Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Curriculum Theorizing in the Throes of the Audit Culture

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Curriculum Theorizing in the Throes of the Audit Culture

Article excerpt

In the past few years, I have attended a number of College-wide faculty discussions about the press for program-based "innovative" curriculum design and development in response to increasing competition for students, especially from those recruiting for various privatized options for teacher certification, for example. As I was exiting the room at the close of a somewhat contentious session, a colleague casually asked me: "Say, whatever happened to curriculum theory in all this current push for design and development?" She disappeared into the congested hallway before I could utter even a fragment of a reply. So, here is a slice of how I wish I could have answered:

   Well, I maintain that curriculum theory always is "here" in all
   aspects of educating, whether acknowledged or not. We're always
   interpreting from particular epistemological and ontological
   assumptions about the nature of being--the "self"--as well as about
   "knowledge" and its productions and constructions. So, I'm
   uncomfortable with any sole notion of "curriculum theory"--there's
   no one "theory" of curriculum that provides the overarching scope,
   explanatory power or level of generalization that positivist
   connotations of theory imply. Having participated during the mid-
   and late-1970s iterations of the U.S. movement known as the
   curriculum reconceptualization, I still prefer to engage in and
   speak of "curriculum theorizing"--where the word "theorizing" is
   consciously chosen to signal the never-ending processes of
   thinking, imagining, positing, reconsidering, reinterpreting, and
   envisaging anew various situated and contingent conceptions of
   curriculum and their obvious and inextricably intertwined relations
   to teaching and learning. I'm obviously influenced by reconceptual
   work that signaled theorizing as a creative intellectual task
   rather than as a basis for prescription or testable and measurable
   sets of principles and relationships.

So, from reconceptual perspectives, curriculum work in all of its manifestations is not a "science" that yields universally agreed upon "content," similarly designed and developed for all. Nor is teaching considered a "science" that generates "best practices"--methods, techniques and skills that can be perfectly "practiced," and then replicated across all pedagogical contexts. Instead, ongoing revisionings of what and who might constitute conceptions of 'curriculum' in any one education setting all are part of the "complicated conversation" that is curriculum. And teaching is active participation in this complicated conversation.

And of course, my rambling response, composed here in retrospect in relation to the question my colleague tossed to me at meeting's end, directly gestures toward my primary subject positions as educator: U.S.-born, long-time curriculum theorist whose subject matter discipline is English, including literature and composition; who taught high school English for seven years before entering academe in the late 1970s; and who is mightily attached to the notion of curriculum conceived as the interdisciplinary study of educational experience--in all the wide variances such a concept encompasses.

But ever since my colleague posed that question--"whatever happened to curriculum theory ?"--I have been pondering reasons why curriculum theorizing might not be considered an "essential" component in any and all current deliberations and debates about how education and its attendant conceptions and processes might be construed as well as enacted.

Here, then, I wish to call attention to aspects of what now is known as "the audit culture" and how those persuaded by such indeed might disregard curriculum theorizing as an integral component of all contemporary educational endeavors. To do so, I first elaborate just a bit on viewpoints that have influenced my own in relation to what I regard as the crucial role of curriculum theorizing within both the U. …

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