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Curriculum Studies

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

On Curriculum Form

In his work on Australian school reform, which derives from the Annaliste School, Pitman has argued that 'with a given civilisation, there are multiple cultures related to location, class, occupation, gender and any other relevant criterion':

The dialectic relationships of the various groups with their material worlds and with each other permit the development of world views, or mentalities within these groups which are distinct from each other. For example, in the division of labour and the class exchange of labour to organisers of labour and owners of the means of production, then the participants in the asymmetrical exchanges interact differently with their material worlds, at least in relation to the nature of work (Pitman 1986, p.60).

Shapin and Barnes have examined a selection of educational writings on pedagogy in Britain in the period 1770-1850. In examining the ‘rhetoric’ of pedagogy they found “remarkable agreement upon the mentality of the subjects of those programmes"(Shapin and Barnes 1976, p.231).  Different mentalities were ascribed depending on whether the persons in question came from ‘the higher orders’ or ‘the lower ranks’.

Three Dichotomies

Three central dichotomies were discerned. The first places the sensual and concrete character of the thought of the lower orders against the intellectual, verbal and abstract qualities of upper class thoughts. The second places the simplicity of the lower orders thought against the complexity and sophistication of their betters.

In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith provided the crucial link between division of labour and division of mentalities (and, of course, curriculum). In patterns of exploitation and domination this is the crucial rationalisation to enshrine. Thus, Smith stated:

In the progress of the division of labour the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations; frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention... He naturally... becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become (quote in Shapin and Barnes 1976, p.231).

For the elite Smith was similarly strident:

The employments, too, in which people of some rank or fortune spend their lives, are not, like those of the common people, simple or uniform. They are almost all of them extremely complicated, and such as exercise the head more than the hands (quote in Shapin and Barnes 1976, p.234).
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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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