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Curriculum Studies, Selected Works

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

Becoming a School Subject

The overwhelming worry reflected in this quote was that the myth of the discipline would be exposed. Geography was supposedly a unified academic discipline into which the school teacher initiated young pupils. If there was no obvious link between university and school geography this version of events - the Hirstian vision of school subjects - would stand exposed. Teachers themselves became very worried: 'Geography was in a state of ferment... it was moving too quickly... Let alone in the schools even many of the universities didn't have new geography'; and 'This new approach, however you felt about it, caused a sort of schism... both at university and at school level'.

Fears of this schism were expressed in a number of contemporary books. The gap between schools and universities, of which there is much evidence in previous periods, was thought particularly worrying:

Techniques of study are changing more rapidly in modern geography than at any previous time in the subject's history. As a result there is a great need for a dialogue between research workers and those being admitted to the mysteries of the subject. Teachers provide the necessary link; and it is dangerous for the vitality and future health of geography that some teachers find current developments either incomprehensible or unacceptable.

Rex Walford made a similar diagnosis: 'The need for unity within the subject is more than a practical one of preparing sixth formers for their first lectures on campus; it is, I would assert, a basic requirement for the continued existence of the subject'.

In spite of the opposition of teachers and academics, many of who saw regional geography as the 'real geography', there were strong pressures working in favour of the advocates of new geography. Beyond the problems in schools, the scholars in universities who controlled the new definitions of the subject were concerned to progress to the front rank of university academic disciplines. (Their concerns would of course be reflected in greater sixth form status). New geography was conceived and promoted to achieve this end. The alliance between university status and school status ensured that ultimately the Geographical Association would embrace 'new geography'.

  1. op. cit., Interview, (30.6.76)
  2. ibid.
  3. Cooke, R. and Johnson, J.M. (1969) Trends in Geography, London: Methuen, p. 8.
  4. op. cit., Walford, p. 97.
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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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