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Curriculum Studies

Defining the Curriculum: histories and ethnographies

Subjects for Study: towards a social history of curriculum

This article suggests that it is a dangerous enterprise to develop theories of curriculum whilst underusing or misusing historical studies. Disturbingly significant is the constant harking back to the early nineteenth century for analogies with which to support contemporary theory. Structural and interactional features are not continuous and to assume continuity is at best to oversimplify and at worst wilfully to mislead. A particular problem in those studies which generalize from the early nineteenth century to the contemporary situation has been identified in the work reported here. Namely, that by raiding history in this way sociologists have been returning to a pre-professional era with respect to curriculum groups. The evidence presented here points to the power and importance of professional subject groups; they cannot be dismissed as powerless agencies in the face of structural change.

The use of socialization as a kind of black box theory of causation seems a common but inappropriate device; postulating causation without presenting evidence is poor theorizing, particularly when professionalization has been substantially ignored. The evidence presented here suggests that is not so much prior socialization as the structuring of material interest which provides the mediating mechanism between structural and interactional levels.

The dominance of 'academicism' can be shown over the last century or more. But historical studies pose questions about in whose interests this dominance prevails: professional groups, culturally dominant groups or industrial or financial capital. Academicism may be the past cultural consequence of previous domination rather than a guarantee of future domination.

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Defining the Curriculum
  • Date of publication: 08/12/2011
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 316
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Co-author: Stephen Ball
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Defining the Curriculum: histories and ethnographies
  • E-book
  • Price of e-book: $64.00
  • E-book ISBN: 978-0-203-81566-3
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