society under the leadership of those who were most able. They were to be the intellectual leaders who would provide expert knowledge that the masses would mimic. The result would be a homogenous and unified social order. This was to be, as he saw it, a process of entrusting leadership to the most intelligent while consigning the majority of the population to “followership” (Finney, 1928, p. 397). Finney embraced a discourse that saw the schools as the agency for building the kind of community that would ensure this outcome: ← 59 | 60 →
Ours are the schools of a democracy, which all the children attend. At least half of them never had an original idea of any general nature, and never will. But they must behave as if they had sound ideas. Whether these ideas are original or not matters not in the least. It is better to be right than to be original. What the duller half of the population needs, therefore, is to have their reflexes conditioned into behavior that is socially suitable. And the wholesale memorizing of catchwords—provided they are sound ones—is the only practical means of establishing bonds in the duller intellects between the findings of social scientists and the corresponding behavior of the masses. Instead of trying to teach dullards to think for themselves, the intellectual leaders must think for them, and drill the results, memoriter, into their synapses. For the dullards it is that or nothing. (Finney, 1928, p. 395)
There were others—most notably John Dewey—who took a far less defensive position. Dewey did not fear immigrant groups but welcomed them as a source of fresh ideas and innovative practices that would enrich American society. His understanding of community was one that was built on the mutual adjustment of all segments of society to a commonly agreed-upon set of values, attitudes, and standards of behavior reflecting the diverse cultural practices of the population. Securing this adjustment and mutuality was the task of a democratic brand of social control that was to be entrusted to a host of social institutions, particularly the schools.
Dewey’s starting point was the rural, small town of nineteenth-century America where the principal industrial and manufacturing activities of the day were centered in the home. As Dewey saw it, an array of social, economic, and demographic changes in the 50 years following the end of the Civil War and into the early days of the twentieth century led to the separation of the home from the workplace. These changes included the growth of corporate capitalism, the rise of the industrial plan, the movement of settlement from the countryside to the city, and the growing diversity of the population in the wake of immigration.
Under these conditions, Dewey argued, the face-to-face relationships of the small town gave way to less intimate associations. The independent craftsmen, merchants, and farmers who owned and directed the products of their labor during the early days of the nation were transformed into employees and workers and linked by more distant and remote networks of interdependence. The once-vital connections that told individuals who they were, what they did, and how they related to the larger society had become lost as experts assumed responsibility for decisions that were once under popular control. The result, Dewey argued, was the erosion of the ability of ordinary individuals to function as active citizens to resolve the dilemmas that they ← 60 | 61 → faced through participating in democratic politics. Their collective identity, to which Dewey referred as the “public,” had become so dissipated and attenuated that it could no longer address the myriad problems that they, their families, and their fellow citizens faced.
The remote and distant interpersonal relationships brought about by industrialization and the growth of technology had produced, according to Dewey, a “Great Society.” It was not, however, the “Great Community” with the robust “public” that he sought. What was missing was the interplay that would allow individuals to shape groups to which they belonged, while at the same time not limiting the potential of the group to manifest an overriding common purpose (Dewey, 1923).
As Dewey saw it, the individual did not exist in isolation from other individuals but was a “social being.” What joined people together in society and what made democracy possible was the presence of a “common will” that would bring together majority and minority opinion into a unified whole. For Dewey, this relationship between society and its members was a reciprocal one. Individuals are, he believed, a product of the society in which they live and work. But each individual has a part to play in constructing the elements of that society—its values, attitudes, and standards of behavior.
Although it is often difficult to connect the proposals that educational thinkers make for reforming schools to what actually happens in the schools, we can look to see if we can discern any effects. One of the best and clearest examples of this connection is to be found in reforms that Leonard Covello, principal of Benjamin Franklin High School in New York City, introduced during the 1930s to establish a “community school.” Covello saw his task as the school’s leader as that of extending the school’s mission to include the community in which he resided. As he saw it, “the school must enlarge its vision, expand its facilities, and reach forth into community life in order to establish a magnetically intimate contact with the people, their problems, their potential values, and their needs.” The extent to which he achieved that goal was, however, limited. There were a number of community programs that operated both inside and outside the school that established this linkage. One involved securing citizen participation through the establishment of a Community Advisory Council (CAC), and a number of federally funded Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiatives. The CAC ← 61 | 62 → was composed of a number of committees that addressed such community problems as health, citizenship, parent education, race, and guidance. These were agencies that were located outside the school in storefronts in the surrounding neighborhood that brought community members, businesspersons, parents, teachers, and students together to improve community life. These units included the Association of Parents, Teachers, and Friends, whose task was to expand the work of the school in the community; the Friends and Neighbors Club, which—among other things—supported a “friendship” garden and provided meeting space for community groups; and the Italy-American Educational Bureau and the Hispano-American Education Bureau, which developed educational programs as well as provided assistance for Italian- and Spanish-speaking immigrants in getting jobs and gaining citizenship. The WPA-funded programs included support for a number of initiatives, including an array of community-oriented research projects and an adult evening and summer school that offered classes in English and citizenship for immigrants, and a remedial reading clinic.
The regular high school program, which included both academic and vocational programs, was less successful in achieving this connection. Although efforts were made from time to time to integrate content about critical community issues into regular courses, there was no attempt to create a problem-centered curriculum. It remained for the most part a “teacher and subject-centered” one. There was, in fact, only one course at the high school: the leadership course for high-ability students that was organized around contemporary problems and involved the students in actual community research (Franklin, 2010, pp. 21–22).
Benjamin Franklin was just one of a number of so-called community schools established during this period. Ralph Tyler offered another example of how schools—in this case, one in Holtville, Alabama—were linking their work to the problems of the community. One such dilemma, he noted, was the declining productivity of the region’s farmers. From their reading and study, the city’s high school students identified a number of ways to increase yields, including crop rotation and diversified farming—techniques that they in turn communicated to local farmers. They also learned how to check dams that might be used to control soil erosion, which was also causing declining productivity, and activity participated in programs for constructing these dams throughout the area. Another problem that Tyler addressed from Holtville’s community school core curriculum was that of nutrition. After studying the diet of local residents, the students suggested a number of ways ← 62 | 63 → in which farmers could improve the nutrition of local residents, including the production of more diversified crops and the establishment of an area refrigeration facility so that fresh produce and meat could be made readily available throughout the year (Franklin, 1988).
It was during the years that Tyler was examining community schools that he would develop an understanding that would guide American curriculum work in the years around World War II and for another 20 years or so. In a 1942 talk to the parents’ association of the Dalton School, an independent school in New York City that was a participant in the now-famous Eight Year Study, he described curriculum planning as a process for asking, first, “what are the chief ends (aims, objectives) that the school must seek to attain?” and, second, what “experiences, what material and learning activities are most effective for attaining those ends?” Tyler then went on to describe three factors that must be taken into account in answering the first question: the external needs of society, the social needs of youth, and the developmental needs of youth. These three factors, he concluded, when examined in light of the “philosophy of the school,” would yield the “major aims of the curriculum” (Franklin, 1988, p. 289). It was an approach to curriculum development that formed the basis of what would become the famous “Tyler Rationale” for curriculum development that came to dominate the discourse of curriculum making in the years after 1950 (Tyler, 1950).
Viewing the schools as a means of constructing community has been a powerful discourse for framing curriculum thinking throughout the twentieth century. The major reform movements during the past 100 years or so—child-centered education, social efficiency, social reconstruction, life adjustment education, the discipline-centered reform movement, and the standards movement—have all invoked notions of community, unity, and social cohesion as key rationales for curriculum change (Franklin, 2010; Kliebard, 2004).
Community remains today a major discourse in curriculum reform. A recent example is the effort that began in 1985 and continues today on the part of the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps (WEPIC), a partnership among the School District of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the neighborhood surrounding the university to improve local schools, build affordable housing, enhance economic development, expand city services, and reduce crime. ← 63 | 64 →
A central feature of the WEPIC initiative is the provision of university support to create a number of community schools in West Philadelphia that bear a striking similarity to the kind of initiative implemented by Covello earlier in the century. The university provides significant financial support for establishing and maintaining these schools, as well as involving university faculty, students, and staff in all aspects of their operation, including the selection of the curriculum, the teaching of classes, student mentoring, professional development, and the offering of special programs for students and for community residents. As part of its school improvement plan, the university created the Center for Community Partnerships, which, among other efforts, supports the development of service learning courses in which university faculty and students work on experiential projects with students in these neighborhood schools.
In one such effort, a university course in nutritional anthropology was transformed into a seminar on the relationship between obesity and nutrition that was taught by university students at a neighborhood middle school. The course was designed to enhance students’ knowledge about nutrition as well as to change their eating habits. As part of the seminar, university and middle school students worked together on evaluating the weight, height, and body mass of middle school students; evaluating their diets; interviewing families regarding their children’s nutrition; observing students’ eating habits in the school cafeteria; and determining the sites where various kinds of food were offered in the neighborhood surrounding the school. The project also arranged for middle school students to assist university anthropologists in colleting, organizing, and interpreting nutritional data that they were collecting in the neighborhood. Other similar service learning courses introduced in WEPIC schools included a comparative study of Philadelphia and fifth-century B.C. Athens to explore the relationship among community, neighborhood, and family, and a course in the study of the nature of American identity. These courses were in effect collaborative endeavors to advance the knowledge and learning of both university and public school students, as well as to improve the West Philadelphia neighborhood. This effort, like the work of Covello during the 1930s and the other examples we have considered in this chapter, represents an attempt to use the schools as forums to bring individuals together to establish a sense of community around common concerns or issues (Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett, 2007; Rodin, 2007). What has, however, been left unresolved is the direction that this use of curriculum discourse will take. Will it direct us toward the liberal brand of community ← 64 | 65 → popularized by Dewey, or the more reactionary variation advanced by Thorndike and Finney?
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Tyler, R. (1950). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction: Syllabus for Education 205. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Introduction: A Bumpy Ride
The Cold War was the most extensive and expensive ideological and educational campaign of the twentieth century. Supported by big government, big business, and other interests vested in state monopoly capitalism, this sponsored curriculum reached deep into the mass media, public education, religion, families, and community life. Costing billions of dollars, its objectives were to halt the spread of Communism and to intellectually discredit Marxian-Socialist thought. Though tarnished and bloodied, Marxism just won’t go away. Perhaps it won’t go away because the economic and political contradictions Karl Marx described exist to this very day.
Exploring any (Black) Marxian-Socialist critique of public education in the United States is indeed a complicated and tricky endeavor. First and foremost, there are many varieties of Marxism. Aside from myriad ideological differences, there are vast continental, regional, and national differences alongside modern and postmodern renditions. The confusion thickens if we attempt to situate Trotskyists, Maoists, and assorted others into a Marxist typology. Because of the monumental difficulty in offering precise, even consensual definitions, I have added the word “radical” to the discussion. ← 67 | 68 → Similiarly, the word radical can also be vague and ambiguous. In this chapter, I use radical to mean a notion of dissent and protest thought that is antiracist, anticapitalist, and broadly Socialistic, favoring the reorganization of society along the lines of collectivism. I don’t wish to play “name and claim” games, but rather to broaden the boundaries of discourse and research on race and education. Beyond the never-ending task of defining Marxism, the additional problem of understanding and discerning Socialism, and its relationship to Marxism, is equally daunting; this is particularly true in terms of American Socialism, which has often been anti-Communist.
Linking Black folks to the Marxian-Socialist framework is at least another lifetime’s worth of work for all the same problems of definition. Scholarly and biographical work on Black Marxism continues to appear. Books by Robin D.G. Kelley (1990, 1994, 2002), Earl Ofari Hutchinson (1995), Nelson Peery (1994), Mark Naison (1984), Gerald Horne (1986), Cedric Robinson (1983), Harry Haywood (1978), and Benjamin J. Davis (1969) have enriched our understanding of African Americans and Marxism in general; however, the Black Marxian critique of education remains underresearched.
Within the United States, the Marxian critique of education could be discerned in the early 1930s. It was preceded by the ideas of “progressive” education early in the twentieth century. The Social Reconstructionists, radical progressive educators (Cremin, 1961), require our attention, although perhaps they did not reach the standards of orthodox Marxian critique (Stanley, 1992; Watkins, 1990; Bowers, 1969).
As a professor of education specializing in curriculum studies, I have found over the last twenty years that my students, undergraduate and graduate, have very little background and foundation to understand Marxism. Because the monopoly capitalist state wishes to conceal the role of property and wealth, Marxian philosophy and political criticism has been relegated to the null curriculum, the wasteland of “illegitimate” and irrelevant knowledge. It is rare that students in our public educational system are exposed to Marxist social science. Hence, I am compelled to provide some introduction to this important body of (educational) protest thought.
I take on several tasks in this endeavor. First, I hope to briefly overview fundamentals of Marxian-Socialist theory. Next, I will survey the central points of the Marxian critique of public education. Third, I want to review the Social Reconstructionist movement and the contributions of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois within that radical dialogue. Then, drawing from the sparse literature, I point to a Black Marxian critique of education in America. Finally, I call for ← 68 | 69 → more research and investigation into this relevant and important area in the present era of school politics.
Understanding Classical Marxian Socialism
Building on the intellectual foundations of Hegel’s dialectic, St. Simon’s philosophical materialism, and classical British economics (Feuer, 1959), Karl Marx (1818–1883) produced a criticism of capitalism that shook the world to its foundations. In his dense magnum opus, Das Kapital (1867), Marx demonstrated that the extraction of surplus value (profits) from human labor enriched the owning classes (Heilbroner, 1986). His monumental writings confronted the prevailing social science of the time. These writings include The Poverty of Philosophy (1847); with Engels, The German Ideology (1845–46); with Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848); and A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859). Alongside his benefactor and lifelong colleague Frederick Engels (1820–1895), Marx argued that politics was the concentrated expression of economics. All of human history was driven by issues of property, wealth, and power. The propertied and the propertyless were locked in an irreconcilable struggle, in which those who worked the means of production would eventually control them. Social revolution was inevitable, and a new world would be constructed upon the ashes of the old.
Marx never saw his vision take shape. The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov (1870–1924), better known as Lenin, emerged as the preeminent Marxist of the early twentieth century. His book What Is to Be Done? (1902) charted the seizure of power by the working class and peasantry. Another of his major works, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), offered a treatise on modern colonialism. Here he argued that laissez-faire capitalism had turned into its opposite, monopoly capitalism, and had expanded internationally where powerful nations now subjugated weaker countries. In that work he also noted the growing importance of banks and finance capital. In State and Revolution (1918), he examined the power dynamics of the modern nation-state and offered a general blueprint for insurrection. Conventional Marxists view Leninist theorizing as the expansion of Marxism in the early twentieth century.
Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large-scale industry. Thus slavery is an economic category of the greatest importance. (pp. 356–57)
At the turn of the twentieth century, barely a handful of educated and literate African Americans, Dr. Du Bois among them, participated in limited discussions of Marxist theory.
The ABCs of Marxism
The one-hundred-year attack by Western social science, narrow nationalism, and right-wing conservatism has obfuscated and distorted rudimentary and classical Marxist theory. A brief summarization of several fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism follows.
First, historical materialism describes the “laws” of history and socioeconomic formation. It suggests that there has been a historic progression from primitive communalism, the earliest human community, to primitive slavery, to feudalism, and to capitalism. It asserts that capitalism is but a stage of history, not humankind’s permanent economic system, and that the propertyless will eventually seize the instruments of production and force the creation of a state organized around public property. Socialism is viewed as a historical inevitability. Human agency, especially the role of oppressed socioeconomic classes, is seen as the conscious and driving force in this process.
Second, materialist dialectics disputes the idealistic conceptions of cause and effect. Dialectics speaks of the universality of contradiction. It is a system of philosophic thought that views the unity and struggle of opposites as central to the processes of motion. It seeks out connectedness in phenomena. It builds upon the formula of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Dialectics allows one to observe phenomena in their oppositionist aspects. It sees both universality and particularity of contradiction in phenomena. Dialectical analysis sees negation of phenomena and the subsequent negation of the negation. It also examines the processes whereby quantitative changes become qualitative changes. Dialectics posits that the objective contradictions within capitalism, thesis and antithesis, will lead to its negation and lead to a new social order, Socialism. ← 70 | 71 →
Marxian political economy attempts to explain capitalist economic and sociopolitical relationships. Based on Marx’s Das Kapital (1867), A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), and Theories of Surplus Value (1863), an attempt is made to explore the mechanics of commodity production, capitalist exploitation, surplus value, rent, primitive accumulation, monopoly, the reserve force of labor, wages, crises, overproduction, reproduction of labor, and the law of value. The focus is on the role of private property. A central thesis of Marxist political economy holds that the owners of industry, and the means of production, gain profit from the expropriated labor of their workers. Unpaid labor, or surplus value, is the basis of capital accumulation for the owners, and the motion toward impoverishment of the workers.
The capitalist system experiences both cyclical and general crises. Cyclical crises are represented by frequent recessions and economic downturns. The general crisis is the historical demise of exploitation of man by man.
