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Selected Works

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

Coming to Curriculum

This presumes exploration of the communities of Milton Keynes and district at a number of levels.

The learning strategies associated with these broad objectives involve two kinds of skills: 

  1. Social skills e.g. an understanding of the concept of 'sharing'.

      b.   Academic skills

(Goodson 1974).

But by 1974-5 it was becoming increasingly clear that the new curricula defined in pursuit of 'education for all' were meeting great opposition.  The Black Papers, first launched in 1969, began to work through a critique of the new initiatives and a call for a return to traditional subjects and teaching.  The new curriculum initiatives were not of course without flaws and inadequacies, but by this time it was abundantly clear that we were up against major structural barriers.

In a way I believe we were pursuing the rhetoric of its 'comprehensive education', 'education for all', to its logical conclusion.  But we were to learn that logic and politics collided fairly early on in the proceedings.  Curriculum and assessment became the terrain where 'education for all' collided with ‘O' levels for the top 20 per cent'.  In short, when egalitarian practice collided with inherited meritocratic intent.  In 1976 the Ruskin Speech by a Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, made it conclusively clear that the comprehensive experiment was not to be seriously pursued.  Subsequent events have of course confirmed this.

My increasing sense of personal frustration in the face of this political restructuring led me in 1975 to join a project at Sussex University concerned with urban and community environmental education.  A chance in short to explore in more depth my growing interest in promoting the new curricula I had defined in the two comprehensive schools in which I had worked.  But the project gave me a chance to do much more than this.  It allowed me to study in detail (for a PhD) the politics of curriculum change.  In the first year, I sat down to write up my beliefs about curriculum and my dawning awareness of links between knowledge and control.  My first paper derived from an article I had finished whilst teaching in 1974.  In this I had still seemed optimistic about curriculum change and comprehensive education (this optimism/naivety was a strong feature in all my journal entries until mid-1974).

This paper was submitted to The Journal of Curriculum Studies and benefited from some wonderfully helpful comments from William Reid, the editor.  This help and advice at this time was invaluable.

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  • Date of publication: 15/09/2005
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • 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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