15

RATIONAL CURRICULUM PLANNING

In pursuit of an illusion

David Carr


The centrally planned curriculum

Adopting a familiar analysis of educational and other practical enterprises in terms of four formal constituent features of aims, methods, content and evaluation or assessment, debates about the curriculum might be regarded as revolving largely or exclusively around questions of content. A little thought, however, should be sufficient to show that this is a narrow and superficial conception, and most educational philosophers, theorists and policy makers worth their salt - from the time of Plato onwards - have clearly recognised that any adequate view of the curriculum must take into account not only what is to be learned, but also why and how it is to be learned, and how that learning stands to be evaluated. In short, conceptions of the curriculum are tantamount to attempts to answer the basic question of what it is to be educated per se.

It follows from this, however, that it is crucially important to be clear about the precise logical status of any query regarding the nature of education - for, if this question is misconstrued, it can only be expected that any proposed answer to it will be a skewed one. And, indeed, it is the main aim of this chapter to suggest that currently prevailing official conceptions of the school curriculum and its role in the promotion of individual and societal prosperity, of the kind that have recently developed in the United Kingdom (on either side of its politically most significant national border) and elsewhere, are - despite their best intentions - deeply infected by a certain common misconstrual of what is really at issue in any inquiry concerning the nature of education.

-173-

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