The theory of imperialism, contributed by Lenin, asserts that capitalism has reached its highest and final stage, that is, the development of international domination by monopolies. The monopolies have destroyed laissez-faire and competitive capitalism in favor of huge combines, interlocking directorates, cartels, trusts, and multinational corporations. In the process, finance capital has superseded industrial capital in a world where banks and finance shape economics. Imperialism suggests the concentration of wealth into the hands of a very few, the impoverishment of subject peoples and nations, uneven economic development, world power blocs, globalization, wild speculation, large-scale crises, and the necessity of militarism, war, and reaction. The central notion of imperialism is that it exists when capitalism reaches its final stage of development.
The theory of classes and class struggle holds that, under capitalism, society is inextricably divided into socioeconomic classes. The bourgeois class owns the means of production and is the organizer of the social and political processes. The working classes either work the means of production, or are held in reserve. Finally, the middle classes occupy managerial or small-scale entrepreneurial positions that are tenuous, as they are driven into the ranks below. The classes are thus locked into a mutually antagonistic struggle to control the means of production, and the accompanying state power. The theory holds that those who work the means of production will ultimately seize them in the name of all the toilers.
Marxism asserts a theory of base and superstructure, as articulated by Russian theorist Konstantinov (1955). This notion holds that the economic ← 71 | 72 → relations of production will shape, and provide context for, society’s institutions. Hence, capitalist relationships and ideology dominate the social and ideological culture. While resistance is inevitable, the dominant ideas of any society are the ideas of its ruling class. Institutions reflect and reproduce dominant—that is, capitalist—ideas. Schools would thus fall into the category of “reproductionist” institutions.
Next is the concept of the state. Marxists, neo-Marxists, and a variety of reformers have long argued about the nature and definition of the state. Many view the state as a mediator of societal differences. Classical Marxists view the state as a body of control that combines both force and ideology. Hence, the state includes the army, police, courts, and jails. The ruling class, however, would prefer to operate peacefully. The recourse to force and coercion is maintained in reserve. The state ultimately changes hands, and is controlled by the economic class in power. The state is inextricably linked to the existence of classes. The state is essentially an instrument of domination, wherein the government serves the ruling class.
The end of the Cold War witnessed a furious intellectual attack against Marxism. Previous sympathizers and advocates raged against what they now viewed as dogmatic, doctrinaire, and outdated. It is far beyond the scope of this chapter to fully discuss the critique of Marxism; however, a fundamental and recurring critique of Marxism is that it ignores human agency. Well-meaning interpreters of Marx insist the theory is mechanistic, top down, and deterministic. They argue that Marx didn’t understand race, culture, oppositionism, and resistance from the bottom.
Marx and the Marxists: On Education
Approaching the Marxian analytical framework on schooling, several propositions are salient. First is the organization of society into irreconcilably antagonistic socioeconomic classes. Marxian outlooks assert that there is no compromise between the propertied and the propertyless. There is a life-and-death battle to be fought out in history and politics. Private ownership of property allows the ruling elite to order society and its institutions in favor of capital. Mass public education, as we know it, didn’t exist during Marx’s lifetime. Hence, he did not write extensively nor did he directly address state schooling; however, his sketchy writings offered kernels of thinking for future theorists to embellish. Today’s Marxian discourse explores the role of schools both in contemporary society and in social transformation. One widely ← 72 | 73 → embraced argument holds that schools are sites of ideological contestation and opposition and hence offer significant potential in social change and reform. Marx’s focus on the relations of production led him to the industrial workers as the instrument of social transformation; therefore schools, as agents of the state, could not play a vital role (Liston, 1988).
Brosio (1994) offers a comprehensive description of Marx’s views on the system of education:
Marx did not write systematically about education but took the need for universal schooling seriously. He knew that the kind of education that he favored could not occur in a class-stratified society under capitalist aegis; however, he did promote certain kinds of reforms that could be said to represent the democratic imperative on schooling for his place and time. (p. 456)
Marx proposed that education for the young consists of three closely related aspects: intellectual education, physical training or gymnastics and polytechnical training, by which he meant instruction in the scientific principles underlying all production processes, together with instruction in the use of the tools of production. Marx realized that not only was schooling in the capitalist West for the most part a tool of the dominant class, but in addition it was and is the product of the classical philosophical dualism that separated mental and muscle, idea and action. (pp. 456–57)
With that ideological skeleton, the role of school in the modern capitalist state is at the heart of the dialogue of contemporary Marxist criticism. Beyond the widely discussed issues of equity, racial and gender discrimination, and social justice, more penetrating Marxian analysis explores and questions several relevant sub-issues related to education. Among them are education and the state, intelligence and testing, knowledge production, knowledge distribution, knowledge neutrality, and reproduction/correspondence.
For some time, theorists have been vexed by the inherent difficulty of framing a Marxian analysis and critique of public education in the United States. Many have chosen to utilize interpretations and interpreters of Marx for their analysis. Others, such as Strike (1989), have chosen to look directly to the writings of Marx. Although Marx could not have understood or foreseen how public education unfolded in twentieth-century America, he nevertheless offered relevant insights into capitalism and social motion, upon which we can construct analysis and exploration. ← 73 | 74 →
The Nature of the State
Defining the role of the state in an advanced capitalist society is at the heart of public and social theory. Conventional U.S. political theory suggests the political state is a mediating force that advances democracy, settles disputes, and balances countervailing forces. The state is presumed to be the arbiter of divergent interests, providing oversight and defending the greater good.
Marxists, on the other hand, don’t see the state as neutral. As mentioned earlier, they see the state and its apparatus as under the control of the economic and hegemonic elite. The capitalist state protects the capitalists. It is concluded that education, as a state function, is charged with the ideological protection of the capitalist system. Ideas that do not conform to that objective are then either rejected or ignored.
Intelligence and Testing
Intelligence came to be a defining rationale for the social order in the early twentieth century (Gonzalez, 1982). Those in possession of knowledge were seen as more fit to manage the social order. Intelligence replaced work as the essence of human capital. The organization and leadership of society was to be placed in the hands of the intelligent. Intelligence came to be associated with leadership, property ownership, and worth.
I.Q. testing emerged as the “scientific” way of discerning intelligence. More importantly, I.Q. tests provided the “proof” of human difference. Difference emerged as the central organizing rationale of capitalism, and its system of public education in the United States, for all modernity. All could not, and would not, learn and achieve in the same way. Famed psychologist Edward Thorndike’s book Individuality (1911) signaled the concretization of “differential psychology” (Clifford, 1968), which was built upon hereditarianism. This body of thought served as justification for why some children would achieve, and others would not. Thorndike wrote:
The mental capacities of human beings at birth, or at conception, vary widely, probably as widely as their capacities to become tall or strong. Their original propensities or proclivities, or emotional and temperamental tendencies vary, and perhaps as widely as their facial contours or finger-prints. (Cited in Clifford, 1968, pp. 314–315)
Thorndike became an adamant supporter of testing and measuring intelligence. His views were widely supported by American eugenicists, racists, and ← 74 | 75 → Aryan theorists. Harvard psychologist Hugo Musterberg effectively articulated the hereditarian-difference implication for education:
We have brought the work of education under one formula. This is not meant to indicate that education should be uniform. Everybody ought to be made willing and able to realize ideal values, but everybody is called to do it in his own way. The child who comes from the slums, the child who never saw a green meadow, and the child who never saw a paved street, cannot be educated after a uniform pattern. The education of the boy cannot be the education of the girl, the education of the intelligent child must differ from that of the slow-minded child …. Yet still more important are the differences between the individual tasks which the life after school will put before the individuals. To make the child willing and able to realize ideal values, means also to secure the subtlest adjustment to these later differences. The laborer and the farmer, the banker and the doctor all must help in building up the realm of values. But they are equally prepared for it only if they are prepared for it in very different ways. (Cited in Gonzalez, 1982, p. 142)
Herbert Spencer (1861) raised the eternal question, “What knowledge is of most worth?” Marxian-oriented theorists have deepened that question. Apple (1979, 1983) helped formulate new questions for our consideration: Who produces knowledge in the stratified state? How is knowledge supported? What knowledge finds its way into acceptance? What ideas get into the classroom? Others—for example, Watkins (2001), Anderson (1980), and Arnove (1980)—have explored how ideas and school-knowledge are funded by corporate philanthropic foundations.
Marxist-oriented thinkers are concerned about the privatization of knowledge. More specifically, how does knowledge support the capitalist values of individualism, competition, and the ideals of Western civilization? Price (1986) wrote:
At the same time the countries of late capitalism are saturated with ideologies celebrating individualism and competition. Commodity production has extended into almost every aspect of society. However independent of the institutions of capitalism a producer of knowledge may be the pressure to produce in the commodity form is intense. Let us look next, in outline, at the institutions within which the production of knowledge may take place. Private capitalist firms employ large numbers of people in research and development, both directly and on a consultancy basis. Others are employed by the state. They may be employed directly in research institutions, in the universities and other colleges in the tertiary education sector, or they may work ← 75 | 76 → for national broadcasting organizations, or government “think tanks.” The judiciary must not be forgotten in its role of knowledge creation, even if that is only a small part of its duties. (p. 60)
The management and production of knowledge have become a central focus of foundation life. Major foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Heritage, Sage, and many others contain or support social-science institutes, which help to legitimize knowledge for mass distribution. These huge agencies, which operate without democratic deliberation, have become the brokers of ideas. Their influence reaches to textbook publishing, the print and electronic media, and ultimately to the very heart of our political culture.
Knowledge can serve as a regulator. It creates boundaries for discourse and understanding. Knowledge can either open up our world or close it down. Marxists are concerned that school-knowledge in the capitalist state restrains and restricts the re-creation of experiences, and our explanations of phenomena. As an example, Marxists ask if poverty, unemployment, and war are explained as state policy, or simply as the uncontrollable natural unfolding of social life? The former explanation opens the door to more investigation, while the latter suggests such occurrences exist outside the will of human control.
The Distribution of Knowledge
Who knows what? Who learns what? How does knowledge circulate to people of different social classes, economic groups, racial groups, and gender groups? Do all students get the same exposure and impact from the school curriculum? These are but a few of the questions Marxists have raised in this area.
Marxists believe that knowledge is power. Marx argued that ideas, when gripped by the masses, become a material force. Thus, concepts such as the constitutional right to a job, the constitutional right to a home, state-sponsored university education, state-funded medical care for all, and state-owned utility companies have galvanized people around the world; not simply because they relieve suffering and misery, but because they offer dreams, promises, and alternatives of a better life. Ideas contribute to the politics of possibility.
Marxists recognize the different types of knowledge imparted in both schools and the larger society. For the sake of simplicity, we may collapse two ← 76 | 77 → of the main categories into technical-scientific and sociopolitical. It has been argued that both of these categories of knowledge are unevenly distributed to varying economic, racial, and gender groups. Gutstein (2003) and Small (2001) have argued that math, for example, serves as a political gatekeeper, creating a major divide where the successful move onward and upward while the working classes and people of color are relegated to the ranks of low achievement.
Anyon’s often-cited study (1981) offers a powerful argument about the distribution of sociopolitical knowledge in textbooks. Surveying widely used textbooks, she found few that were critical of social-class stratification, or of the uneven distribution of wealth. Moreover, she posited that school conceals or misrepresents socially and politically significant inequities of wealth and power. She concluded that despite claims to neutrality, the official school curriculum is ideologically biased.
Price (1986) suggests that three factors employed by the capitalist class impede the equitable distribution of knowledge: secrecy, censorship, and copyright. He cites Marx, who, in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law (1843), wrote: “the general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved within itself by the hierarchy and against the outside world” (p. 86).
Thus the bureaucracy of the political state creates official secrecy to protect the vested interests of those in power. Censorship may involve the official or unofficial recognition of knowledge. In schools, for example, labor studies and peace studies are rarely provided. Finally, the copyright commodifies ideas. It situates ideas as personal property requiring permission to share. All three of these barriers obstruct the free access to information.
Socially consensual knowledge, especially school-knowledge, possesses the aura of eternal truth; that is why is it so accepted. The British sociology of education and curriculum school of thought initiated radical and Marxian-oriented thinking in this area. Michael F.D. Young, in his groundbreaking work, Knowledge and Control (1971), grappled with the idea of the social construction of knowledge. Young directs us to examine who controls the curriculum, from the state and publishers on down to the classroom teachers. ← 77 | 78 →
Arnove (1980) also helps us understand that acceptable social and political knowledge reflects the ideological interests of those in power. He wrote:
Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention. They serve as “cooling-out” agencies, delaying and preventing more radical, structural change. They help maintain an economic and political order, international in scope, which benefits the ruling-class interests of philanthropists and philanthropoids—a system which, as the various chapters document, has worked against the interests of minorities, the working class, and Third World peoples. (p. 1)
Reproduction and Correspondence Theory
Bowles and Gintis’s Schooling in Capitalist America (1976) provided an invitation to explore how schools were intertwined with the hegemony of the ruling class. They argued that schools reproduced the capitalist economy by mechanically turning out new workers and new owners. They further argued that the social relations in school corresponded to the economic and social relationships of the larger capitalist society. School therefore was not a neutral agency forging democracy, but rather central to the schemes of labor exploitation and oppression. This happens through the development of assorted skills, the creation of human capital, and the cultivation of attitudes that prepare the student for the relationships of work. They describe the process of developing the consciousness for work.
Bowles and Gintis see production and the culture of production as an important developmental idea. Students must be readied for the social division of labor, stratified interpersonal relationships, and authoritarian hierarchy. They argue further that schools cultivate the myth of equal opportunity and access; but in reality, social status in life is tied more to other factors, such as hereditary wealth, than it is to school achievement. School does little to alter that arrangement. Quite the contrary, school reproduces it.
Bowles and Gintis’s notion of correspondence holds that schools integrate students into the economic system by providing parallels for corresponding social relations. They write of the “personal demeanor,” “modes of self-preservation,” self-image,” and “social class identifications” required by a stratified capitalist society, which are provided by schooling. Schools train people in the acceptable social relationships, say Bowles and Gintis. Schools train good employees. ← 78 | 79 →
Marxian Critique of State Education in the United States: An Overview
In general, Marxists believe that schools have an ideological purpose. Their job is to promote individualism, competition, worker loyalty, patriotism, and the support of Western civilization.
De Tocqueville-styled (1838/2000) classlessness, a pillar of Western social science, is aggressively promoted in American education. In this case, classlessness holds that America is not burdened with the rigid class stratification of other advanced industrial countries. Property ownership, governance, and opportunity are presumably accessible to all. The school curriculum cloaks the adversarial relations of production, instead suggesting that business and labor are equal partners. The partnership argument camouflages economic exploitation and the powerlessness of labor.
Secondly, schools support the legitimacy of inequities in wealth and status. Difference is part of the natural order. Gonzalez’s (1982) harsh, summative Marxist critique of American education compels our attention:
Education has a political task to accomplish, and in accomplishing it, it creates social problems manifested as dropouts, disinterest in formal learning, low reading and writing skills—all due to low self-esteem and negative self-concepts generated by educational techniques which emphasize individualism and inequality through tracking and curriculum differentiation according to levels of “intelligence” or “aptitude.” Perhaps the most conspicuous aspect of education in the U.S. is not the high dropout rate or the functional illiteracy but the serious psychological damage perpetuated through teaching. Schools generally fail to develop confidence and motivation in students, because schools are responsible for developing a quiescent majority, politically manageable, if not apolitical. Elitism is fostered and this constantly divides students into the “thinkers” and “workers” ….
Antidemocracy in the schools is a necessary political device to resolve the class struggle …. Patterns of cultural discrimination, English as the “official” and exclusive language, and the denial of the nationalities’ histories are but a few of the manifestations of antidemocracy. (p. 148)
The Marxian critique is accompanied by resistance and opposition to schools. At one level, theorists, intellectuals, and school teachers themselves have offered dissent. The Social Reconstructionist Movement was one example that combined these groups. Additionally, people of color, the working classes, and other alienated groups have provided more than a century of protest. The next section examines this spirited, sometimes confrontational, protest. ← 79 | 80 →
The Social Reconstructionist Movement
The Social Reconstructionist Movement of the 1930s was among the largest radical dissenting educational movements in the twentieth century. By the turn of the twentieth century, a new criticism was emerging in America’s social-science community. Concern was being expressed about the inequities and impersonal nature of the then emergent corporate-industrial organization of society. Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), along with essays by muckraking journalists, dramatized social and economic problems in the midst of plenty. The emerging Progressive Movement, with its themes of democracy, humanism, and social reform, profoundly affected the educational community.
While progressive education made its influence felt in the post–World War I period, the Progressive Education Association (PEA) was never a strong centralized organization. It had no single voice (Bowers, 1969) and was always smaller than the National Education Association (NEA). By the mid-1930s, the intellectual climate of the country took a noticeable turn to the left, as the social criticism of the early 1900s expanded. A significant section of the intelligentsia and the politically conscious populace began to question the moral worth of the capitalist system, insisting that human rights take priority over property rights. The educational community was compelled to join this discourse.
A discernibly dissident group began to make their voices heard within the PEA. One rallying point for this group was the report of the Commission on the Social Studies within the American Historical Association (AHA). The report, funded by the Carnegie Foundation, was presented in seventeen volumes between the years 1932 and 1937. Among those who contributed to the project were well-known educators and social theorists such as Charles A. Beard, Merle Curti, George S. Counts, and Jesse Newlon.
