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Curriculum Studies, Selected Works

Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson

Becoming a School Subject

Teachers of the subject received less enthusiastic advice from their journal, Geography and its anonymous reviewer 'P.R.C.':

What... is its object, and to whom is it addressed? These questions are avoided with perverse skill and in the absence of guidance, the conviction gradually takes root that, in fact, the authors are writing for each other! This may explain, though it does not excuse, the use in some papers of a barbarous and repulsive jargon. Is it then a joint expression of faith on the part of the New Geographers? This would indeed have been welcome but a new faith is hardly likely to be attained by a frenzied search for gadgets which might conceivably be turned to geographical ends. The nature of those ends calls for solid thought, a task which cannot be delegated to computers.

A year later the president of the Geographical Association pursued a similar opposition with a more explicit statement of the fears which new geography engendered. The new systematic geography, she argued, was:

creating a problem that will increase in acuteness over the decades ahead for it leads towards subject fragmentation as fringe specialisms in systematic fields proliferate and are pursued independently to the neglect of the very core of our discipline - a core that largely justified its existence. Geography in our universities is in fact becoming so sophisticated, and its numerous branches in diverse fields at times so narrowly specialized, that sooner or later, the question must arise as to how much longer the subject can effectively be held together.

The implications of this analysis are clear:

So my first plea to the academic teachers who will be the leaders of tomorrow must be: let there never be a question (other than at an advanced post-graduate and research level) of the coexistence of two geographies, physical and social, regarded as one without reference to the other. University departments have a duty to ensure that, at least at the first degree level, the core of our subject is neither forgotten nor neglected, and that the synthesis of the specialist fields and their relevance to the core are clearly appreciated by our undergraduate students. In my mind, it is only on the foundation of a first degree course structure so designed that a geographer is basically qualified either to teach in our schools or to carry his studies further at a postgraduate research level.
  1. PRC (1968) 'Review', Geography, 53, Part 4, November.
  2. op. cit., Garnett, p. 388-389.
  3. ibid, p. 389.
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  • Date of publication: 15/09/2005
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
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  • Appears in:
    Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £27.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-35220-8
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