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  1. 1. Curriculum Inquiry, Theory, and Politics A review of Curriculum Inquiry (William H. Schubert. Chapter 19, pp. 399–419.) Reenvisioning the Progressive Tradition in Curriculum (David T. Hansen, Rodino F. Anderson, Jeffrey Frank, & Kiera Nieuwejaar. Chapter 22, pp. 440–459.) What the Schools Teach: A Social History of the American Curriculum Since 1950 (Barry M. Franklin & Carla C. Johnson. Chapter 23, pp. 460–477.)Curriculum Theory Since 1950: Crisis, Reconceptualization, Internationalization (William F. Pinar. Chapter 25, pp. 491–513.) in Part III, Section F: Inquiring Into Curriculum The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction, edited by F. M. Connelly, M. F. He, & J. I. Phillion, Sage Publications, 2008 by MADELEINE R. GRUMET University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USAReading the four essays selected from the final section of The Sage Handbookof Curriculum and Instruction, “Inquiring Into Curriculum,” I am somewhatsurprised by their courtesy and civility. I feel as if I have dragged myself outof the house, girded for a day of work and arrived at a tea party. Then Irealize that perhaps I have responded to the wrong invitation. Part III ofThe Handbook is entitled, “Curriculum in Theory”; yet, its section editor,William H. Schubert, groups the eight essays under the heading, “InquiringInto Curriculum.” Inquiries, I have found, are weak tea compared totheories. I recall a visit years ago from Daniel Marom, the Director of the Visionsof Jewish Education Project of the Mandel Institute in Jerusalem, where heis a senior researcher. Daniel had been traveling to campuses in North© 2009 by The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.Curriculum Inquiry 39:1 (2009)Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford OX4 2DQ, UKdoi: 10.1111/j.1467-873X.2008.01447.x
  2. 2. 222 MADELEINE R. GRUMETAmerica interviewing colleagues to ask about how we held conversationswith our colleagues to articulate our vision for our schools. I remember thathe was bemused at a phrase that he had heard over and over on his travelsas he spoke to researchers and graduate students in education: “They keeptelling me that they are looking at this and looking at that. What is thislooking?” This general term for inquiry does, as he divined, serve as ashield, protecting the speaker from declaring his commitments. Maromand his colleagues were committed to work that encouraged Jewish schoolsto clarify their vision. In the book that he wrote and coedited with SeymourFox and Israel Scheffler, Visions of Jewish Education, Marom provides thisdescription of purpose:Why do we emphasize vision? Without a guiding purpose, an educational system isbound to be scattered and incoherent, incapable of consecutive effort, unableeither to grasp the possibilities of effective action or to avoid the obstacles in itspath. Lacking a directive guide to the future the system becomes repetitive anduninspired, prey to past habit, incapable of justifying itself to a new generation ofour youth in the worlds they will inhabit. (Fox, Marom, & Scheffler, 2003, p. 8) It is important to note that in this process, Marom and his colleagues werenot in hot pursuit of the ubiquitous mission statement, nor the conceptualframework, two metaphors for purpose that have become saturated withlinear and shallow logic in our practice. The process that Marom employedin engaging school faculties in these conversations never aimed at offeringthem an adequate vision. It was a process that he described as helping themto grasp their implicit vision and then to develop it and make it explicit. I frequently think of this conversation with Daniel as I speak with gradu-ate students who are embarking on their research. I ask them what theirquestion is, and they tell me what they are “looking at.” Then the longprocess begins of finding their question, a question replete with a subject,a predicate and all their modifiers, that the student can bring into theworld. It is an excavation of intentionality. And so as “Curriculum in Theory” turns into “Inquiring Into Curricu-lum,” I anticipate starry-eyed scanning and its inevitable failure to focus.But Schubert may not be the author of this choice, for in the introductionto The Handbook, F. Michael Connelly, Ming Fang He, JoAnn Phillion, andCandace Schlein inform us that “the use of verbs in section titles . . . isdeliberately used to convey a particular concept of the curriculum field aspractical, namely an action form of the practical” (p.xiii). Ah, the practical,the defensive shibboleth of curriculum studies. Perhaps the verb forms aremeant to protect The Handbook’s authors from the accusation that they arearmchair theorists, comfortably ensconced in their studies, like Descartesin his dressing gown, opining on other people’s actions. In the introduction to the Curriculum Inquiry section of The Handbook,Schubert appeals to eclecticism to finesse the theory/practice issue, claim-