The year 1932 became eventful for this dissident group, which became known as Social Reconstructionists or Social Frontiersmen. While the PEA remained committed to child-centered education, the Reconstructionists wanted more of progressivism than the exaltation of the child. They wanted education to feature a “social point of view,” that is, a descriptive and prescriptive examination of social problems.
When George S. Counts of the University of Chicago delivered his disturbing lecture “Dare Progressive Education Be Progressive?” to the PEA in April 1932, the new movement took on identity. Counts criticized the Progressive Education Movement as one of middle-class dilettantes. He stated: ← 80 | 81 →
The great weakness of Progressive Education lies in the fact that it has elaborated no theory of social welfare, unless it be that of anarchy or extreme individualism. In this, of course, it is but reflecting the viewpoint of the members of the liberal-minded upper middle class. (Counts, 1932b, p. 258)
Further in this lecture, which was greeted by a stunned silence that sent shockwaves through the Progressive education community, he suggested that these Progressives were romantic sentimentalists and not interested in addressing the economic and social crises. He called on Progressive educators to
face squarely and courageously every social issue, come to grips with life in all of its stark reality, establish an organic relation with the community, develop a realistic and comprehensive theory of welfare, fashion a compelling and challenging vision of human destiny, and become somewhat less frightened than it is today at the bogeys of imposition and indoctrination. (p. 259)
Counts continued to speak about how our competitive capitalist society “must be replaced by cooperation” and “some form of socialized economy.” This blockbuster lecture, along with two others, “Freedom, Culture, Social Planning, and Leadership” and “Education Through Indoctrination,” were issued in what R. Freeman Butts (1978, p. 385) called “perhaps the most widely discussed pamphlet in the history of American education, Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” (Counts, 1932a). In this work, which became the blueprint for Social Reconstructionism, Counts challenged the educational community to bridge the gap between school and society; where schools should create a vision of a new world based on the principles of collectivism. The works of Counts in 1932, combined with the publication of the Commission on the Social Studies in the Schools’ A Charter for the Social Sciences in the Schools (1932), drafted by Charles A. Beard, served as a unifying framework to bring together such individuals as William Heard Kilpatrick, John L. Childs, R. Bruce Raup, and Harold Rugg. Additionally, other well-known progressives like John Dewey and Boyd H. Bode were attracted to the call of the Reconstructionists.
Social Reconstructionism: An Educational and Political Program
While the dissident Social Reconstructionists remained within the PEA and enjoyed a measure of support, it became clear that they had a different focus. In an effort to respond to the insurgents, particularly Counts, the PEA in 1932 ← 81 | 82 → established the Committee on Social and Economic Problems. This committee simultaneously served to rally the Reconstructionists and further split the ranks of the PEA. Between 1932 and 1934 the Reconstructionist position became more clearly defined and more radical. Two more books joined the essays of Counts to advance their cause. A Call to the Teachers of the Nation (1933), written by the PEA’s Committee on Social and Economic Problems, summoned teachers to act, while The Educational Frontier (1933), edited and partially written by the respected William Heard Kilpatrick (1932), called for the politicization of education. The Social Reconstructionists now had their own identity.
As the Reconstructionists more forcefully asserted their position, the larger sentiment within the PEA reasserted itself. Though still not tightly administered, the PEA focused its commitment and its journal, Progressive Education, on child-centered classroom techniques. The Reconstructionists, experiencing increased difficulties getting published (Bowers, 1969), founded their own journal, The Social Frontier, which first appeared in October 1934. Now they could continue to develop their distinctive position. The “hard core” of the Reconstructionists, that is, Sidney Hook, Counts, Harold Rugg, Jesse Newlon, Goodwin Watson, and John Childs, best articulated their view. Three sociopolitical and educational propositions formed the foundation of Social Reconstructionism.
First, there was the advocacy of a “collectivist” society. The evil capitalist system was seen as the source of human misery, unemployment, and divisiveness. Capitalism was to be replaced by “economic collectivism.” Though Hook was a Marxist, and Counts spoke of his serious study of Karl Marx, the beliefs and language of the Reconstructionists seldom suggested “proletarian” revolution as Marx had called for. The Reconstructionists instead spoke of evolutionary change. They, in fact, suggested that, given New Deal politics and the intellectual climate, the country had already evolved into an era of economic collectivism. For them, a benevolent and democratic Socialist collectivism represented desirable social development. A redistribution of the wealth and resources would allow public morality and cooperation to reshape society.
Second, the Reconstructionists called for linking education with (collectivist) political ideology. The attainment of a truly progressive society required an expanded role for education. Treating children humanistically was fine, but education must take on a major role in the plan to transform society. Education must be utilized to transform social institutions. Education ← 82 | 83 → should be viewed as a form of social action. Schools must take an active role in determining the new social order.
Third, schools should participate in reshaping society to realize the true mission of education. Kilpatrick argued that the worn socioeconomic system was making it difficult for schools to produce worthy citizens. Schools should foster a broader social responsibility and work for the common good. By helping to transform laissez-faire capitalism, education could help make society more humane. Education should be at the cutting edge of civilization. In short, the process of schooling should be inextricably linked to social progress.
Remaking the Curriculum
If education was going to significantly contribute to social change, schools must necessarily adopt a curriculum sufficiently critical of the old social order, while becoming supportive of the new collectivism. The Social Reconstructionists called on the curriculum community to support wholesale change in curriculum materials, activities, and outlooks.
A leading curriculum theoretician among the Reconstructionists was Professor Harold Rugg of Teachers College, Columbia University. Long committed to change, Rugg, in The Scientific Method in the Reconstruction of Elementary and Secondary School Subjects (1921), argued for a curriculum that would combine critical sociopolitical inquiry with the life experience of the learner. Above all, Rugg wanted to guarantee that any new curriculum was pedagogically sound. In the early 1920s Rugg began to publish his own social studies pamphlets. In his series, published by Ginn, entitled “Man and His Changing Society,” Rugg offered a comprehensive social science curriculum based on democratic and humanistic values.
In the October 1936 (Vol. III, No. 19) issue of The Social Frontier, Rugg challenged “commissioners, presidents, deans, superintendents, principals, supervisors, teachers … to stir the mass into action!” (p. 15). Rugg went on to blast “professional Directors of Curriculum and a powerful behind-the-scenes body of textbook writers and publishers who have controlled the program of American education … primarily in the interest of the status quo.”
In his blueprint for a new curriculum, Rugg suggests that schools focus on the “social scene,” a “new psychology,” and a “syllabi of activities and materials directly out of the crucial conditions, problems and issues of our changing social order.” He goes on to advocate confronting controversial issues, ← 83 | 84 → exploring alternative decision making, and teaching the basic issues of civilization in the classrooms.
The End of an Era
As the war years approached, radicalism gave way to patriotism. The fascist menace was so threatening that it became the priority for conservatives and Socialists alike. The resignation of Counts from The Social Frontier’s editorial board in 1937 signaled the end of this energetic yet short-lived movement.
As the Reconstructionists began to lose momentum, the newly formed John Dewey Society began to attract many of the old forces and actually absorbed The Social Frontier. During the war years a few halfhearted efforts were undertaken, particularly by Rugg, to rekindle the old vigor, but without much success. By the mid-1950s even the PEA was in mortal decline.
It can be concluded that the Social Reconstruction Movement was very much a product of its time. While it attracted the attention of significant educational and curriculum thinkers, it never became the hoped-for mass movement of teachers. Though short lived, this body of thought left its indelible imprint on educational theorizing and curriculum reform.
Since World War II, scattered efforts, such as the work of Theodore Brameld (1956), the Society for Educational Reconstruction, and that of other individuals, have kept this once lively movement in our consciousness. Addressing issues of race and class, the Social Reconstructionists unleashed a qualitatively new critique of American public education. It can be argued that Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois was a Social Reconstructionist.
W.E.B. Du Bois: Radical Socialist Educator
Traditional curriculum scholarship has for too long overlooked the historical evolution of the “radical” Black pedagogy. Any cursory overview of the traditional scholarship reveals that historiographers and curriculum theorists alike have failed to explore the foundations of this body of thought. More importantly, critical Black pedagogy has often been viewed narrowly as protest thought. While there can be no doubt that the policies and practices of racialism have shaped Black intellectual life, there remains a body of inquiry that needs further examination. ← 84 | 85 →
Black and White pedagogy have been as disconnected as Black and White history. Typically the White radical intelligentsia is seen to have been concerned with sweeping economic, political, and social change, while the mostly overlooked Black radical thinkers are associated exclusively with Black liberation. Without question, there is a Black radical tradition within the education dialogue. W.E.B. Du Bois was a pioneer in that movement.
Though known in academia since the turn of the twentieth century, Du Bois has rarely been considered a force in the curriculum dialogue. While he lived through, and was influenced by, sweeping social transformations such as the Progressive Movement and the radicalism of the 1930s, seldom is his contribution included as a factor in the discourse of his day. We have not yet come to fully appreciate or understand the work of this man who was so passionately concerned with the aims of education (Provenzo, 2002). If we proclaim Du Bois as the father of radical Black pedagogy, it can be said that his is an outgrowth of late-nineteenth-century sociological inquiry. Early on, pioneer Black scholars such as George Washington Williams and T.T. Fortune examined the conditions of Blacks in the reconstructed South. Du Bois, already committed to activism and social change, linked social criticism to the emerging examination of Black life. Armed with an education from Fisk, Harvard, and the University of Berlin, Du Bois was well prepared to take his place as a social theorist, social critic, and radical educator.
Having visited the Soviet Union in 1926 and again in 1936, Du Bois began to reexamine his views on Marxism. With the Russian solution looking more and more attractive to many in the United States, Du Bois wanted to consider the possibility of class struggle aimed at social justice, racial equity, and international cooperation. Marable (1986) says of Du Bois in the 1930s:
…Du Bois began to make a serious study of Marx’s writings and moved further left. In May 1933, he observed that Marx was a “colossal genius of infinite sacrifice and monumental industry, and with a mind of extraordinary logical keenness and grasp.” Marxism had a direct bearing on the liberation of Afro-Americans. Du Bois noted that “the shrill cry” of American Communists was not “listened to,” but he believed that some form of “modified” Marxism philosophy did have relevance to the United States. “In the hearts of black laborers,” Du Bois wrote, “lie those ideals of democracy in politics and industry which may in time make the workers of the world effective dictators of civilization.” In the summer of 1933, he taught a course, “Karl Marx and the Negro,” at Atlanta University. (p. 137)
The Progressives advanced a new examination and critique of the dynamics of schooling. They began to look at school as a social and political construct. The more radical Progressives began to explain schooling in terms of power and ideology. They viewed schools as linked to dominant political and economic ideologies, that is, the corporate state and its narrow objectives. It was at this chronological and political juncture that the interests of Du Bois overlapped with those of the Progressive educational community in general, and the Social Reconstructionists in particular.
Du Bois and Social Reconstructionism: Common Origins, Common Views
Though the Social Reconstructionists never claimed Du Bois, nor did he claim them, they were undeniably linked by virtue of their history, pedagogy, and views on the nature of society, Socialism, and reform. While segregation dominated our sociopolitical processes, racial politics also influenced radical social theory.
The Communist Party of the 1930s actively worked for Negro equality and the militant organizing of Black sharecroppers in the South, and unskilled Black labor in the North. At the same time, non-Communist, and often anti-Communist, radical leftists recognized the struggles of Blacks, but did not support that position in deeds.
Progressivism represented the common historical thread between Du Bois and the Reconstructionists. The Democratic-Socialist views of the left wing of the Progressive Movement were consistent with Du Bois’s views between 1910 and 1930. A collectivist economic order, without revolution, is what Du Bois had long advocated. Consistently supporting and being supported by such progressives as Walter Lippmann, Jane Addams, and many others, Du Bois was comfortable with this company. Additionally, he was an unyielding supporter of educational reform, the suffrage movement, and trade unionism, all of which were progressive platform issues. Marable (1986) says of Du Bois’s association with progressivism:
He sought to advance theoretical concepts on the meaning of each movement to the reconstruction of American democracy. But as a Negro, Du Bois was always aware of the veil of color that inhibited many white radicals from pursuing creative reform strategies challenging racial inequality. He believed that the central contradiction in democratic society was the barrier of racism, and that if left unchallenged, racial prejudice would compromise the goals of social reformers. (p. 84) ← 86 | 87 →
Du Bois: A Pedagogy for Social Reconstruction
Because of Du Bois’s intense concern with questions of race and class, his views on education are often overshadowed. It will be argued that Du Bois’s views on the purposes of education coincide with those of George S. Counts, Harold Rugg, Sidney Hook, Theodore Brameld, and others associated with the heyday of Social Reconstructionism during the 1930s.
While Du Bois wrote widely on character training and Black college issues, the Reconstructionists did not. In the remaining areas—education for social change and the aims of education—the views of Du Bois are almost indistinguishable from those of Rugg and Counts and other Reconstructionists during the early 1930s.
In regard to the purposes of education, Du Bois becomes the consummate Social Reconstructionist. Beyond cognitive development, the Reconstructionists saw a special role for schooling. That role was to assist the evolution of a new enlightenment and even a new social order. By virtue of their positioning in society, confrontation with ideas, dynamic nature, and the perceived leadership role of teachers, schools were to be viewed as having revolutionary possibilities.
Du Bois consistently upheld the notion that schooling was both personally and socially emancipatory. He noted that education should “give to our youth a training designed above all to make them men of power.” Du Bois often said that education must prepare one to do the “world’s work.” What was the world’s work? Du Bois (in Aptheker, 1973) answers thus:
The world compels us today as never before to examine and re-examine the problem of democracy. In theory we know it by heart: all men are equal and should have equal voice in their own government. This dictum has been vigorously attacked. All men are not equal. Ignorance cannot speak logically or clearly even when given voice. If sloth, dullness and mediocrity hold power, civilization is diluted and lowered, and government approaches anarchy. The mob cannot rule itself and will not choose the wise and able and give them the power to rule. (p. 118)
Education, for Du Bois, becomes social capital, which can be utilized to influence society. In an eloquent summary of his views on the power of education, Du Bois (in Aptheker, 1973) noted:
We are going to force ourselves in by organized far-seeing effort—by outthinking and outflanking the owners of the world today who are too drunk with their own arrogance and power successfully to oppose us. (p. 77) ← 87 | 88 →
Du Bois and Democratic Socialism
Ultimately, the Social Reconstructivist aspect of Du Bois rests with his political and social philosophy. Like his radical counterparts in the 1930s, Du Bois advocated a (collectivist) democratic-Socialist organization of society’s wealth, resources, and knowledge. He argued in 1942 (in Weinberg, 1970):
In the period between 1860 and 1914, capitalism had come to its highest development in the European world, and its development meant the control of economic life and with that the domination of political life by the great aggregation of capital. It became, therefore, increasingly clear, as Karl Marx emphasized at the beginning of the era, that there could be no real democracy unless there was greater economic equality. (p. 196)
Du Bois, the Socialist, looked for a vehicle for social reform. He, like many others, concluded that the dynamic nature of ideas and ideology could prompt change. For Du Bois, there was an undying belief that ideas, when adopted by people, became a force in the real world. It is that belief that, in the search for change, continues to point reformers and radicals to the schools.
Other Black Voices
While data is scarce and the scholarship is limited, there exists a Black Marxian and neo-Marxian radical critique of American public education beyond that of Du Bois. Scattered writings in The Social Frontier, the ongoing activities of Harlem activists, and the widely known “local control” movement in New York during the late 1960s provide examples for consideration.
The previously discussed Social Reconstructionists published their own journal. Initially called The Social Frontier, the name changed in October 1939 to Frontiers of Democracy. The April 15, 1940, issue was dedicated to the race question. Articles by well-known scholars such as Margaret Mead, William Heard Kilpatrick, and Eugene L. Horowitz bemoaned the social inequality of the races and attempted to excavate the social roots of prejudice. Black philosopher Alain Locke offered a contribution entitled “With Science as His Shield: The Educator Must Bridge Our ‘Great Divides.’” Beyond the standard ← 88 | 89 → denunciation of segregation, Locke explored possibilities for the curriculum. He called for intercultural studies, arguing that students needed a broader social science and social studies ideology that would support tolerance, democracy, and humanity. He wrote:
Presumably there would be a more humane and tolerant sense of solidarity in a society permeated with such social intelligence and less need and demand for the intolerant and chauvinistic varieties of patriotism and other group loyalties. The school, after all, cannot alone create democracy or be primarily responsible for it. (p. 210)
The Frontiersmen had a wide but short-lived audience. Their larger work suggests interest in the “Negro question” and specifically the education of Blacks. Theirs was a radical voice that attempted to connect with the Black radical voice of the time. Beyond intellectual work, the militant Black critique of public education was heard in the community.
Harlem: Hotbed of Education Dissent
Two groups exemplified the Black radical protest of public education in Harlem during the 1930s: the Harlem Committee for Better Schools and the Teacher’s Union (TU). The Committee for Better Schools was a mass organization that included parents, teachers, churches, and community reformers. Indignant about Harlem’s neglected and deteriorating schools, these activists recruited and attracted Black teachers and radicals. Allied with the Teachers Union, they worked for the physical improvements of schools, free lunches, and better working conditions for teachers (Naison, 1984).
