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Principle and pragmatism in English curriculum making 1868-1918

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Traditions of 'Curriculum Theory' in the US and of 'Didaktik' in Germany and other European countries both accept that decisions about what to teach should be based on principled arguments about the purpose of the curriculum of the school. But what about England, where neither curriculum theory nor Didaktik have ever exercised significant influence? To what extent, if at all, has there been a principled basis for curriculum making? This paper argues that the English tradition has been based largely on pragmatism rather than principle, and that this situation arose from the role and influence of the old universities and the public schools in the late nineteenth century. Efforts to institute principled approaches to curriculum making in the critical period 1868-1918 were seldom inspired by direct contact with continental sources, and were most often mediated by Scottish scholars. But their impact was never sufficient to extend discussion about content and teaching beyond questions affecting individual subjects. English schooling has been and continues to be shaped by discussion of subject-based 'Method' rather than by consideration of the whole curriculum.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1997-11-01

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