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Curriculum Studies

The Changing Curriculum: studies in social construction

Chariots of Fire

We see then the emergence of a definite pattern of prioritising of pupils through curriculum; what emerges I have called elsewhere 'the triple alliance between academic subjects, academic examinations and able pupils'. Working through patterns of resource allocation this means a process of pervasive 'academic drift' afflicts sub-groups promoting school subjects. Hence subjects as diverse as woodwork and metalwork, physical education, art technical studies, book-keeping, needlework and domestic science have pursued status improvement by arguing for enhanced academic examinations and qualifications. Likewise schools defined as different from grammar schools, the technical schools and secondary modern schools also were ultimately drawn into the process of academic drift both ending up competing for success through academic subject based styles of examination.

The manner in which this structure effects the definition of the school curriculum as subjects are defined, promoted and redefined is examined in some detail in the later chapters. In a way the evolution of each subject reflects in microcosm a struggle over alternatives over time, which is not dissimilar to the overall pattern discerned as State schooling is established and defined. Hence Layton sees the initial stage as one where 'the learners are attracted to the subject because of its bearing on matters of concern to them. At this point the teachers are seldom trained as subject specialists but do 'bring the missionary enthusiasms of pioneers to their task'. Significantly at this stage 'the dominant criterion is relevance to the needs and interests of the learners'. However as the subject 'progresses' (a subject at any point in time resembling a coalition which veneers a sub-set of warring factions) the role of the universities becomes more and more important. This is not least because subject groups employ a discourse where they argue increasingly for their subject to be viewed as an 'academic discipline' (thereby claiming the financial resources and career opportunities which accrue). The corollary of this claim is the university scholars must be given control over defining the 'discipline' (the aspiration to the rhetoric of 'the discipline' is related to acceptance of this hierarchical pattern of definition so in this sense the discursive formation is critical). Jenkins has noted that:

'one detects a certain embarrassment in teachers who not unnaturally feel the difference between forms, disciplines and subjects are in part differences of status' (Jenkins and Shipman 1976, p. 102).

In effect the differences are over who can define 'disciplines' -essentially this is presented as the characteristic activity of university scholars.

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The Changing Curriculum
  • Date of publication: 08/08/1997
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 210
  • Publisher: Peter Lang
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    The Changing Curriculum: studies in social construction
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £20.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8204-2609-9
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