What is curriculum? — Some Observations by Maxine Greene

My first posts on this blog will address the threshold question: What is curriculum? I expect that AAACS [American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies] colleagues all share the experience of trying to communicate with colleagues and students who think that Curriculum Studies must be devoted to the study of “State Standards,” “Scope and Sequence” documents, official “guidelines” etc. Of course, such things do fall within the scope of what we study; but even so, without an understanding of what it is we think of as curriculum, our colleagues, students, and others don’t understand how such plans and documents do figure in, as elements, within the more complex reality of what we’re studying–a complex reality that requires no less than the “complicated conversation” (as per Bill Doll & Bill Pinar) that delves far deeper than would be required if we were interested in no more than fomal and explicit plans and their “implementation.”

For a start, I think we can do no better than to recycle this quotation from Maxine Greene, which I have often used in both my teaching and my writing. I am sure that I will be referring back to Maxine’s observations in my future posting on this blog. As she observed in 1971:

Curriculum, from the learner’s standpoint, ordinarily represents little more than an arrangement of subjects, a structure of socially prescribed knowledge, or a complex system of meanings which may or may not fall within his grasp. … Sartre says that “knowing is a moment of praxis,” opening into “what has not yet been.” * Preoccupied with priorities, purposes, programs of “intended learning” * and intended (or unintended) manipulation, we pay too little attention to the individual in quest of his own future, bent on surpassing what is merely “given,” on breaking through the everyday. We are still too prone to dichotomize: to think of “disciplines” or “public traditions” or “accumulated wisdom” or “common culture” (individualization despite) as objectively existent, external to the knower—there to be discovered, mastered, learned.

(Greene 1971: 253, original emphasis; *citation omitted)

Greene, M. (1971). Curriculum and Consciousness. Teachers College Record, 73(2), 253-270.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] The actual title, in English, is What is curriculum? — Some Observations by Maxine Greene […]

  2. […] French translations of “curriculum.” Although the title, at least, is translated from What is curriculum? — Some Observations by Maxine Greene to Quel est curriculum? — Quelques observations par Maxine Greene, “curriculum” is […]

  3. […] The HPL quote mentions “philosophy,” but the “learning science” that HPL refers to is not seen to be informed by any use of philosophers like Sartre. Sartre is, however, among the phenomenologists included in one of the “postcognitivist” MIT Press books that I am now reviewing: Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction, by Paul Dourish (2004). Without enshrining Sartre, in particular, we recognize the importance for curriculum of recognizing how cognitive learning takes form within the existential / ontological activity in which human being(s) is(are) formed, as we’ve seen recognized by Maxine Greene in her writing on Curriculum and Consciousness. […]

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