Curriculum as Institution and Practice: Essays in the Deliberative Tradition

Curriculum as Institution and Practice: Essays in the Deliberative Tradition

Curriculum as Institution and Practice: Essays in the Deliberative Tradition

Curriculum as Institution and Practice: Essays in the Deliberative Tradition


This volume brings together a collection of essays by William A. Reid that present and elaborate the deliberative tradition of curriculum theory, and examine the implications of a deliberative perspective for approaches to policy making and school systems. The essays illustrate the development of Reid's understanding of the deliberative tradition and his efforts to extend it from a focus on practice to one that embraces conceptions of schooling as an institution.

Institution and practice are the key concepts which guide and illuminate the central thesis of the book: To be effective, a theory of curriculum must be able to talk not only about questions of desirable practice, but also about questions of how practice may be aided or constrained by the nature of the institution within which it takes place. This significant new contribution to the literature of curriculum studies:

• represents a unique attempt to synthesize what have often been treated as quite separate issues: questions of the philosophical basis for curriculum decision making, questions of processes of decision making, and questions of the nature of schools and classrooms;

• presents its material in an evolutionary way, focusing on the continuing development of ideas, rather than on a "rhetoric of conclusions"; and

• offers a summing up of thought and achievement in the deliberative tradition that is not otherwise available.


The appearance of this volume of essays is due to the kindly prompting of Bill Pinar. Coincidentally, the span of time they cover-the last 20 years -- parallels the period over which I have enjoyed intermittent friendly meetings and discussions with him. Our engagements with curriculum have, at first sight, followed rather different tracks. He long ago established himself as a leader of the movement known as reconceptualism, which has set out to reorientate curriculum studies away from its preoccupation with the design of school programs and toward a focus on curriculum as a reflection of individual biographies. I, on the other hand, while sharing much of his impatience with the soulless reiteration of models and paradigms into which curriculum theory was descending in the 1970s, have preferred to stay close to the work of schools and ask "Do paradigms have to be soulless?" While he was reading Virginia Woolf, I was reading Joseph Schwab-though I did take time off to contemplate the spot where Virginiaconsigned herself to the waters of the Sussex Ouse in January 1941, and he, for his part, has recently written an essay that speaks well of Joseph. I like to feel that, in some respects, we have shared elements of a common enterprise.

That curriculum and biography are intimately connected is certainly a true observation. As has been wisely remarked, "Curriculum is one of those places where we have told ourselves who we are"; but, where curriculum studies is concerned, is this foreground or background? Our answer to that question marks one of the great divides in the modern literature of curriculum. I know that the coalescence of two apparently disparate themes in the . . .

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