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The emergent curriculum: navigating a complex course between unguided learning and planned enculturation

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This study uses the 'logic' of emergence to rethink the practice and purposes of modern Western schooling which, conventionally, is organized around a representational epistemology and aims to enculture the student into a particular way of being. The idea of 'planned enculturation' is, however, problematic for contemporary multicultural societies for it raises the question of which or whose culture should be promoted through schooling. The authors argue that emergentist challenges to representational epistemology have not released schooling from its problematic function of planned enculturation. However, if the logic of emergence is applied not only to knowledge but also to human subjectivity then the educational problem of planned enculturation disappears. When emergentist logic is applied in this double sense, it becomes possible to understand the primary responsibility of the educator not as a responsibility to promote a particular way of being, but as a responsibility to the singularity and uniqueness of each individual student. If this is what counts as 'educational responsibility' then this would distinguish 'responsible' educational practices from unguided learning on the one hand and practices of planned enculturation/socialization (training) on the other.

Keywords: complexity; curriculum; emergence; enculturation; representational epistemology; schooling

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-06-01

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