An incident in 1936 in which a burly White school principal physically attacked a fourteen-year-old black schoolboy sparked community action. Here is how Naison (1984) describes the outrage:
The Committee for Better Schools, with the aid of seasoned Communist street speakers like Audley Moore and Richard Moore, immediately established picket lines at the school and organized demonstrations designed to force Schoenchen’s expulsion from the school system. These protests attracted thousands of participants, ranging from Harlem parents to top-ranking black politicians, to leaders of the Harlem branch of the NAACP, and culminated in a mass trial of the School Board at Abyssinian Baptist Church. Three months after the incident, Schoenchen was transferred to a school outside Harlem. (p. 215)
In cooperation with the Teacher’s Union, the committee sponsored workshops and forums on black accomplishments in American life and fought to remove racist textbooks from the city school system. Condemning the practice of channeling blacks away from academic careers, they agitated for the right of black students to participate in college-bound programs and to attend high schools out of the Harlem district.
The Party’s presence pervaded the committee. Theodore Bassett, its secretary, and Emmet May, its vice-chairman, were both Party members, and conducted most of the committee’s administrative tasks. Born in the south and trained as schoolteachers, they did their work with a quiet efficiency that won the respect of the black ministers and schoolteachers who composed the group’s other leaders. In addition, Party neighborhood branches participated actively in the committee’s work. Communists served as members of PTA’s in most Harlem schools and placed their best street speakers at the Committee’s disposal when it organized demonstrations. (p. 216)
The Teacher’s Union
Founded in 1916 by the children of unionists committed to unionism (Markowitz, 1993), Local 5, Teacher’s Union (TU) of the American Federation of Teachers was formed in New York City. During the 1920s the aggressive and expanding TU took up bread-and-butter issues such as salaries and working conditions, as well as the broader issues of academic freedom, church-state relationships, and the “democratization” of the schools (Markowitz, 1993). By the 1930s the TU counted many Communists and Socialists in its ranks. It became an active part of the broad social movement against Fascism and reaction. As the hard Left gained power within the TU, those opposing their views split and formed the Teacher Guild in 1935.
The more radical TU participated in campaigns against poverty, unemployment, and teacher firings. Markowitz (1993) attempts to assess the level of radicalism among New York teachers during the Depression Era:
As for the political beliefs of the city’s teachers, while a number of Communist party members did teach in the city’s schools, according to most accounts, including several of those interviewed, they apparently constituted only a very small portion of the teaching staff …. The results of a questionnaire for city teachers sponsored by the John Dewey Society for the Study of Education in 1936 showed that the general tendency of teachers was “leftish” with “pale pink” rather than “red” coloring. The study found that while there was predominance of teachers holding Socialist convictions, only a small group actually voted for the Socialist party. This study noted that while the great majority of teachers saw the need for far-reaching economic and social reforms, their dissent from the status quo was of a gradualist rather than revolutionary approach. (p. 158) ← 90 | 91 →
The Scottsboro Boys case led to Communist Party recruitment of, and alliances with, African Americans. Segregated and inferior schools had long plagued urban and rural Black education. By the mid-1930s, public schoolteachers who were Communist Party members readily joined the community struggles of Black schools. In Harlem, for example, largely Jewish female and African American Communist Party members joined with a broader number of teachers and parents to protest inferior schools. Markowitz (1993) chronicles the activities of teachers Alice Citron, Dorothy Rose, Mildred Flacks, Celia Zitron, and Minnie Gutride among others in this effort.
Containing both Black and White Communists and radicals, the Teachers Union continued its activities despite being battered by government red baiting and defections. In the early 1950s they ambitiously challenged the established school curriculum. While it is difficult to sort out the exact role of Black people, they were clearly an integral part of this endeavor. Here is how Biondi (2003) describes the event:
In 1951 the left-wing Teacher’s Union, with which the board had broken relations after its expulsion from the CIO, produced a remarkable study of textbooks currently in use in the public schools. In “Bias and Prejudice in Textbooks in Use in New York City Schools: An Indictment,” the union took pains to clarify why its review did not constitute censorship. The Teachers’ Union “makes a sharp distinction between censorship—which it opposes—and the elimination of material containing racist stereotypes, distortion of historical and scientific fact, and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, toward allegedly ‘inferior’ peoples.” Prepared by the Harlem Committee of the Teachers’ Union, the report reflected scholarship in U.S. history that had been ignored by the mainstream academy, and it anticipated the revisionism of the next generation of historians who came of age during the civil rights movement. (pp. 244–45)
Thus we observe that one of the first movements to revise racist curriculum included Black voices. Biondi (2003) continues:
To compensate for the deficient materials used in city schools, the Teachers’ Union created its own Black history curriculum, including “The Negro in New York, 1626–1865: A Study for Teachers.” While this guide was not adopted by the board, it is possible that individual teachers used it. It began: “In New York City the Negro people constitute more than 10% of the city population. This is probably the largest Negro community of any city in the world with great and growing influence on the social and cultural life of the city and of national importance because of its leadership in the fight for civil rights throughout the country. (p. 246) ← 91 | 92 →
Local Control in New York: The Radical Influence
In the context of expanding national affluence for some, differentiated and segregated schooling remained a target of Marxists and radicals throughout the 1950s. Unequal schools were viewed as symptomatic of the unequal society. On the heels of Brown v. Board of Education and McCarthyism, radical agitation for improved schools continued and even intensified in many areas of the nation. The school wars described by Danns (2003) in Chicago suggest continued widespread discontent with public education by people of color.
Every aspect of the “great divide,” that is, the contradictions between Black and White, affluent and poor, powerful and powerless, city and suburb, existed in New York City in the 1960s. Within education, concerns about racism, the achievement gap, relevant curriculum, effective teaching, and governance boiled over in Ocean Hill–Brownsville. Its advocates saw the demand for local control of schools as empowering, liberating, and democratizing the schools. The politics of this movement attracted an assortment of radicals, Black and White, to the cause. Taylor (1997) argues that Marxists and Marxism were prominent in the Ocean Hill–Brownsville project. He suggests that the leader, Rev. Milton Galamison, worked with and was influenced by Marxists. He writes:
Using Karl Marx’s notion of superstructure, i.e., political, religious, and cultural institutions support the capitalist economic order, Galamison argued ← 92 | 93 → that individuals, the dominant culture, the state and its leaders, including the Protestant church in America, had all perpetuated class and race inequality and war. (p. 35)
Galamison emphasized Christian social obligation, telling his congregation that the dire situation created by class exploitation had created a special need for Christians. Followers of Christ must fight all forms of inequality, Galamison stated; if one professes to be a Christian, one cannot sit idly by and allow innocent human beings to suffer from poverty, racism, and war. True Christians should be vehicles for change and social redemption.
Ideologically, Galamison felt connected to progressives and radicals, they worked for the same goals and criticized the same targets: the state and church …. On occasions he even praised Marxism. According to the Presbyterian minister, Socialism has been an important “historic force.” It has been a “definite attempt to define the nature of man. The ideas of human dignity and justice are the basis of Marx’s writings and these ideas created modern Socialism and Russian Communism.” Galamison argued that the power that defined the Russian Revolution was a “concept of man: Faith in oneself, faith in the common man, in his ideas, his power, in his rights ….”
Galamison defended communists from red-baiting, noting enemies of change often scapegoated communism. “Communism, as the story goes, is responsible for all the world’s woes.” Galamison claimed that using communists as scapegoats was a diversion that takes people’s minds off the real issues. (pp. 36–37)
Reclaiming Marxism in African American Protest Thought
The conservative restoration, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the increasing theoretical assault on “materialist” conceptions of society have all served as distractions to Marxian thought in recent years. This generation of racial protest is saturated with racial determinism and identity politics. Popular culturalist themes assert the primacy of race over class, and often dismiss Marxian thought as Eurocentric or irrelevant. The African-centered themes enjoy widespread popularity in this environment.
Many culturalists and cultural theorists reject class struggle in favor of romantic reifications of racial unity and cultural bonding. Vague notions of cooperation are favored over labor-market theories and historical materialism. Despite the current employment displacements, significant transference of wealth from poor to rich, government “take-backs,” and desperate new poverty, Marxian notions of class struggle and property ownership are under persistent assault.
Some Black culturalists have been virulent and strident in their criticism of Marxism. Many refuse to connect racial oppression to the expropriation of labor and property ownership.
The significant embrace of Marxism by African Americans dates to the aforementioned Scottsboro Boys case of the early 1930s, where nine Black youth were falsely accused of raping a White woman in Alabama. It was the Communist Party that spearheaded their public defense and protest. Additionally, the Communist Party organized mass protests against unemployment, evictions, and repossessions, thus attracting Blacks to their ranks. Between the world wars, Blacks were active in the Communist Party throughout the rural South, northern cities, and especially New York.
The Black Marxian tradition is indeed a rich one. It traces from the days of Cyril Briggs and the African Blood Brotherhood, to Angelo Hearndon, ← 93 | 94 → and the Sharecroppers movements in the South, to the many Black Marxists of the Harlem Renaissance, all the way through Angela Davis and the Black Panther Party. Such a history should be embraced, shared, and reinforced. The Black Marxian tradition is hardly an aberration: its roots lie deep within the voices of an oppressed people screaming for justice and equality.
Several summative thoughts and questions occur as I have attempted to cull some of the existing scholarship in this area. Much remains to be done. Further exploration of primary source data, as well as more exhaustive scholarship on radical African American educational dissent, needs to take place for the following reasons:
First, contemporary popular school criticism, especially in urban education, has turned our attention to mediocrity. The mediocrity argument suggests that urban schools suffer from permissiveness, poor funding, social promotion, denied access, indifferent teachers, exoticized curriculum, limited home experiences, and lack of school choice. While many of these points are indisputable, they are simplistic and reductionist as an explanation. The mediocrity thesis doesn’t encourage a historicized and politicized excavation of schooling. The resulting “reform” movement simply calls for the reversal of the aforementioned maladies. “Back to basics” and increased standardized testing are hardly remedies for structured inequity. We don’t have enough informed public dialogue that locates schools squarely within the context of power, ideology, property, and partisanship. The state function of education must not be obfuscated as it was in the early twentieth century.
Second, popular criticism of urban schools focuses primarily on race. Even the well-articulated reproduction arguments rarely join race to class. The Black radical and Marxian examinations of schools are more likely to identify the intersection of race and class oppression within the capitalist system as problematic. Many related questions cry out for illumination. Do “antiracist pedagogy” and multicultural education have any real teeth in this environment? How can we explore race and schooling in association with labor economics? What do the new demographics mean to public schooling? How do we understand urban renewal and regentrification in the postindustrial society? ← 94 | 95 →
Finally, I’m concerned about the marginalization of Marxian social science as an explanatory tool. Our society and our world are very complex. Social institutions, including schools, are shaped by power and ideology. Marxian critique is a valuable, if not indispensable, tool in exploring the dynamics of power, race, ideology, subservience, equity, gender discrimination, and hegemony.
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The contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States has sustained a loss of integrity in two respects. The first involves a decline in the intellectual integrity of curriculum scholarship, which fails to correct misrepresentations of the historic field of curriculum development, fails to engage in the so-called complicated conversation that it touts, and resorts to rhetorical tactics that have no place in bona fide academic analysis. The second respect involves the continuing fragmentation of the academic field of curriculum studies in the United States into an amorphous clearinghouse for innumerable theoretical perspectives applied to any discursive reality, rehashing already-established theories. The contemporary field of curriculum studies no longer serves its constituents in the schools; instead it has become insular, self-serving, and increasingly irrelevant to educational policy and practice. Steps should be taken to arrest the declining integrity of the contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States, which should include a turn toward curriculum policy analysis.
The decline in the intellectual integrity of curriculum scholarship is manifest in uncorrected misrepresentations of the historical field of curriculum development, failure to engage in the so-called complicated curriculum conversation, and deployment of rhetorical tactics that militate against academic analysis. ← 99 | 100 →
The most persistent misrepresentation of the historical field of curriculum development involves depictions of Tyler’s 1949 rationale for developing curriculum and instruction. Despite Hlebowitsh’s (1992) revealing reappraisal of the Tyler rationale and what Hlebowitsh found to be widespread misrepresentations of it, which was extended in Hlebowitsh (1995) and Kliebard (1995), little evidence can be found that curriculum scholars have subsequently informed—never mind corrected—their work with this reappraisal. Indeed, when writing about the Tyler rationale, curriculum scholars at worst ignore and at best merely reference Hlebowitsh’s analysis in passing. Thus, specific misrepresentations of Tyler persist. For example, despite the very fact that Tyler (1949, p. 128) expressly stated that the four questions need not be addressed in the order in which he discussed them in his book, curriculum scholars overlook what Tyler actually wrote and continue to depict his rationale as inherently and irrefragably linear (e.g., Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1995, p. 148; Ellis & Fouts, 1997, pp. 178–179; Marsh, 2004, p. 202; Marsh & Willis, 2007, p. 72). Moreover, the charge of stepwise linearity is reserved only for Tyler; other curriculum development models expressly comprised of steps—for example, Walker’s deliberative approach and Pinar’s method of currere—are spared such criticism (e.g., Marsh & Willis, 2007, pp. 79, 136–137; Slattery, 2006, p. 63; Pinar et al., 1995, p. 520).
Although curriculum scholars typically quote only Tyler’s four questions from page 1 of the 1949 book, they freely associate it with a “quantitative” approach to curriculum development and with behaviorism, scientific management, and even present-day calls for accountability (e.g., Slattery, 2006). Yet, Tyler expressly distinguished his focus on behavior from behaviorism (p. 6), the rationale does not offer guidelines for managing curriculum (p. 1), standardized tests are not featured in his discussion of evaluation, though the limitations of paper-and-pencil tests in general are (p. 107), and accountability did not emerge in education reform for over 50 years after the publication of the Tyler rationale, which emphasizes using evaluation not to punish educators but to identify and solve curricular and instructional problems in order to improve student learning (p. 123).
The propensity to misrepresent the Tyler rationale has evidently spread from the general curriculum field to specialized educational fields in the United States. In adult education, for example, Sork (2000), ignoring Hlebowitsh, characterized the Tyler rationale as a manifestation of “technical rationality” (p. 172) and referred to “the Tylerian, technical-rational tradition” (p. 173). Similarly, Cervero and Wilson (2006), dismissing Hlebowitsh’s analysis by ← 100 | 101 → simply citing it in passing (p. 249), referred to “Tyler’s classical planning logic” (p. 21) and depicted the rationale as offering “rational planning procedures” (p. 78). In music education, Hanley and Montgomery (2002), also ignoring Hlebowitsh, depicted Tyler’s discussion of basic principles as “linear and hierarchical” and claimed that it “supported a ‘technical rationality’” (p. 116). Tyler, who claimed that his book “is not a manual for curriculum construction since it does not describe and outline in detail the steps to be taken by a given school or college that seeks to build a curriculum” (p. 1) and presented no language to suggest his process was a mere technical procedure, is effectively silenced in these discussions.
Lost in these depictions of the Tyler rationale are the facts that Tyler (1949) contended that, among other things, curriculum and instruction should be developed locally by teachers for the actual students they teach (pp. 12, 24); that student characteristics and interests, social realities and ideals, and subject concepts should be synthesized in objectives such as “develop an appreciation of the modern novel” (p. 47); that student experiences comprise the centerpiece of the educational program (pp. 63–64); and that evaluation must involve multiple sources of information about student learning, including student performances and products of their work (pp. 107–108). Indeed, it is safe to suggest that, based on what Tyler wrote in his book, as a localized, participatory, problem-solving process, the Tyler rationale is better understood not as an iteration of managerial efficiency, but as a manifestation of American pragmatism in education (see Childs, 1956).
Why do these misrepresentations of Tyler’s book persist in curriculum scholarship? It seems that the principal role that curriculum scholars have assigned to the Tyler rationale is that of straw man. The pattern repeats itself throughout the curriculum literature: depict the Tyler rationale as something antiquated, misguided, even unenlightened, then advocate for a new and improved model that corrects the reputed shortcomings of the Tyler rationale. This strategy could have some merit, but it loses validity as it responds not to what Tyler actually proposed, but to what academics casually associate with his model. And the methods move beyond misrepresenting what Tyler wrote to affixing pejorative labels to the rationale. Terms such as technical, rational, and classical not only fail to represent accurately what Tyler actually wrote, but also evoke the sense of a model that is mechanical, impersonal, and outdated and obsolete. A common tactic is to attach the suffix “-ian” to Tyler’s name, lending it inflexible, doctrinaire connotations. Rather than analyzing the Tyler rationale, such depictions suffice to characterize it pejoratively. ← 101 | 102 → Expedient misrepresentation of the Tyler rationale serves individual theoretical agendas at the expense of accurate representation of Tyler’s work. Although a clever rhetorical tactic, it undermines the intellectual integrity of curriculum scholarship. The point, of course, is not only about Tyler’s work per se, but about persistent misrepresentation of the curriculum literature and the failure to correct blatant inaccuracies in academic curriculum work, which together militate against the intellectual integrity of the curriculum field in the United States.
