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Curriculum study, curriculum history, and curriculum theory: the reason of reason

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This paper explores the intersection of curriculum studies/curriculum history/curriculum theory through the study of systems of reason that order reflection and action. Words about 'learning', 'empowerment', 'problem-solving', 'self-realization', 'community', and so on, are not merely there in order that educators should 'grasp' some reality to act upon. The words are made intelligible and 'reasonable' within historically-formed rules and standards that order, classify, and divide what is 'seen' and acted on in schooling. These rules and standards of reason are effects of power and the political of schooling. The first section explores this notion of the political and reason, considering curriculum as a double gesture. One gesture is the hope of schooling. The gesture of hope embodies fears of dangers, and dangerous populations. The latter, dangerous children, are placed in in-between spaces—the immigrant, the poor, the disadvantaged who are to be included, yet defined as different and abjected. The phrase 'all children can learn' illustrates the double gesture. The 'all' assumes a unity of the whole that differentiates and divides the cosmopolitanism of the child (e.g. the life-long learner) from the child 'left behind' who is different and can 'never be of the average'. Finally, it explores how the notion of research as finding 'useful' or 'practical' knowledge for changing the school inscribes this double gesture and, ironically and paradoxically, assumes a consensus that establishes a hierarchy that divides the researcher from those to be shepherded. The exploration of the system of reason in curriculum studies makes visible the limits of the present, and, through this critical engagement, makes possible other futures.
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Keywords: education sciences; politics of schooling; school reform; social exclusion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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