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Curriculum Studies, Selected Works

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

Becoming a School Subject

Certainly the most undeveloped aspect of Knowledge and Control in respect to school subjects is the scrutiny of the process whereby unspecified dominant groups exercise control over presumably subordinate groups in the definition of school knowledge. Moreover if the dominant groups in question are related to the economy one would expect high status knowledge to be of the sort Apple refers to 'for the corporate economy requires the production of high levels of technical knowledge to keep the economic apparatus running effectively and to become more sophisticated in the maximization of opportunities for economic expansion'. In fact high status groups have tended to receive 'academic' rather than 'technical' knowledge: a point that maybe contributes to the continuing dysfunctionality of the UK economy. We need to explore how this apparent contradiction developed and has been maintained in the school curriculum. Young's work, lacking in empirical evidence, develops horizontally in this exploration, working out from theories of social structure and social order to evidence of their application. Such macro-sociological theorizing is very different, although far from inimical, to studying social groups actively at work in particular historical instances. In this respect the examination of the process of 'becoming a school subject' should generate useful historical insights.

The second school of explanation, which might almost be called the 'establishment view', is essentially philosophical and has preceded and stood in contradiction to sociological perspectives. The philosophical view has been attacked by Young because, he argues it is based on 'an absolutist conception of a set of distinct forms of knowledge which correspond closely to the traditional areas of the academic curriculum and thus justify, rather than examine, what are no more than socio-historical constructs of a particular time'. Even if we largely accept Young's critique, however, it is important to know that in fact school subjects themselves represent substantial interest groups. To view subjects as 'no more than socio-historical constructs of a particular time', whilst correct at one level, hardly serves to clarify the part played by those groups involved in their continuance and promotion over time.

  1. Apple, M.W. (1978) 'Ideology, reproduction and educational reform', Comparative Education Review, 22, p. 380.
  2. op. cit., Young, p. 23.
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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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