Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Language Ideologies and Curriculum Studies an Empirical Approach to "Worthwhile" Questions

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Language Ideologies and Curriculum Studies an Empirical Approach to "Worthwhile" Questions

Article excerpt

WITH THE RAPID GROWTH of globalization combined with a disturbing pattern of curriculum and economic bifurcation, curriculum theorists and linguistic anthropologists working from a critical point of view have been increasingly engaged in conversations about identity, ideologies, and language (e.g. Levinson, 2005; Macedo, Dendrinos, & Gounari, 2003; Matus & McCarthy, 2003; Smith, 2003). The economic, cultural, and linguistic challenges that have been accelerated by the forces of globalization have created a fundamental shift in disciplinary epistemologies vis a vis the impact on non-dominant and historically marginalized populations. One of the main objectives of this conceptual paper is to show the emerging synergy that exists between critical linguistic anthropology and critical curriculum inquiry and how the next generation of curriculum scholars can potentially benefit from this "merger" (e.g. Siegel, 2006).

Historically, scholars of curriculum studies, particularly those working from a critical perspective have long recognized the need for cross disciplinary conversations, and despite the pressures to "canonize," "rigorize," and create a new academic silo, many have adopted an inter-disciplinary approach to some of the most fundamental and "worthwhile" questions facing humanity and its implications for educational practice and policy. The question of "what is worthwhile?" has been the cornerstone of the field of curriculum inquiry/studies for more than forty years and has traversed many ideological/pragmatic tensions (Schubert, 2010). The pragmatic relevance of the field has been increasingly under attack citing the "inaccessibility" of its language (Giroux, 1992) or its disproportionate concerns with the philosophical or "theoretical" implying a detached position from practical instructional concerns (Schwab, 2004). Schwab (2004) argues that the field has become "moribund," and this is partially due to an unexamined reliance on theory in an area where theory alone is inadequate; he states, "The field of curriculum is moribund, unable by its present methods and principles to continue its work and desperately in search of new and more effective principles and methods" (Schwab, 2004, p. 103). One way for curriculum inquiry to position itself within the broader questions about the relevance of curriculum theory and "theorizing" in curriculum and instruction departments everywhere is to foreground language, multilingualism, discourse, and narrative inquiry as empirical and practical approaches to curriculum inquiry both in urban teacher education and educational research.

The "social turn" in linguistics and psychology (Hymes, 1964) made those fields more viable to issues in education; perhaps curriculum inquiry is in need of a "language return" given many in the field have either explicitly or implicitly recognized the centrality of language, especially narrative inquiry (e.g. Conle & Boone, 2008; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988). Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman (2002) state, "it is necessary to understand the curriculum field as discourse, as text, and most profoundly as words." (p. 7). The "linguistic turn" in curriculum inquiry has potential for curriculum development and inquiry by providing for context-specific practices; however, it still remains a largely unexplored area (Jupp, 2009).

Using a critical perspective, the micro analysis and awareness of discourse for the purposes of understanding and transforming macro inequities has the potential to bridge the divide between the "overly theoretical, ideological and macro" emphasis of curriculum theory and the sometimes "overly procedural emphasis of instruction." While I fully agree with Giroux (1992), that many of the charges of "language inaccessibility" stem from either intentional or unintentional complicity with the status quo, in this paper I aim to illustrate a language ideologies approach to worthwhile curricular questions through the prism of "language" and its extensions: discourse and narrative analysis. …

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