Curriculum and the quest for an equitable and democratic society
Young (1998) contends, “Education is always… a set of cultural choices, some conscious and some unconscious…” (p. 12). The most salient question I wrestle with relates to the form curriculum and pedagogy must take in our education system to produce a just and equitable democratic society. Almost three years ago, when I started doctoral studies, I was introduced to the classic work of Anyon (1981) whose research demonstrates the valid claim that knowledge in the West is stratified to a great extent. It opened my eyes to the realities of our educational systems. Equality of opportunity and upward mobility is either denied or granted to children as a result of different constructions and interpretations of knowledge and their outworking through the curriculum and pedagogy in schools. In our efforts for actualizing greater equity in school and in society, we must question the validity and ascendency of different types of knowledge as well as reflect deeply on the nature of schooling. What is/are or should be the purpose(s) of schools? (Individual cognitive and holistic development, to turn out workers for the labour market, citizenship etc.?) What or whose knowledge is valid? What are the hidden ideologies the school curriculum carries? Who benefits from such curricula and who in turn is "left behind?"
Connecting the school’s curriculum to the social realities outside its walls is a positive start. Our curriculum development and pedagogical practices are socio-cultural and political events. Promoting a change of consciousness, adapting a framework of contestation and critical self-reflection on the part of the educators to contest the school’s hidden ideology and cultural biases become important social actions (Whitty, 1985). Transformative practices in education clearly require a confrontation with oppositional politics. It is within political struggles that pedagogical interventions towards affirming greater democratic principles become effective (Whitty, 1985). Thus contesting hegemonic curricular policies is a task that every educator must undertake. And so as a true doctoral student, I note that one question leads me to another: How do we revitalize the teaching profession to assume greater social and political agency in practical ways? It is only in wrestling and grappling with the questions that we find our way... perhaps a new way forward in policy making as it relates to better curriculum and pedagogy in the schools of our nations.
Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education, CLXII, 67-92.
Whitty, G. (1985). From theory and research to policy and practice. In Sociology and school knowledge: Curriculum theory, research and politics (pp. 7-98). London: Methuen.
Young, M. (1998). The curriculum as socially organized knowledge; The curriculum and the ‘new sociology of education.’ In The curriculum of the future: From the ‘new sociology of education’ to a critical theory of learning (pp. 9-21); 34-47). London: Falmer Press.