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Curriculum Studies

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

Representing Teachers

Likewise, Salina Shrofel, in reviewing the same book, highlights the dangers:

Focus on the personal and on practice does not appear to lead practitioners or researchers/writers to analyse practice as theory, as social structure, or as a manifestation of political and economic systems. This limitation of vision implicit in the narrative approach serves as a constraint on curriculum reform. Teachers will, as did the teachers cited by Connelly and Clandinin, make changes in their own classroom curricula but will not perform the questioning and challenging of theory, structure, and ideology that will lead to radical and extensive curriculum reform.
It can be argued that the challenge of running a classroom fully occupies the teachers and that questions of theory, structure, and ideology don’t affect the everyday lives (practical knowledge) of teachers and are relegated to ‘experts’. However, there are many dangers in separating practice from these other questions. First, as Connelly and Clandinin point out, it ignores the dynamic relationship of theory and practice. Second, it ignores the fact that schools are intricately and inextricably part of the social fabric and of the political and economic system which dominates. Third, because curriculum reform is implemented in the classroom by teachers, separating teachers from these other aspects might negatively affect radical and widespread curriculum reform. To avoid these dangers, either the narrative method will have to be extended, or it will need to be supplemented with a process that encourages teachers to look beyond the personal (Shrofel 1991, pp. 64–5).

In summary, should stories and narratives be a way of giving voice to a particular way of being, or should the genre serve as an introduction to alternative ways of being? Consciousness is constructed rather than autonomously produced; hence, giving voice to consciousness may give voice to the constructor at least as much as the speaker. If social context is left out this will likely happen.

The truth is that many times a life storyteller will neglect the structural context of their lives, or interpret such contextual forces from a biased point of view. As Denzin (1989, p. 74) says, “Many times a person will act as if he or she made his or her own history when, in fact, he or she was forced to make the history he or she lived.” He gives an example from his 1986 study of alcoholics: “You know I made the last four months by myself. I haven’t used or drank. I’m really proud of myself. I did it” (Denzin 1989, pp. 74–5). A friend, listening to this account commented:

You know you were under a court order all last year. You didn’t do this on your own. You were forced to, whether you want to accept this fact or not. You also went to AA and NA. Listen Buster, you did what you did because you had help and because you were afraid and thought you had no other choice. Don’t give me this, ‘I did it on my own’ crap (1989, pp. 74–5).

The speaker replies, “I know. I just don’t like to admit it.” Denzin concludes:

This listener invokes two structural forces, the state and AA, which accounted in part for this speaker’s experience. To have secured only the speaker’s account, without a knowledge of his biography and personal history, would have produced a biased interpretation of his situation (1989, pp. 74–5).
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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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