Here is another example. One of the great claims about reconceptualized curriculum theorizing is that this new work once and for all and appropriately directed curriculum scholars’ attention away from a narrow, instrumentalist preoccupation with curriculum as courses of study and toward a more complex and sophisticated understanding of curriculum as experience (Pinar, 2009). Slattery (2006) offered the following account of this contribution of reconceptualized curriculum theorizing:
The method that Pinar describes is committed to an etymological understanding of “curriculum” as a derivation of currere. The problem with traditional curriculum development, according to Pinar, is that the meaning of “curriculum” has been misinterpreted. Currere is Latin for “to run,” as over a racecourse. “Curriculum” is thus a verbal phrase, an activity—or for Pinar, an inward journey. The modern curriculum development rationale has truncated the etymological meaning and reduced curriculum to an object noun, the racecourse itself. Thus, generations of educators have been schooled to believe that the curriculum is a tangible object—the lesson plans we implement or the course guides we follow—rather than the process of running the racecourse …. The shift in focus to the active process of learning has never denied that texts, materials, lessons, tests, and classrooms are important; they are just not the substance of curriculum or the purpose of education. This apparently simple concept has been responsible for a profound shift in the understanding of curriculum development. (p. 62)
According to this narrative, the historic curriculum field, in its commitment to curriculum development, defined curriculum as courses of study, literally as curriculum guides, and failed to appreciate the verb form of the root of the word curriculum. Reconceptualized theory emancipated curriculum workers from this narrow, limiting conception of curriculum and reconceptualized curriculum as experience.
This narrative, as with other self-aggrandizing claims for reconceptualized curriculum theory, is more myth than reality. Pinar certainly did embrace the verbal form of curriculum over the noun form. But so did many curriculum ← 102 | 103 → scholars working before the reconceptualization—so many that a consensus on this matter may well have emerged decades before the so-called reconceptualization of curriculum studies. Here are some representative definitions of curriculum from the historic curriculum field. Gwynn (1960, p. 245) maintained that “The term ‘curriculum’ here includes all activities of children which take place under the direction of the school, whether those activities are curricular or extracurricular, inside the classroom or outside it.” Stratemeyer, Forkner, McKim, and Passow (1957) stressed:
The curriculum is currently defined in three ways: the course and class activities in which children and youth engage; the total range of in-class and out-of-class experiences sponsored by the school; and the total life experiences of the learner. Whatever definition is accepted, educators must decide toward which knowledge, understandings, and skills the learner’s experiences should be directed. (p. 9)
Smith, Stanley, and Shores (1950, p. 4, emphasis in original) asserted: “A sequence of potential experiences is set up in the school for the purpose of disciplining children and youth in group ways of thinking and acting. This set of experiences is referred to as the curriculum.” Caswell and Campbell (1935) claimed: “Stated specifically, the school curriculum is held to be composed of all the experiences children have under the guidance of teachers” (p. 69). Taba (1932) contended: “The curriculum cannot be regarded as a dead and summative body of all the materials, experiences and activities contained in the educational process. It is a living whole, comprised of experience actually going on in school. As such it is what it becomes in practice. Its content is identical to the content of the actual experience of the learners” (p. 156). Bobbitt (1924) submitted that “Education is the process of growing up in the right way. The objectives are the goals of growth. The pupil’s activities and experiences are the steps which make up his journey toward these goals. The activities and experiences are the curriculum” (p. 44, emphasis in original). And earlier, Bobbitt (1918) stipulated:
The word curriculum is Latin for a race-course, or the race itself—a place of deeds, or a series of deeds. As applied to education, it is that series of things which children and youth must do and experience by way of developing abilities to do the things well that make up the affairs of adult life; and to be in all respects what adults should be.” (p. 42, emphasis in original)
The idea of conceiving curriculum in terms of the experiences that students have was widely held in the historic field of curriculum development. Any ← 103 | 104 → suggestion that this idea was an original contribution of reconceptualized curriculum theorizing is simply erroneous.
Moreover, this conception of curriculum as experience exerted a profound impact on U.S. society beyond the field of curriculum development. Whitson (2008) recounts the remarkable story of Hugh W. Speer, who in 1951, under cross-examination by the attorney for the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education, explained the view widely held in contemporary curriculum thinking that curriculum encompasses “the total school experience of the school child” (quoted in Whitson, 2008, p. 122). Whitson found that “Speer’s informed understanding of curriculum served to introduce the crucial rationale for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s doctrinal precedent upholding racial segregation” in Brown v. Board of Education (p. 121). That is, although in segregated schools curriculum materials could be identical, curriculum experiences nevertheless varied widely. A short time before his testimony, Speer, who was chair of the department of elementary education at Kansas City University, had earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. In short, the field of curriculum development generated a conception of curriculum as experience and, through Speer’s testimony, impacted the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Subsequently, curriculum reconceptualists co-opted the conception of curriculum as experience and repudiated the historical field.
The field of curriculum development’s conception of curriculum as experience and the Tyler rationale for developing curriculum and instruction are just two examples of misrepresentation of the historical field in contemporary curriculum scholarship in the United States. The persistence of such misrepresentations undermines the intellectual integrity of the U.S. curriculum field.
Although reconceptualized curriculum theorists in the United States claim to have recognized curriculum for the “complicated conversation” that it actually is, when presented with the opportunity to engage with academic analyses of their curriculum theorizing, typically nothing resembling a conversation occurs, though matters at hand certainly are complicated. When invited to reply, for example, to an analysis of a separation of theory and practice manifested in reconceptualized curriculum work, rather than responding to the points offered, Pinar (1999) misrepresented the analysis and pejoratively depicted it as an example of the reassertion of heterosexual male privilege and failed to respond to a single point in the analysis. In another example, when provided with a similar opportunity to respond to an assessment of the impact of reconceptualized theorizing on the crisis in curriculum studies that Schwab articulated, Reynolds (2003) pejoratively depicted that analysis as a ← 104 | 105 → manifestation of Deleuze’s notion of ressentiment, in the process responding to no point advanced in the analysis. Such failures to respond to academic analyses merely defend the reconceptualist position by deflecting analysis; they squander the opportunity to strengthen the reconceptualist position by correcting its factual, logical, and conceptual flaws. Such tactics may score points in an argument, but they do not advance academic work.
The use of such rhetorical tactics and word play is understandable in light of the reconceptualist claim that the curriculum field is no longer about the practice of developing curriculum in schools, but instead it is about language:
To understand the contemporary field it is necessary to understand the curriculum field as discourse, as text, and most simply and profoundly, as words and ideas. By discourse we mean a particular discursive practice, or a form of articulation that follows certain rules and which constructs the very objects it studies. Any discipline or field of study can be treated as a discourse and analyzed as such. To do so requires studying the language of the field. (Pinar, et al., 1995, p. 7, emphasis in original)
Linguistic criticism of curriculum as language can be intellectually interesting, perhaps. But to the extent that it does little to enhance the practice of curriculum development—and the experiences of students—in schools, especially when deployed as cynical rhetorical tactics as described above, and when dismissive of school practice (Pinar et al., 1995, p. 49), it is insufficient. Curriculum has become a “complicated conversation” because reconceptualized theorists have complicated it. As long as academic criticism is greeted by rhetorical tactics rather than by substantive academic engagement, the intellectual integrity of the curriculum field in the United States will be in jeopardy.
The contemporary field of curriculum in the United States is also characterized by a veritable cornucopia of theoretical perspectives that can be applied to linguistic analyses of variegated “curriculum” discourses. In the process, however, curriculum has been defined not as the experiences students have in school, but most generally as the course of one’s life experience, even as “symbolic representation.” Pinar and colleagues (1995) attempted to capture
the shift in the definition from curriculum as exclusively school materials to curriculum as symbolic representation. Curriculum understood as a symbolic representation refers to those institutional and discursive practices, structures, images, and experiences that can be identified and analyzed in various ways, i.e., politically, racially, autobiographically, phenomenologically, theologically, internationally, and in terms ← 105 | 106 → of gender and deconstruction. We can say that the effort to understand curriculum as symbolic representation defines, to a considerable extent, the contemporary field. (p. 16)
Here we see the range of theoretical perspectives that can be brought to bear on understanding curriculum, a desirable development that, given the record of application of concepts from other fields to understanding and developing curriculum in the historical field, likely would have occurred without the so-called reconceptualization. This passage also contains a definition of curriculum that is so encompassing that curriculum inquiry can be about anything. Such an amorphous conception of curriculum as symbolic representation of discursive realities detracts from the integrity of curriculum studies as an identifiable academic field. Kuhn argued that even after a scientific field undergoes a paradigm shift, it still focuses on the same “constellation of objects” (Wraga, 1998, p. 20). In the U.S. curriculum field, the constellation of objects on which the reconceptualized field has focused increased astronomically and excluded the original objects. As Reid (1992) observed, “research that is about everything is about nothing” (p. 166). Without reasonable limits to what an academic field is about, that field loses definition and lacks integrity as an identifiable academic entity.
Additionally, during the past 4 decades, the academic field of curriculum in the United States has turned inward. Rather than taking as its purpose the historic commitment to serving curriculum workers in schools, the U.S. curriculum field has increasingly become self-serving. The curriculum “conversation” occurs largely between and among theorists (even between a curriculum theorist and him/herself) rather than between curriculum researchers and school educators. Curriculum theorizing has become more academic in the sense of being unrelated to the realities of school experience. If history is any indication, this is probably not a good development for a field that originally served a professional constituency. In the United States, around 1960, the field of social foundations of education began to focus its scholarship less on informing school practice and more on contributing to its parent disciplines, especially philosophy and history. Over time, this focus on academic matters rather than on concerns of professional educators and problems of public policy led to a perception among educators of a diminishing relevance of social foundations of education. Today, in university education departments and schools across the United States, social foundations of education studies are in sharp decline. Is this the fate of the U.S. curriculum field? Will this be the legacy of the reconceptualization of curriculum studies? ← 106 | 107 →
One hopes not, especially considering the repository of approved practices that can be found in the U.S. curriculum literature. In order to arrest the decline of integrity of curriculum studies in the United States, the curriculum field needs to become rigorously self-correcting rather than self-aggrandizing, needs actually to engage substantively in academic deliberation to improve its academic work, and needs to return to the purpose of serving the development and improvement of the school curriculum, of students’ school experiences.
Because contemporary curriculum theory in the United States demonstrates little interest in mundane matters of developing curriculum in schools, perhaps one way to return to serving our constituents—teachers, administrators, and students—rather than merely writing for each other, is to begin to engage in the analysis of education policy related to curriculum. In the past 25 years, curriculum matters in the United States have loomed increasingly large in educational policy at the state and national levels. The release in 2010 of the Common Core State Standards indicates that curriculum matters remain central to education policy. Contemporary theorists have already demonstrated a proclivity for critiquing education policy at a high level of generality (e.g., Reynolds, 2004; Pinar, 2004). Much more work can be conducted in the area of curriculum policy.
Dye’s (1992) definition of public policy as “whatever governments choose to do or not to do” (p. 2) provides wide latitude for curriculum scholars to analyze policies that pertain to curriculum. To what extent is the traditional academic curriculum, often embraced by policymakers on all points of the political spectrum, more a symbolic than a practical policy? Curriculum policy analysis could expose the “politicization of expertise” (Anderson, 2006, p. 63) in think tanks’ pronouncements about curriculum reform, and similarly expose issue networks that promote curriculum policies. Taking a cue from Berliner and Biddle (1995), Glass (2008), and Bracey (2009), curriculum policy analysis could assess the extent to which the problems that proposed curriculum reforms are said to solve are actually real problems to begin with, placing curriculum policies in the wide sociopolitical context. Curriculum policy analysis could anticipate unintended consequences of proposed policies based upon previous experience and research on similar proposals. Contemporary curriculum theorists could publish their own proposals for school reform so that they become part of the menu of policy alternatives available to policymakers.
University courses in curriculum could attend to curriculum development as an act of public policymaking (Wraga, 2006). Anderson (2006) emphasizes, ← 107 | 108 → for example, that policy can be interpreted at any stage of the process—agenda setting, formulation, adoption, implementation, or evaluation—suggesting not only that academic analysts, but also school practitioners, rather than serving as passive recipients of policy, have an active role in the policy process. Graduate study in curriculum could enable students both to understand curriculum work in the context of the public policy process and to interpret and influence curriculum policy at different stages of the process.
Of course, the contemporary curriculum field boasts a body of scholarship that focuses on “understanding curriculum as political text” that can serve as a prelude to systematic analysis of curriculum policies (Pinar et al., 1995, p. 243). This work can be informed and extended with perspectives from the public policy literature (e.g., Radin, 2000; Stone, 2002; Kingdon, 2003). Indeed, a few precedential efforts have been made to enhance both the understanding and the practice of curriculum development with public policy concepts (Elmore & Sykes, 1992; Levin, 2008; Short, 2008), upon which curriculum policy analysis can build. But it will be insufficient merely to conduct academic analyses of curriculum policy, considering curriculum merely as a “public policy text,” if you will, and publishing for other curriculum scholars. Academic analysis must be distilled for the ready consumption not only of school educators, but also of policymakers and politicians, and must be published in outlets accessible to them.
The decline of integrity of the contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States is manifested in the failure of curriculum scholarship to correct misrepresentations of the historic field of curriculum development, in the failure to engage in the so-called complicated conversation that it touts, and in the tendency to resort to rhetorical tactics that undermine substantive academic analysis. The decline of integrity of the contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States is also manifested in the continuing fragmentation of the field into a vague assemblage of myriad theoretical perspectives applied to any discursive reality. As such, the contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States no longer serves its constituents in the schools; rather, it has become a self-serving, closed system that is increasingly irrelevant to educational policy and practice.
To arrest the declining integrity of the contemporary field of curriculum studies in the United States, curriculum scholarship should become rigorously self-correcting, should engage substantively in academic deliberation, and should refocus on serving the improvement of the school curriculum. A turn toward systematic analysis of curriculum policy affords the curriculum field ← 108 | 109 → in the United States a promising opportunity to enhance its integrity as an academic field with a professional and public mission. Perhaps the contemporary curriculum field in the United States can position itself to contribute to American society and culture as the historical field of curriculum development did in its application of curriculum knowledge to public policy deliberations through Hugh W. Speer’s remarkable mid-twentieth-century public service.
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In the historical present, the United States curriculum field exists between double binds. Articulating one of the binds, the world of positivist commonsense curriculum management, a-historically enmeshed in standards, psychometric assessment, international “achievement,” and globalization, impatiently drums its fingers and asks what works in schools? Articulating the other bind, reconceptualist curriculum studies, a-historically enmeshed in 1960s oppositional intellectual style, “resists” curriculum management and asks what’s next on the new left? The first bind, encapsulated in what works, grasps at post – World War II triumphalism, ever-alluring in the North American psyche. The second bind, encapsulated in an oppositional what’s next, has worked through consumption-production of cultural studies’ new wave strategies as a means of a-critically institutionalizing 1960s opposition. These double binds, in their static opposition, conserve an ahistorical present in which curriculum management prevails. The creative undoing of double binds, a theme that runs through this essay, requires not an oppositional what’s next strategy borrowed from the new left, but rather the careful study of one’s own and others’ traditions, which I call cosmopolitan sensibilities. By way of definition, cosmopolitan sensibilities refers to the careful, creative, ← 111 | 112 → and reflective study of one’s own and others’ traditions as a means of leveraging subjectivity and creating progressive, open-ended, non-determinist dispositions. Specifically understood as sensibilities (not a “framework,” “approach,” or “perspective”), cosmopolitan sensibilities suggest the quality of being able to endure, appreciate, and respond to complexity. As a reconceptualist curriculum scholar, teacher educator, and former schoolteacher, I define, explain, and provide examples of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies as strategy and tactic that amplify reconceptualist curriculum work in the historical present.
In developing cosmopolitan sensibilities as creative undoing of double binds, this historical essay develops the following contours:
1. The emergence of reconceptualist curriculum represented a process of “transplantamiento” (Ibargüengoitia, 1980/2000, p. 53), or international transplantation of established European critical and postcolonial traditions interpreted and re-deployed through U.S. and Anglophone concerns.
2. Reconceptualist curriculum’s transplantamiento reflected yet simultaneously co-created the development of cultural studies’ new wave strategies as elephant-in-the-room that significantly advanced curriculum studies along several lines providing ever-newer conceptual “product” through the 1980s and 1990s, yet in the historical present take on a repetitive character as recent new waves reconfigure ideational content of previous waves.
3. Reconceptualist curriculum studies’ next moment and “post-reconceptualization” (Malewski, 2010, p. 5) modestly seek to advance the continuation of cultural studies’ new wave strategies, yet paradoxically demonstrate new waves’ exhaustion in the present under descriptors of proliferation and refinement.
