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Selected Works

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

Towards a Social Constructionist Perspective

Likewise in School Subjects and Curriculum Change I have tried to develop the group or collective focus by studying school subjects in historical evolution.  Here I contended that

historical case studies of school subjects provide the 'local detail' of curriculum change and conflict.  The identification of individuals and sub-groups actively at work within curriculum interest groups allows some examination and assessment of intention and motivation.  Thereby sociological theories which attribute power over the curriculum to dominant interest groups can be scrutinized for their empirical potential.
To concentrate attention at the micro level of individual school subject groups is not to deny the crucial importance of macro level economic changes or changes in intellectual ideas, dominant values or educational systems.  But it is asserted that such macro level changes may be actively reinterpreted at the micro level.  Changes at macro level are viewed as presenting a range of new choices to subject factions, associations and communities.  To understand how subjects change over time, as well as histories of intellectual ideas, we need to understand how subject groups are all-powerful in engineering curriculum change but that their responses are a very important, and as yet somewhat neglected, part of the overall picture (Goodson 1987).

More recently in Biography, Identity and Schooling (Goodson and Walker, 1990) and Studying of Curriculum (Goodson, 1994) I have been wrestling with how to integrate different foci and levels of analysis.  In developing an integrated social constructionist perspective this pursues the promise that the theoretic and the practical, or seen another way that structure and agency might be reconnected in our vision of curriculum scholarship.  Were this to come about we might be saved from the recurrent ‘flight to theory’ followed by the counterbalancing ‘flight to practice’ (and the occasional intervening ‘flight to the personal’).  Our scholarship would thereby be encompassing in integrated manner the complexity of levels of analysis which reflects the reality of curriculum. 

To begin any analysis of schooling by accepting without question a form and content of curriculum that was fought for and achieved at a particular historical point on the basis of certain social and political priorities, to take that curriculum as a given, is to forego a whole range of understandings and insights into features of the control and operation of the school and the classroom. It is to take over the mystifications of previous episodes of governance as unchallengeable givens.  We are, let us be clear, talking about the systematic 'invention of tradition' in an arena of social production and reproduction, the school curriculum, where political and social priorities are paramount.  Histories of other aspects of social life have begun to systematically scrutinize this process.  Hobsbawm argues that the term 'invented tradition';

includes both traditions actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less traceable manner within a brief and dateable period - a matter of a few years perhaps - and establishing themselves with great rapidity.

Hobsbawm defines the matter this way:

Invented tradition is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature which seek to circulate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past.  In fact, where possible, they normally attempt to establish continuity with a suitable historic past (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1985).
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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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