Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Language, Legacy, and Love in Curriculum

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Language, Legacy, and Love in Curriculum

Article excerpt

I begin this article with personal commentary. It is based on notes I used to deliver the Inaugural Marcella Kysilka Lecture at the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC) on October 3, 2009. This conference highlights Marcy's invaluable contributions; thus, I proposed that the distinguished list of previous AATC keynoters be retroactively identified as Marcella Kysilka Lecturers. I was pleased that the large audience in attendance unanimously and spontaneously supported this recommendation by acclamation. This 17th Annual AATC Conference marked the second time that Bill Ayers and I were asked to provide the keynote addresses--the first having been in Tulsa at the 2003 Annual Conference of AATC. I am honored to have been selected for this address for the second time.

I also want to comment briefly on Marcy, whom I have known for over 20 years. Marcy has been the pillar of AATC, though many others also have contributed substantially to its success. In reflecting on the topic of my address I selected three emphases that represent some of my most recent curricular concerns. Simultaneously these are interests that I have seen in both Marcy's work (e.g., Stern & Kysilka, 2008) and in her mentoring of doctoral students. The first deals with careful attention to language through which curricular and larger educational discourses are expressed. The second involves personal and public legacies that we build upon and extend in curriculum studies. Marcy has done much to keep historical contributions alive in contemporary curriculum deliberation in the spirit of her own mentor, O.L. Davis, Jr., a stalwart supporter of AATC from its beginnings and a strong advocate for study of curriculum history. The third emphasis concerns a topic I consider of ironic neglect in curriculum lore--love--a topic that has occupied much of my scholarly work for the past 2 years, resulting in my latest book: Love, Justice, and Education: John Dewey and the Utopians (2009). It is a quality exemplified by Marcy in relation to those who are close to her--colleagues, students, friends, and family.

I will now elaborate on each of these three topics: language, legacy, and love. I begin, however, with a caveat that what I say here is a very brief--almost outline--version of topics that I hope will occupy my work in forthcoming years.


I begin with language, for it is the basis of expression of the ideas that follow and it bespeaks our deeper values. Some of the most profound and influential work in curriculum studies has focused on language (e.g., Huebner, 1966/1975; Schwab, 1970; van Manen, 1991) as almost an equivalent of paradigm or pervasive orientation or worldview. Kliebard (1972) has identified such curricular world views through metaphors of production, journey, and growth. I resonate with the journey metaphor and its consonance with the etymology of curriculum as the course of a chariot race, especially its broader interpretation as one's travels and travails of learning through life. Even more, I am drawn to the growth metaphor with its obvious nurturing and cultivating messages.

Despite my partiality to journey and growth metaphors, I am concerned that the dominate metaphor in curricular policy and practice is production. Even production might be tolerable if it really had to do with imaginative creativity, invention, craft knowledge, and artistry; however, today we live in an educational milieu that debases this workshop or factory metaphor, mutating it to serve the desires of the modern nation state, which has now become the corporate state. This has become so accentuated that policy and practice are consumed with the goal of competitiveness. Individual competitiveness taken alone is debased enough, but it has sunken even lower. Just listen to the political speeches. They make it clear that the sole reason for school reform or educational innovation of any kind is NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS. …

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