4. Cosmopolitan sensibilities, well under way both in recent new waves and inside reconceptualist curriculum’s next moment, serve to deepen rather than reject cultural and curriculum studies’ international transplantamiento, and in doing so, cosmopolitan sensibilities carefully and critically re-engage emergent traditions for the progressive undoing of oppositional double binds. ← 112 | 113 →
Cosmopolitan sensibilities, as critique of cultural studies new wave strategies, represent a forged-in-love critique, as my degree is in both curriculum and cultural studies. As a forged-in-love critique, cosmopolitan sensibilities do not seek an oppositional dismissal of cultural studies’ influence in curriculum studies. Rather, cosmopolitan sensibilities seek to better understand reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ international transplantamiento through historical “verticality” (Pinar, 2013, p. 4) that “documents the ideas that constitute the complicated conversation” (p. 4). The purpose of focusing on historical verticality, as this chapter will demonstrate, is to extend, deepen, and enrich curriculum studies through a recursive move that recovers past intellectual traditions inside and outside curriculum studies as a way forward.
First internationalization? There is no first internationalization of curriculum studies, but U.S. reconceptualist curriculum provided one prior to the internationalization of the present. Reconceptualist curriculum scholars provided a rupture with positivist traditions in educational research in the United States, reconstructed Deweyan progressive lines, and, most importantly re-initiated a transplantamiento of long-standing European critical and postcolonial traditions. Understood through Antonio Ibargüengoitia’s (1980/2000) notion of “transplantamiento” (p. 53), such international transplantations refer to the importation and development of traditions “in order to obtain different ends” (p. 53).2 As demonstrated in the exchange between Philip Jackson and Maxine Greene below, the reconceptualization of curriculum studies represented a reckoning with reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento that, in the historical present, requires sustained intellectual effort to extend, deepen, and enrich.
Jackson and Greene’s exchange
Reviewing an exchange between Philip Jackson (1980) and Maxine Greene (1980) provides insight into curriculum studies’ transplantamiento and subsequent need for cosmopolitan sensibilities. Begrudgingly recognizing reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ influences, Jackson (1980), in “Curriculum and Its Discontents,” narrated the arrival of reconceptualist curriculum scholars after a decade-long argument about the field and the status of reconceptualist scholars in it. After at least a decade of announcements that the academic ← 113 | 114 → study of curriculum was variously “moribund” (Schwab, 1969, p. 493), “dead” (Huebner, 1976/1999, p. 253), and “fragmented and arrested” (Pinar, 1978, p. 207), Jackson (1980) characterized reconceptualist curriculum as “decidedly left of center”:
The key [reconceptualist] ideas being drawn upon are distinctly European in flavor, with French and German influences predominating. Besides Marx and Freud, others frequently cited in this literature include Heidegger, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Schutz, Gramsci, Polanyi, and Habermas. The major argument in support of drawing upon these new sources of ideas (new for educators, that is) is, as I understand it, they are more helpful in thinking about and understanding the richness and complexity of educational phenomena than are the intellectual frameworks that have till now dominated educational thought. (p. 166)
Missing the centrality of Freire’s (1968/1998a, 1970/1998b) influence among other critical and postcolonial traditions along with the reconstruction of U.S. pragmatism, Jackson (1980) nonetheless correctly characterized reconceptualist curriculum as drawing on new sources of ideas, “new for educators, that is” (p. 166). What Jackson correctly understood as new ideas represented the transplantamiento of new traditions in curriculum studies referred to above. Overall, Jackson (1980, 1992) registered his skepticism and ambivalence toward reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento, yet some of his writings recognized (rather than ignored) a rupture in what he understood as “intellectual frameworks” (1980, p. 166). Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies seek to understand reconceptualist curriculum not as a simple swapping of a priori beliefs in fundamentalist “frameworks,” but rather as the deliberate and purposeful transplantamiento of traditions for pursuing different ends, purposes, and outcomes in understanding curriculum. From the perspective of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, this transplantamiento, along with its subsequent challenges, is still taking place and needs to be extended, deepened, and enriched.
Maxine Greene (1980), in her response to Jackson (1980), recognized the significant challenges inherent in reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento. Advancing directions taken up in reconceptualist curriculum, Greene’s (1980) response provided generous space for reconceptualist curriculum in her affirmation of its radical critique and democratic purposes. Nonetheless, Greene (1980) provided a criticism of reconceptualist curriculum of her own, and it is precisely Greene’s criticism—yet to be fully reckoned with by reconceptualist scholars—that cosmopolitan sensibilities recovers and reconstructs for advancing reconceptualist curriculum. Greene (1980) ← 114 | 115 → affirmed reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ “radical distrust of institutions that have not lived up to their ‘promise’ of democracy” (p. 172); nonetheless, Greene (1980) leveled a strong critique at reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ a-historicism and failure to grasp the intellectual traditions embedded in reconceptualist curriculum’s audacious transplantamiento:
But I believe this [new sources of ideas] represents an effort (not always well-informed) to seek out social theories that more properly account for the contradictions of democratic society than those being considered doctrine in the field of education. One difficulty stems from the tendency to skim from the surface of very complex, deeply rooted philosophic positions—to quote Habermas, for instance, without familiarity with nineteenth century German philosophy; to attack Dewey on revisionist grounds without having read more than The Child and the Curriculum …. (p. 172)
Greene’s (1980) critique, a generous reading of reconceptualist curriculum, is forged in love (as I hope my critique will be read). Greene (1980) recognized the potential for reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento, yet she also understood the challenges taken up by reconceptualist curriculum scholars as a struggle to provide a historicized understanding of curriculum that is even more urgent in the present (Greene, 1988). As it turns out, the elephant in the room, left unmentioned by both Greene and Jackson, was the rise of cultural and other “area” studies and their influence on reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ work.
Cultural Studies “New Wave” Strategies: The Elephant in the Room
Though the issue cannot be sorted out in this essay, suffice it to assert modestly that “cultural studies”—along with several other “area” studies purposefully elided here3—corresponded with and co-constructed reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ rupture with previous intellectual frameworks used in education research. Cultural studies, understood through this purposeful elision, provided a corresponding and co-created rupture with received frameworks in educational research. This rupture emphasized the international transplantamiento of traditions that Jackson (1980, 1992) complained about and Greene (1980, 1988) actively and carefully advanced. Regarding the trajectory of cultural studies, Stuart Hall (1990) explained that 1956, not 1968, marked the start of an institutionalized cultural studies project that “was then, and has been ever since, an adaptation to its terrain; it has been a conjunctural practice. It has ← 115 | 116 → always developed from a different matrix of interdisciplinary studies and disciplines” (p. 11). Hall’s (1990) comments regarding “adaptation to terrain” and “conjunctural practice” (p. 11) articulate the multiplication of “area” studies that included reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento and subsequent ascendance. Not wanting to strain the obvious correspondence and influence of cultural studies on reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ consumption-production, the reader may simply survey state-of-the-field compendiums in both cultural and curriculum studies. Note, as examples, the parallel epistemological and political concerns in Grossberg, Nelson, Treichler (1992) and Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman (1995), or, subsequently, in During (1999) and Malewski (2010). Two questions that this chapter raises—but does not answer—for reconceptualist scholars in the historical present are: To what extent does “making it,” in the vulgar careerist sense, require importing new product from cultural studies into U.S. curriculum studies?4 And, on the heels of that question: To what extent is the a-critical consumption-production of cultural studies in reconceptualist curriculum still an insurgent, transformative, or radical practice almost 50 years after 1968?
Related to these questions is the ubiquitous presence of cultural studies new wave strategies in curriculum studies. Cultural studies have provided what’s next on the new left for reconceptualist scholars over the last four—going on five—decades. As Kashope Wright (2000) articulated, reconceptualist curriculum passed through numerous new waves that were dominated for the most part by cultural studies concerns:
Curriculum theorizing has been overtly politicized: It has been variously institutionalized, freed of institutional constraints, restricted to K–12 schooling, opened up to other pedagogical spaces, queered, raced, gendered, aestheticized, psychoanalyzed, moralized, modernized, and postmodernized. (p. 4)
Interestingly, Kashope Wright (2000) developed a passive-voice construction in characterizing the field that might be paraphrased: Curriculum theorizing has been institutionalized, freed, opened, queered, raced, gendered, aestheticized, psychoanalyzed, modernized, and postmodernized. Though Kashope Wright (2000) implied by curriculum scholars, the phrase by cultural studies’ concerns could be slotted in to this sentence, and it would read coherently as well. Paradoxically, reconceptualist curriculum scholars, in their focus on cultural studies’ waves accelerating in the 1980s and 1990s, hastened to develop a politicized discourse at a time when “radical” politics in higher education represented an increasingly compromised strategy and began to appear rather ← 116 | 117 → as a component of the status quo (West, 1993), especially when understood in relation to double binds as the 1960s disappeared in the rearview mirror. Even more troublingly within the double binds of the historical present, reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ focus on what’s next in cultural studies new wave strategies no longer represented a rupture but instead began to reproduce the privileged center of the field (Appelbaum, 2002). Peter Appelbaum (2002), in the twilight of what’s next, retrospectively characterized the field as conceptually and paradigmatically overcrowded for meaningful work and instead theorized de-territorializing curriculum studies through a deconstructive “diss”-conceptualization as a transgressive move to free up space in reconceptualist curriculum. It is important to note that, in the historical present, cultural studies new wave strategies, bringing ever-newer waves into reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ what’s next, currently serve to reproduce a received field rather than to counter the Tyler Rationale. Nonetheless, cosmopolitan sensibilities, rather than dismissing cultural studies’ influence in curriculum studies, begin to answer the question of how to extend, deepen, enrich, and continue transgressive work in a received field imbricated with cultural studies new waves, yet do so in ways that are historically informed by traditions inside and outside curriculum studies.
Several other cultural studies new waves, including browning curriculum (Gaztambide-Fernández & Murad, 2011), m/othering curriculum (Springgay & Freedman, 2009), and public pedagogy (2011) could possibly be added to Kashope Wright’s (2000) list of new waves in reconceptualist curriculum since his article’s publication. Nonetheless, these new waves in reconceptualist curriculum appear to newly reconfigure previous critical race (e.g., Anderson, 1988; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1998; McCarthy & Crichlow, 1993), feminist relationality (e.g., Grumet, 1988; Noddings, 1984; Goldstein, 1997, 2002), and critical pedagogy (e.g., Freire, 1968/1998a, 1970/1998b; Giroux, 1988), respectively. Collectively, recent new waves begin to suggest an exhaustion with new wave strategies in reconceptualist curriculum while simultaneously performing the strategy, sometimes with little sense of historical accumulation of ideational content (Gaztambide-Fernández & Murad, 2011; Springgay & Freedman, 2009). Promisingly, from the purview of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, cultural studies’ new waves no longer seem to provide “new” conceptual product and instead further suggest the need for reworking reconceptualist curriculum’s historical verticality. This historical verticality could lead to increased understanding of curriculum traditions as resources for curriculum design, teacher education, and teachers’ careful professional study. ← 117 | 118 →
Nonetheless, in recent new wave strategies, historical verticality, though thin, is nonetheless emergent in m/othering curriculum (Springgay & Freedman, 2009) through working historically with Grumet and Merleau-Ponty, and it is also emergent in browning curriculum through working historically with William Watkins and Annie Winfield, along with other critical race scholars. Perhaps public pedagogy (Sandlin, O’Malley, & Burdick, 2011) best articulates the potential for a historicized verticality inherent in cosmopolitan sensibilities. In reviewing historical and contemporary literatures, Sandlin, O’Malley, and Burdick (2011) carefully signal resources for researchers interested in the discourse providing a thematic analysis that provides historical verticality through William Schubert to John Dewey, through Henry Giroux to Stuart Hall and Antonio Gramsci, besides surveying feminist and other cultural studies scholarship organized around the topic. Public pedagogy (Sandlin et al., 2011) further develops an international transplantamiento and begins to display what I call cosmopolitan sensibilities in reconfiguring historical Marxian and critical theory for work in the historical present.
In finishing this section on cultural studies new wave strategies, it is important to note that cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies do not pit historical verticality against cultural studies waves in curriculum studies. Rather, cosmopolitan sensibilities, in emphasizing historical verticality, embrace both cultural studies and intellectual history, both curriculum studies and curriculum history—to bring forth the best of what both have to offer educational work: transgressive-provocative scholarship coupled with careful historicized understanding. Understood through reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ international transplantamiento, cosmopolitan sensibilities seek an advancement of curriculum studies through deepening historical verticality that moves our understanding from contemporary curriculum discourses to historicized curriculum traditions as a means of conceptualizing collective intellectual labor. Rather than opposing cultural studies influences, cosmopolitan sensibilities’ move from discourses to traditions signals not a negation but rather a return to the Birmingham School Center for Cultural Studies’ intellectual production that—in fighting for its existence—demonstrated historicity in carefully situating itself in both post – World War II Britain and Marxian and other intellectual history (see especially Clark, Hall, Jefferson, & Roberts, 1975/2000). As cosmopolitan sensibilities suggests, the next moment, though only partially recognized by Malewski (2010), advances curriculum studies through an increased attention to historical verticality of the field. ← 118 | 119 →
The Next Moment
Erik Malewski’s (2010) edited volume, Curriculum Studies Handbook: The Next Moment, further articulates the need for increased historical verticality in the field. Recently, Malewski (2010) carefully negotiated the difficulties of cultural studies new wave strategies or “shifts,” yet paradoxically added a post-in advancing curriculum studies’ “post-reconceptualization” (p. 5). Malewski (2010) modestly negotiates between the work of reconceptualist curriculum scholars and what he terms post-reconceptualist curriculum scholars, yet avoids directly conjuring up notions of new waves, shifts, ruptures, or revolutions. Malewski’s (2010) edited volume documents and expands on presentations and interactions at the 2006 Purdue Conference, not the least of which represented a “breakdown” (p. 3) between up-and-coming activist scholars of color and established senior scholars. While recognizing and providing space for the breakdown, Malewski (2010) nonetheless forgoes cultural studies new wave strategies in characterizing curriculum’s post-reconceptualization. Instead of emphasizing cultural studies new wave strategies, Malewski (2010) describes the post-reconceptualization as further proliferation and refinement of reconceptualist curriculum discourses that represent processes of collective inquiry over the last 40 years, if not more. In describing the relationship between the reconceptualist and the post-reconceptualist curriculum, Malewski (2010) writes:
For those who think of post-reconceptualization as a break from reconceptualization—a paradigm shift—this [argument] might sound like a rehearsal of existing terminology, a return to a prior period or an extension of an existing one. These conceptions of curriculum as object and change through paradigm shifts date back between three to four decades. Yet it seems that the stakes are high, particularly when the paradigmatic language is inadequate to describe the changes that have taken place …. (p. 7)
Lacking the “paradigmatic language” (p. 7), Malewski uses post-in post-reconceptualist curriculum to describe proliferation, reconfiguration, and refinement of reconceptualist curriculum he calls post-reconceptualization. Read through understandings in cultural studies’ “new waves,” the post-in the term post-reconceptualization suggests a residual requirement of new wave strategies by asserting a wave, shift, or revolution even in the self-acknowledged absence of such phenomena.
An emphasis on cosmopolitan sensibilities, rather than following paradoxical post-reconceptualization, informs Madeleine Grumet’s (2010) thinking, ← 119 | 120 → published in Malewski’s (2010) volume. Rather than suggesting another wave, shift, rupture, or revolution through the post- in post-reconceptualization, Grumet (2010) acknowledges how subsequent reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ critiques now inform her understandings of currere and advocates continued extension, depth, and critique to describe what is needed in the next moment:
Nevertheless, affixing the adjective post- [Grumet’s emphasis] to structuralism, modernism, colonialism, reconceptualization infers an abrupt conclusion to thought, and a repudiation of the lived world that spawns these theories. Let us just say, “to be continued.” (p. 408)
Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, eschewing the post- in post-reconceptualization, recommend Malewski’s (2010) proliferation, reconfiguration, and refinement, yet recur to an understanding of international transplantamiento and historical verticality as the best means for informing the next moment. Cosmopolitan sensibilities echo Grumet’s (2010) generosity: “Let’s us just say, ‘to be continued’” (p. 408) through engagement in historical traditions inside and outside curriculum studies.
From the perspective of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, Malewski’s (2010) edited volume suggests potential historical verticality in a way that recent cultural studies new wave strategies also do. Malewski (2010), skillfully reading the field and juxtaposing up-and-coming scholars’ with senior scholars’ work, begins to articulate not another wave, shift, movement, or revolution, but rather a reconfiguration of the discursive formation that extends, deepens, and enriches historical verticality in provoking “existing terminology into doing new work” (Rolleston, in Malewski, 2010, p. 5). A review of the articles’ content shows that never before in reconceptualist curriculum scholarship has one generation of scholars drawn on, directly critiqued, or reconfigured previous reconceptualist scholars’ work in the rhetorical development of their own. As Malewski (2010) correctly demonstrates, understanding reconceptualist curriculum in the historical present requires not a new wave, shift, movement, or revolution assuming linear time, but rather suggests, as cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum do, a reconfiguration and refinement of emerging through lines read as emerging traditions. Understanding reconceptualist curriculum in the historical present assumes the abandonment of linear “advancement” and instead non-linear recursivity (Paz, 1948/1987, 1978) that resides not in a tranquil “traditionalism” but rather in progressive, critical, provocative, transgressive, and intransigent ← 120 | 121 → strategies to condition and convincingly respond to neoliberal globalization’s a-historical what works.
