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Moral aspects of curriculum: 'making kids care' about school knowledge

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This paper describes and analyses the 'relevant' curriculum in a lower-track history class in a US college-preparatory high school. It seeks to provide an experience of the cumulative and signifying impact of what are more often considered mundane, even 'flat', school lessons. Using Goffman's notion that social institutions discipline 'self' toward a cultural ideal the paper traces how 'relevant' lessons work on students in this high school, how students in turn 'work' relevance, and whose relevance is consequential. It argues, in particular, that although the institution succeeds in establishing a large measure of control in the lower-track class, it also produces what Goffman calls 'moral fatigue'. That is, the more students are expected to be the 'self' that the 'relevant' curriculum defines, the more they experience 'self' as mere show and, hence ironically, are loosened from the school's moral bonds.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1998

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