In the sections above on transplantamiento, cultural studies new wave strategies, and next moments, this chapter has read reconceptualist curriculum studies historically and revealed a trajectory already well under way. This trajectory in curriculum studies emphasizes cosmopolitan sensibilities as a means to advance curriculum studies beyond their present a-historical condition of oppositional double binds. Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, as a possible means for advancing curriculum studies, seek not the faddish what’s next of the new left strategy that presently conserves double binds in curriculum. Rather, cosmopolitan sensibilities seek to extend, deepen, and enrich reconceptualist curriculum’s transplantamiento with historical verticality for double binds’ creative undoing. Creative undoing of double binds, through cosmopolitan sensibilities, provides a means of advancing the field beyond the limits of cultural studies waves with a renewed historical voice toward reengaging teacher education, teachers, and researchers with increased credibility and relevance. In the section that follows, I will clearly lay out what I mean by cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies: what they are, what they are not, ethics, and examples.
Cosmopolitan sensibilities: Definition, ethics, examples
What they are. Writ large, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum represent nothing new (Appiah, 2005, 2006; Hansen, 2008, 2011; Hansen, Burdick-Shepherd, Cammarano, & Obelleiro, 2009; Todd, 2008, 2009; Pinar, 2009, 2012; Sen, 2006). As Ghanaian-British-American scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah (2006) notes, cosmopolitanism dates back “at least to the Cynics of the fourth century BC” (p. xiv). Rejecting Appiah’s (2006) top-down and dispassionate legalisms and (at times) pessimisms, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies nonetheless further develop his emphasis on intercultural and intersubjective understanding through knowledge of our own and others’ traditions. Appiah (2006) explains:
We should learn about people in other places, take an interest in their histories, their civilizations, their arguments, their errors, their achievements, not because that will bring us into agreement, but because it will help us get used to one another. If that is the aim, then the fact that we have all these opportunities for disagreement about ← 121 | 122 → values need not put us off. Understanding one another may be hard; it can certainly be interesting. (p. 78)
Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, understanding reconceptualist curriculum scholars’ transplantamiento as an initial move, emphasizes historical verticality as a means of extending, deepening, and enriching curriculum studies’ process of internationalization. Rather than re-performing cultural studies new wave strategies, cosmopolitan sensibilities instead seek to understand curriculum through careful study in multiple traditions inside and outside curriculum studies. Cosmopolitan sensibilities’ careful study in multiple traditions seeks to develop historical verticality’s connections between past and present along with engagement in provocative, transgressive, critical, and progressive conversations of the present in more fully understanding ourselves and others’ traditions. Cosmopolitan sensibilities’ careful study purposefully problematizes a-historical, neo-conservative notions of what works in schools, yet simultaneously extends and deepens what has become static, ailing, and conservative in what’s new on the new left strategies. Cosmopolitan sensibilities’ careful study also suspends facile reductions to “first beliefs,” “value statements,” or “ideological commitments” that dominate discussions that conserve and strengthen fundamentalist double binds of the historical present. Seeking to extend, deepen, and enrich reconceptualist curriculum’s transplantamiento, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies refer to careful, creative, and reflective study of one’s own and others’ traditions as a means of leveraging subjectivity and creating progressive, open-ended, non-determinist dispositions. In taking up the careful, creative, and reflective study of multiple traditions, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum recognize that study within traditions participates in, produces, generates, and constitutes these same traditions along with the quality of ideational content within those traditions (West, 2004; Eliot, 1919/1975).
What they are not. Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies refer not to another wave, but rather the word “cosmopolitan” conditions sensibilities. Sensibilities, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (2012), refer to the quality of being able to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences. Rather than supplanting previous new waves with another new “framework,” cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies provide patient, internal-external, attitudinal, dispositional practices that allow for emergent, complex, and dialogic understandings in historical and contemporary issues. In working ← 122 | 123 → through the notion of sensibilities, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum distrust yet simultaneously historicize and contextualize facile, reductive, and a-historical paradigm statements or “frameworks” inherent in previous new wave strategies. From the perspective of cosmopolitan sensibilities, paradigm statements and “frameworks” in previous new waves become reduced to fundamentalisms in variously stated “values,” “first beliefs,” or “ideological commitments,” and in these fundamentalist reductions, paradigm statements and “frameworks” create and accompany ongoing identity violence inside (Appelbaum, 2002) and outside (Sen, 2006) curriculum studies. Seeking the creative undoing of double binds, cosmopolitan sensibilities instead recall Rousseau’s (1762/1992) anti-universalist exhortations that the only thing we all have to agree on is the social contract itself, thereby providing for open-ended discussion of all other ideas without fear of fundamentalist “framework” reprisals. In consciously seeking to infuse historical verticality into cultural studies scholarship in curriculum, cosmopolitan sensibilities emphasize Sharon Todd’s (2008) historicized engagement in cosmopolitan education as imperfect, incomplete, not-finished, yet embroiled in not-easy-to-be-resolved differences. Extending Todd’s (2008) notion of imperfect education, cosmopolitan sensibilities invoke historical verticality as a way of making for malleable discussions rather than fundamentalisms’ identity violence.
As a sensibility distrustful of “first beliefs,” “value statements,” “ideological commitments,” and their fundamentalist “frameworks,” the notion of cosmopolitan sensibilities developed herein differ significantly from David Hansen’s (2008, 2011) and Hansen and colleagues’ (2009) understandings of the same term. Specifically, cosmopolitan sensibilities as developed here disagree with their understanding of “tradition” and “teaching orientation.” Despite notable disclaimers, Hansen and colleagues’ engagement with traditions too often reify a stodgy tête à tête with the ancients rather than cosmopolitan sensibilities described here that seek to extend, deepen, and enrich traditions of cultural and curriculum studies through co-creating and generating traditions. Moreover, Hansen (2011), unlike Todd (2008, 2009), tends to describe cosmopolitan education as a new paradigm statement or “framework” for teachers to “internalize,” seemingly replacing multicultural “frameworks.” To substantiate these critiques of stodgy traditionalism and “another framework” for teacher education, Hansen’s (2011) final chapter evinces both reductionist tendencies that cosmopolitan sensibilities emphatically disagree with: “In the chapters of this book I have been contributing to an ever-evolving and yet substantive cosmopolitan canon for research, teaching, and teacher education. It includes ← 123 | 124 → writings by Plato and Marcus, Montaigne and Gournay, Tagore and Dewey” (p. 96). And, in discussing his “approach” to education, Hansen continues: “Thus the approach here aspires to provide all students with opportunities to experience local and broader traditions educationally rather than solely from the point of view of socialization” (p. 98). Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, differing from Hansen yet agreeing with Todd’s (2008) imperfect education, prefer enabling teaching with historical and dispositional complexity, discussing relevant historical reading (not a fixed “canon”), and in research, engaging generous reviewers’ comments to be more historically thorough than previous curriculum scholars have been. Having discussed a definition along with counter-definitions of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, I now move on to a discussion of cosmopolitan sensibilities’ ethics.
Ethics. The concept of cosmopolitan sensibilities, in its definition, includes the word study. By definition, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum suggest an ethics of careful, creative, and reflective study (Block, 2001, 2009; Pinar, 2013) that might be fostered in institutional settings but certainly extends beyond them. Cosmopolitan sensibilities, in emphasizing an ethics of study, understand authentic learning and study as identity-creative self-formation called identifications (e.g., Block, 2001, 2009; Ikeda, 2010, 2006; Kung, 2012; Slattery, 2006; West, 2004). Beginning with learning as self-formation, an ethics of study conceives of careful, creative, and reflective study as an ongoing process of identification of self within social and historical boundedness. Conceiving of study as the process of identification within boundedness, an ethics of study understands subjectivities as biologically, historically, and socially bounded yet open-ended and non-determined. Understanding identification as bounded yet open-ended, an ethics of study assumes study within traditions as deadly serious and always-already-in-process work for making, reconfiguring, and reworking what is understood in commonsense ways as our “selves.” When fully attended to, study provides processes of identification with personal and social growth along with material and spiritual freedoms. An ethics of study, recognizing study as a site of material and spiritual freedoms, understands study as having a sacred character similar to prayer or meditation in that it provides for an encounter between material subjectivity and spiritual transcendence (Block, 2001, 2009; Ikeda, 2006, 2010; Kung, 2012). Articulating an ethics of study, Alan Block (2001) elaborates on study as taken up here: ← 124 | 125 →
And what do we do when we engage in curriculum? What do we do when we engage in acts of learning? I am going to suggest that engagement in study is a prayerful act. Study is a stance we assume in the world. Study is a way of being—it is an ethics …. We stand in awe at the complexities of our lives which we only realize in part. A blessing, as study is, is a moment of insight, a chance for direction. (p. 1)
An ethics of study, providing the ethical center for cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, values authentic learning as autobiography, identifications as ongoing personal and social growth, and—as Block (2001) emphasizes—an open-ended relationality with selves, others, and the world ready for “insight, a chance for direction” (p. 1).
Examples. After defining the concept of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum and emphasizing its ethics, discussing examples of work with cosmopolitan sensibilities further develops this notion for curriculum studies. Cosmopolitan sensibilities, reaching back genealogically yet driving forward in progressive directions, abound: Rubén Dario’s (1888/1996) literary creativity, engaging Greek idealism, Shakespeare’s muses, Latin American indigenous history, and Marxian class critique, provides a trajectory for Latin American aesthetic modernist traditions (e.g., Neruda, 1950/1997; Mistral, 1924/1971; Paz, 1948/1987; García Márquez, 1967/1992) that dialectically engage aesthetic ideals for specific historical, social, and political interventions. Mahatma Gandhi’s (1927/1987) intellectual production, taking up Hindu religious resources and practices alongside Christian and English common law traditions, provides a trajectory for traditions of ecumenical and political solidarity (e.g., Hahn, 1995; King, 1958/2010; Malewski, 2011). D.T. Suzuki’s (1958/1998) cross-cultural writings, generating texts in which Buddhism, Christianity, and European phenomenological traditions communicate, provide for a tradition of dialogue between East and West (e.g., Ikeda, 2010, 2006; Kung, 2012; Watts, 1966/1989; Jardine, Friesen, & Clifford, 2006). W.E.B. Du Bois (1903/1995), drawing on African American spirituals, European phenomenology, and U.S. pragmatism, which he helped to articulate, provides a trajectory for a tradition of activists, authors, and writers forming the Harlem Renaissance and beyond (e.g., DiAquoi, 2012; Hughes, 1959/1990; Hurston, 1937/2006; West, 1989; Wright, 1937/2008). An important loosening of multicultural education’s reductive “framework” and unsubtle group “identities,” cosmopolitan sensibilities articulated focus on flexible-yet-careful intercultural study, intersubjective communication, critical readings of multiple traditions, and the development of resources for creative and self-narrativized ← 125 | 126 → identifications. Cosmopolitan sensibilities, as exemplified in traditions identified above, emphasize not who can authentically speak for whom, but rather sincere, profound, and egalitarian intercultural and intersubjective engagement over a lifetime. From the examples above, an outline of not-necessarily-“Western”-yet-humanistic cultural resources begins to emerge that proposes prolonged study along with intercultural and intersubjective engagement in multiple historical traditions as cosmopolitan sensibilities.
Curriculum studies examples. Curriculum scholars whose work develops cosmopolitan sensibilities demonstrate an increasing understanding that curriculum studies carefully advances multiple intellectual traditions. Recently,5 David Smith (2006), Chet Bowers (2003, 2012), Hongyu Wang (2004), and William Pinar (2009, 2012)—all engaged in curriculum’s internationalization—have moved toward cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum. What these reconceptualist scholars share, as exemplars of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, is an understanding that their work emerges in the context of long-standing, multiple, and complex traditions.
First, David Smith’s (2006) Trying to Teach in a Season of Great Untruth provides a series of essay-length reflections on globalization processes as they relate to curriculum. Globalization, writes Smith (2006), represents a dangerous resurgence of global capitalization under the banner of neoliberalism that damages lived experience and ecology alike. Of particular emphasis in Smith’s (2006) work is a reconsideration of essentialized understandings of subjectivity identified with Immanuel Kant. Smith (2006) argues that Kant’s autonomous rational subject now provides the commonsense ideology advancing neoliberal globalization along with resistant essentialized identities. Smith (2006), recognizing that historical trajectories of globalization make rejections, reversals, or simply flipping-the-script on “modernity” counterproductive, argues instead for working within “transmodernity” (p. 10). Transmodernity articulates a dialectical relation between past, present, and future in which past traditions provide cultural resources for recognizing global interdependence between those disenfranchised and those living in First-World conditions while requiring the latter to live in creative tension with their privileges as a means of living ethically with others. For Smith (2006), the Zen Buddhist tradition provides important conditions for Kantian individualism and allows for a way to “live well, to be free of delusion, and to be attuned to the deepest rhythms of Life so that one is living Life according to its fundamental nature” (p. 40). Smith (2006), exemplifying cosmopolitan sensibilities, invites curriculum scholars ← 126 | 127 → to carefully study their own intellectual traditions and engage other intellectual traditions “not as exotica, but as part of a new serious interlocutionary partnership over matters of human survival” (p. 38).
Second, Chet Bowers (2003, 2012), recognizing similar right-left double binds framing this chapter’s content, works through European intellectual history and Taoist spiritual traditions in conceptualizing mindful conservatism. Opposing modernization in neoconservative globalization and in “transformative” leftist politics, Bowers (2003, 2012) seeks to wrest away notions of conservatism from shallow left-right political spectrums reflecting double binds in the historical present. Instead, he proposes mindful conservatism based on Confucian and Burkean understandings in arguing for the preservation of cultural and environmental commons. Bowers (2012), in developing mindful conservatism, focuses on cultural commons that conserve spiritual, literary, democratic, and other cultural resources, along with environmental commons that recognize and understand regional biomes’ significance for a sustainable future. Bowers (2012), dismissing modernist educational “reformers,” goes on to emphasize the centrality of cultural and environmental commons:
First, future educational reformers will need to recognize that there are as many cultural ways of knowing as there are languages …. Second, future educational reformers must take into account the vast number of bioregions that make up the word’s interacting ecosystems. (pp. 1–2)
Flipping conservatism on its head in his mindful conservatism, Bowers creatively recovers careful engagement of traditions, called cosmopolitan sensibilities here, for the advancement of ecologically sustainable and democratic communities in the future.
Third, Hongyu Wang’s (2004) The Call from the Stranger on a Journey Home also develops cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum. Wang (2004), performing an intersubjective dialogue through intercultural essay, gender analysis, and autobiography, develops the notion of a creative, loving, and ethical third space between self and others for understanding subjectivity as an ongoing process. Providing careful readings of Greco-Roman traditions in Foucault, psychoanalytic traditions in Kristeva, and Taoist traditions in the Confucian scholarship, Wang (2004) performs her careful study as possible transcendence in which subjectivity is interactive, relational, and in-process. Wang’s (2006) third space, working carefully in multiple traditions, refuses essentializing syntheses, representations, or “answers” that reduce one tradition to another or self to other. Instead her third space draws on Bakhtin’s ← 127 | 128 → polyphonic unity so as to “bring … Foucauldian transgression, Kristevian maternal love, and Confucian rationality together” (p. 139). Like Smith (2006), Wang (2004) engages in careful study of multiple traditions not for learning about exotic cultures but rather as personal, social, and spiritual engagement in creating her moral self as a means of possibly living in more just ways with others and thereby creating a more just world.
Fourth, William Pinar’s The Worldliness of a Cosmopolitan Education (2009) further articulates cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum. Pinar (2009), after a series of philosophical inquiries related through cosmopolitan themes, provides biographical sketches narrating the life, education, and passionate public service of Jane Addams, Laura Bragg, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Emblematic of what Pinar (2009) means by “cosmopolitan education,” Pasolini furiously studies and lives as anti-fascist expression emboldened by millennial Christian spirituality and contrarian decadentism. As activist, teacher, filmmaker, and public intellectual, Pasolini draws on seemingly contradictory millennial Christian and Marxian traditions, along with a vast understanding and mastery of European visual arts, especially in relation to his work as filmmaker. Pasolini, perhaps Pinar’s alter ego, takes up the problem of his life, relentlessly transgressing social norms and his previous work through a deepening engagement in humanistic traditions. For example, Pasolini represents working poor youth in Accatone, only to recast such representation as integral to the culture industry in his next film, La Ricotta, suggesting “the only way an artist can contest capitalistic society and create ‘non-bourgeoisie’ films or novels is to take the subject of the work as the creation of the work itself” (Pinar, 2009, p. 120). Pasolini, as Pinar (2009) narrates, creates a body of work transgressing social and personal norms that, ultimately, create a stylistics of “free indirect discourse” (p. 124). Pasolini’s free indirect discourse, in contrast to left, “ready-made” critical identities, loosens identities and opens up space for the creative subjectivity of others through a lived stylistics of existence.
Back to verticality
Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, representing a conscious historicizing of reconceptualist curriculum’s transplantamiento, require increased attention to the field’s verticality for complex conversation and aesthetic understanding. What draws together work reviewed as examples of cosmopolitan sensibilities is not the suggestion of cultural studies new wave strategies that “add a concept” to the literature, but rather the emerging collective sense ← 128 | 129 → that reconceptualist curriculum scholars participate in, produce, generate, and constitute traditions that are connected with older ones in the wake of curriculum’s transplantamiento. Increased attention to verticality in multiple traditions, central to cosmopolitan sensibilities defined and exemplified above, requires curriculum scholars’ (1) engaged study in and (2) production of intellectual and intercultural history for the advancement of curriculum studies. Though these activities complement one another, engaged study in intellectual history refers to curriculum scholars’ reading and working with intellectual history inside and outside of curriculum studies and the conscious development of verticality in reconceptualist curriculum studies.
Both … and …. In closing this chapter, I return to the example of Maxine Greene. Cosmopolitan sensibilities recover and reconstruct a trajectory underdeveloped in curriculum studies’ conversation since Greene’s (1988) The Dialectic of Freedom. Greene’s (1988) work was articulated through left-right double binds of the 1980s “culture wars” that, on the conservative right (e.g., A. Bloom, 1986; H. Bloom, 1994; Hirsch, 1988), reconstituted the Western “canon” and, on the left, pursued a variety of U.S.- and Anglophone-conceived multiculturalisms (e.g., Simonson & Walker, 1988; Minnesota Humanities Commission, 1991; Gollnick & Chinn, 1986). The “culture wars,” pursued simultaneously with the grand emergence of state standards and standardized assessments, presented itself as a double bind, very much representing “the paranoid style in American politics” (Hofstadter, 1964, p. 77). In the culture wars, both sides’ claims escalated in millennial fervor in which conservative standards and No Child Left Behind won the day by integrating multicultural concerns and “identities” into the standards “program.”6
Greene’s (1988) road less traveled sought the creative undoing of static double binds and recurred to intellectual history inside and outside the United States in developing and explicating the both … and … humanistic curriculum. Greene (1988), having lived the curriculum in her own study, revealed the “framing error” of the culture wars as shallow tropes in her writing. In her performance, she drew on careful study of multiple historical traditions in theorizing curriculum. Greene’s (1988) dialectic of freedom embraced not narrow disciplines nor a monolithic canon, but rather a rare, subtle, and revelatory demonstration that curriculum emerged from long-standing traditions that required continual remaking, historical and contemporary study, careful ← 129 | 130 → political tactics and strategies, and intellectual effort if progress were to be realized.
Cosmopolitan sensibilities, by historicizing facile “new waves” and loosening a priori frameworks’ “first beliefs,” “value statements,” and “ideological commitments,” challenge curriculum studies by returning to Greene’s critical engagement, progressive complexity, and aesthetic understanding of traditions-in-the-making and traditions-for-curriculum-performance that are recovered in teaching and learning when authentic. Creatively undoing the culture wars’ double binds through the embrace of multiple traditions, Greene (1988) writes:
There should be nonetheless a continuing initiation into the great traditions in which we are all, whether we are aware of it or not, embedded …. But none of them [traditions] must ever be thought of as complete or all-encompassing. Turned on the shared world of actualities, they cannot but continue resonating and reforming in the light of new undercurrents, new questions, new uncertainties. (pp. 126–127)
Performing dialectical work in multiple traditions, Greene (1988) prophetically argued that curriculum take a pedagogical function extended here in cosmopolitan sensibilities. Greene (1988) argued that lived curriculum through study of multiple traditions provided for emergent, complex, and dialogic understandings in historical and contemporary issues. Though her work addressed the cultural wars of the 1980s, her understanding refused narrow left-right double binds that then (and now) attempt to colonize and limit not only our work but also meaningful, democratic deliberation. Greene (1988) refused double binds, and through careful study in multiple traditions, transcended double binds in a way that instructs curriculum scholars in the present. The question for us now is this: In curriculum studies, how do we continue Greene’s (1988) progressive work under historical conditions of globalization?
Returning to a historical understanding of one’s own and others’ traditions, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum suggest a triangulation of the past, present, and future that provides verticality for the advancement of curriculum in the next moment. But even more important, cosmopolitan sensibilities provide for understanding the unfinished and non-determinist historical horizons for an amnesiac field of curriculum writ large. Focusing on intellectual history inside and outside curriculum in approaching contemporary curricular and educational questions, cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum recoup a broader historical and humanistic cosmopolitanism that seeks international understanding, dialogue, and deliberation through careful, creative, and reflective study of multiple traditions and, in doing so, works ← 130 | 131 → against the grain of a-historical quick-fix interest of what works in dominant educational discourse matched—mimicked, almost—by what’s new in cultural studies new wave strategies.
The task, as understood through cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies, is not cultural studies new wave strategies. Rather, the task represents a creative undoing of a-historical double binds “in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place” (Jameson, 1991/2001, p. ix). So the task of cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum—definitely a progressive-critical historical task—is doubly hard, first, because understanding multiple historical traditions represents difficult and time-consuming study that does not currently exist in curriculum studies programs’ “perspective fetish,” and second, because the reconceptualized field frequently has dismissed and continues to unreflectively dismiss historical work as “conservative.” Nonetheless, facing these difficulties, cosmopolitan sensibilities resist hegemonic accountability discourses, critiques but extends cultural studies’ influence in curriculum studies, emphasizes an ethics of careful study in multiple traditions, and reasserts historical verticality in the face of “naturalized” neoliberal globalization and “naturalized” 1960s oppositional style.
Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, re-deploying Maxine Greene’s intransigence before double binds and engagement in multiple traditions, selectively take up one key understanding from the younger Marx’s (1844/1982) thinking. The younger Marx (1844/1982) illuminated international historical conditions and thereby destabilized received understandings of “nature” inherent in Enlightenment philosophers’ political economy:
The distinction between capital and land, between profit and ground rent, and between both and wages, and industry, and agriculture, and immovable and movable private property—this distinction is not rooted in the “nature” of things, but is an historical distinction, a fixed moment in the formation and development of the contradiction between capital and labor. (p. 123)
Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum, valuing an historicized critical intelligence that understands the historical present as but “fixed moment … not rooted in the ‘nature’ of things” (Marx, 1844/1982, p. 123) seeks to destabilize a naturalized commonsense neoconservative globalization with its what works strategy, while simultaneously challenging what’s new on the new left waves to do more rigorous and credible work. It is through these progressive historical trajectories—cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum sustains—that curriculum studies might triangulate curriculum studies beyond its present condition of containment. ← 131 | 132 →
1. I borrow this gestalt from Gayatri Spivak (2012), who reports borrowing it from Bateson.
2. All quotations taken from Spanish-language books were translated by the author.
3. I understand that the relationships among cultural studies, women’s studies, gender studies, media studies, and other “studies” areas are complex and require, really, a separate essay to flesh out. For the purposes of this chapter, I knowingly elide the “studies” areas influences, to a degree, under “cultural studies.” Nonetheless, I think that this elision provides a useful working gestalt for provoking curriculum studies scholars because of the obvious trafficking between cultural studies and curriculum studies.
4. On the topic of transplantamiento of reconceptualist scholars, U.S. Marxians’ revision of this international transplantamiento that “grafts” their work to George S. Counts deserves a note (Apple, 2000; Paraskeva, 2011). This grafting of U.S. Marxian work to Counts stretches credibility, recasting Counts as sole “revolutionary Marxist” among Chicago School intellectuals. Apple (1979), frequently citing Raymond Williams in his early work, clearly drew heavily on Birmingham School scholars’ readings of Gramsci, and Apple (2000) did more than anyone else to infuse reconceptualist curriculum with the Marxian-Gramscian tradition predominant in the Birmingham School. Nonetheless, the critique of transplantamiento from Jackson and others still weighs heavily on the credibility of Apple’s new sociology of education and is especially sensitive to questions of historical trajectory and susceptible to critiques of a-historicism. Back to Counts (1932a, 1932b): A student of Albion Small (Cremin, 1964; Kliebard, 1995), Counts had more to do with a left-leaning liberal welfare state and Frank Lester Ward’s U.S. intellectual trajectory than Marx and Engels’s scientific socialism.
5. In this short list of works, I develop not an exhaustive review but rather a short emergent list of reflections on the internationalization of curriculum studies that provides examples of cosmopolitan sensibilities.
6. It is instructive to recall that within double binds, the ambitious agenda of U.S.-Anglophone multiculturalisms eventually, inside the program of state standards, received a few “bullets” in all state standards—or, if you will, by extension, that cultural studies new wave strategies concerned with power and identity were “implemented” in No Child Left Behind’s monitoring of “all students” by respective groups. Cosmopolitan sensibilities in curriculum studies seek to re-invigorate cultural studies’ influence by infusing it with greater depth and a convincing historical verticality. It is precisely the a-historicity that permeates and provides space for the double binds of the present, and this is an a-historicity of what works and what’s next on the neoconservative right and new left.
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We are at times too ready to believe that the present is the only possible state of things.
When I finished my 5-year Pedagogy Studies Program in 1979–1980, I did not know that the term “curriculum” existed; no one had mentioned it to me. I had been told about psychopathology, epistemology, empirical methodology (statistics), psychometrics, educational and developmental psychology, history of education, and what in Spain was called didactics.1 But none of these disciplines dealt with the curriculum; it was as if this Latin term was just a vestige of ancient formalisms. In 1983, a handbook was published (Gimeno Sacristán & Pérez Gómez, 1983) that became essential not only to my education and lectures as a university teacher, but also for the debate on education—a minor one at the time—that was taking place in my country. The aforementioned book condensed the latest and most innovative knowledge, the most significant debates in the field of education. Through it, I became acquainted with what for me were new authors writing about the critical sociology of education such as Basil Bernstein and Michael Apple.2 I found the most recent studies on qualitative research by D. Hamilton and E.G. Guba, the first known critics of the educational model of objectives. It was through the works of E. Eisner and ← 137 | 138 → others3 that I learned about curriculum content. I also found essays on teacher training and educational evaluation in the seminal work of M. Parlett and D. Hamilton (1972) as well as B. MacDonald (1976).4
At that time, perhaps the strangest part of my journey was the part that dealt with curriculum.5 With amazement, I read the individual articles that comprised that section of the book—by, respectively, J. Schwab, D. Huebner, H.M. Kliebard, and W. Pinar—but I did not understand. They were talking not only about an unknown field to me, but they were also making reference to an intense and relevant debate taking place within that field.6 In essence, they were holding a debate that was incomprehensible in an intellectual context—the context of the Spanish Pedagogy of the 1980s—in which the curriculum had not yet had the opportunity to evolve and generalize.
The implicit point, emphasized in articles by Schwab (1969), Huebner (1976), and Pinar (1978), was the need for a new curricular paradigm—either to endorse it for its excessive theoretical nature up to that time, or to criticize it for failing to respond to contemporary ideological, political, and epistemological tendencies. This was nearly impossible to be understood within my context; in a sense, there could not be a tomb built for the dying paradigm when a corpse had not been found. As a colophon, the work by Kliebard (1977) warned us about a theory of curriculum that was not conceivable but just a curricular theorization.
The only way to remedy a lack of knowledge has always been to engage in an intense study of the subject. I set to work on that as part of my doctoral thesis (Angulo 1988).
What is critically important is conceptual clarification.
—Herbert M. Kliebard
Analyzing curriculum essays became my journey—not an initiation journey, but one of intellectual acknowledgment and of a re-situating and re-adjusting my own field of work and specialization. I found that the concept of “curriculum” has been one of the most controversial in discipline analysis on education since its appearance in 1918, in The Curriculum by Bobbitt.7 Attempts made in the past to systematize the notion of curriculum (Phillips, 1962; Taba, 1962; Eisner & Vallance, 1974a; Tanner & Tanner,1980; Gress & Purpel, 1978; Schubert, 1982, 1986; Gimeno Sacristán & Pérez Gómez, 1983; ← 138 | 139 → Connelly & Lantz, 1991; Walker, 1992; Jackson, 1992b)8 have produced a considerable variety of conceptions, meanings, and definitions. There appears to be as many definitions as authors writing about it and trying to define it. The curriculum, as Walker (1982) ironically asserts, “is many things for many people” (p. 62); a definition of it seems to be comprehensible only within “a particular study, an article or an official document” (Connelly & Lantz, 1991, p. 15). Schubert (1986) claimed:
A quick survey of a dozen curriculum books would be likely to reveal a dozen different images or characterizations of curriculum. It might even reveal more, because the same author may use the term in different ways. Authors may intentionally provide different images of curriculum to portray what others have said or to represent different conceptualizations of curriculum; or they may do so without realization and thus provide inconsistency or contradiction. (p. 26)
Given this scenario, although discouraging at first, it seems appropriate to wonder if this profusion is justified, whether it is worth continuing to use a concept that, like sand on a beach, always seems to slip through our fingers just as we think that we have it. If we arrive at the conviction—certainly problematic—that dispersion is necessary because all authors communicate their particular way of conceiving the curriculum, we are forced to question whether, after that tangle of definitions, we can find something much more substantive and less easily altered.
The answer to these problems could come from the question posed 30 years ago by Tanner and Tanner (1975): every vision, image, tendency or conception represented by a definition of curriculum involves a specific socio-political vision on education as well as on knowledge, on social changes in general, on students and, of course, on school (p. 5). Jackson states (1982b), definitions are “parts of arguments,” i.e., “the rhetorical structures in which definitions are lodged and play an important part … to persuade us of the value of looking at something in a particular way” (p. 12).
It is vain to expect that one day we will reach a definite definition of the concept of curriculum. It does not work in positivist nominalism, nor would it be advisable to work. It is more than the uncertainty principle, in that what happens is that curriculum is a cultural artifact, a social construct (Grundy, 1987; Kemmis 1988; Lundgren, 1992; Doyle, 1992; Torres, 2011; Gimeno Sacristán, 2011; Paraskeva, 2011), which aims to shape school instruction and/or shows what happens in schooling that is most valuable and outstanding to us. Jackson (1992b) states that: ← 139 | 140 →
There is no definition of curriculum that will endure for all time … it is foolish to search for one … every definition serves the interest of the person or group putting it forward … it is always appropriate to ask what the local consequences of adopting this or that definition might be. (p. 10)
We should be worried about the assumptions and consequences as Jackson remarks. When this is introduced, we are at another level of analysis different from definitions. When considering curriculum as a social artifact, we are doing more than mentioning a convention, we are accepting that it does as such an artifact represent, and give rise to (generate) various practices (Grundy, 1987; Gimeno Sacristán, 1988; Paraskeva, 2011). Gimeno Sacristán and Pérez Gómez (1983) also discuss how
[t]he best way of positioning on the complexity and wealthy within this field is not to reject and dissolve the existing conceptual plurality, but to face and try to apprehend the assumptions that support every perspective. (p. 191)
Furthermore, “[t]he search for a simple definition … is futile simply because quite different phenomena are seen—in a justified way—as curriculum or as curricula” (Goodlad & Su, 1992, p. 328). To solve curriculum definitional problems, we should escape from any attempt to give a definition, and approach the issue from a different angle, which I have called curriculum conceptions (Angulo, 1994). This way of approaching the situation has developed its own and particular tradition since it was put forward in the compilation of Conflicting Conceptions of Curriculum by Eisner and Vallance (1974) and was continued by various authors (McNeil, 1977; Kliebard, 1987; Tanner & Tanner, 1980; Schubert 1986; Walker, 1990; Jackson, 1992b)9 with diverse terms (for example, orientations and images). Table 1 shows a selection of the most relevant ones.
Perhaps what the reader may perceive is the relative variety. Some give emphasis to the historical evolution of discourses or conceptions; others point out the preference for what curriculum must be, how it must be taught at school, or what is relevance of what happens at school. Others exchange the previous ideas with the organizing perspective it will have to provide.10
These are not negligible variations. Adopting a condescending position, we could say that certainly, all notions can be found when a book on curriculum is opened. However, there is double difficulty: on the one hand, excessive academicism (Jackson, 1992b) could avoid tackling the problem in such a way that teachers could not orient themselves within the jungle of biography and of definitions; on the other hand, we have to face the fact that perspectives on ← 140 | 141 → how to understand the curriculum content are confused with the elements in the curriculum itself even with ways of tackling curriculum planning.11 The most direct way to cope within this “jungle” is to establish the most common meanings in relation to curriculum (Angulo, 1994). To focus on meanings rather than on definitions leads us to consider the following question: what are we talking about when talking about curriculum? In a previous essay, I arrived at the conviction that there are three basic meanings related to curriculum (Angulo, 1994):
a) curriculum as content
b) curriculum as planning
c) curriculum as interactive reality
I acknowledge that it is a basic point of view and, apparently, aseptic. Nevertheless, it has in its favor that it offers a much clearer map than any of the divisions, perspectives, and conceptions that we have been seeing so far. This position does not elude an essential point in relation to the curriculum field: the theoretical, ideological, and pedagogical conflicts therein. Taking meanings as conceptual handholds does not have to impede, delete, or hide tensions in that field. They simply help us to organize them. I want to focus just on the first12 meaning of the curriculum, as an example of what I have been saying so far.
Curriculum as Content
Education must generate and transmit culture which is relevant to the lives of the majority; and today most of our schools fail to do this. (Stenhouse, 1967, p. 12)
- XII, 731
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Book)
- Publication date
- 2016 (March)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XII, 731 pp., num. ill.