  3. 3. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 223ing that “state of the art” treatments of curriculum “blur the boundariesamong inquiry, theory, method, and practice since each inextricably influ-ences the other” (p. 399). I confess that at the time of this writing, I havenot read the entire Handbook, although, due to my recently renewedacquaintance with free weights, I can actually lift it with one hand. Perhapsthe verb titles are chosen to compensate for the sheer bulk of the project,and perhaps they suit the other sections: making, managing, diversifying,teaching, and internationalizing curriculum. Perhaps verbs signal thedynamic and fluid movement of scholarship and inquiry, eluding theirreification as positions and stances. But our scholarship should, I argue, bemore than a viewing and a doing. The education of our children is ouropportunity to reconceive the world we were given and to extend it withmore promise to the new people we teach. So, let us take a moment to thinkabout what is lost when inquiring displaces theory. It is true that even in ancient Greece, looking was part of theory. But it wasnot an empty gaze. The theoros was an ambassador who traveled to anothercommunity to witness its rituals and spectacles, and then returned home toreport his findings. What the theoros observed was the performance ofanother community’s understanding of its everyday life and its relationshipto sacred truths. Nightengale (2004), reviewing Western philosophies’endless debates about the value of this specular knowledge, argues that eventhough the theoros detaches himself from his own community to embark onthis journey to a spectacle which he views as a stranger, the knowledgeachieved is not a distanced, objective view, but knowledge that deeplyconnects subject and object, transforming the theoros. What I wonder about are the politics and performance of the report.Surely as the theoros describes what she has seen to those who sent her onthe journey, there is some reference, tacit or explicit, to the community lifeshe shares with them. The practical aspect of theorizing can not be merelythe doing of it. Surely it must include making sense of the doing in a publicforum where its application and significance are debated. This presenta-tion is not an easy task. It invites the theorist to step out of the buzzingconfusion of daily life in order to see more clearly, only to bring her backinto a murky conversation turgid with the pursuits of power. That momentin theory is rarely addressed, but it is public speech and it calls for the artsof rhetoric and persuasion. It is interesting to note that the Oxford EnglishDictionary identifies a Middle English usage of our word practice to mean“intrigue or some form of pleading” (1982, p. 2264), suggesting not onlyaction in the world, but also the politics of justifying that action to otherswho share that world. I confess that as the years have gone by, my sense of politics in educationnarrows, and now it focuses completely on local argument and persuasion.No longer satisfied with claims that curriculum theory is useful if it haspolitical implication, I am tempted to argue that only when the academygenerates information about the curriculum of the school that is attended
  4. 4. 224 MADELEINE R. GRUMETby the children of a state legislator is our work political, even though I knowthat is a bit extreme. In contrast, inquiry, as we practice it in academia, isreported in our journals and discussed at our conferences but rarely, ifever, addressed to the folks back home. I write this essay during the long and compelling election process in theUnited States. The primaries are over, and now the education policies ofJohn McCain and Barak Obama are being considered. On the Op-Ed pageof the June 13, 2008 edition of the New York Times, David Brooks, anerstwhile liberal now conservative, attempts to map the education policychoices that face these candidates. In “Obama, Liberalism and the Chal-lenge of Reform,” he portrays two camps in the Democratic Party: the statusquo position, which he identifies with a statement from the Economic PolicyInstitute, arguing that equity issues in education are related to povertyand must be addressed with health programs, anti-poverty initiatives, andfunding to support improved instruction through after-school programs,small class size, and improved teacher training; and the reformist position,which he identifies with a statement from the Education Equity project,arguing that these educational improvements must be accompanied by“rigorous accountability.” Brooks accuses Obama of supporting both campsand insists that he is evading the crucial issues, which he names, “What doyou do with teachers and administrators who are failing? How rigorously doyou enforce accountability?” My reading of these categories reverses them. In the mantra of account-ability I hear the status quo, and in the call for economic changes, I hearreform. Through it all I hear the complexity that Brooks’s piece ignoresand curriculum theory and Barak Obama demand. Neither the account-ability approach, which focuses on the achievement test scores of children,aggregated by sub-group, nor the poverty approach, which identifies statesanctioned funding formulae that exacerbate inequality, can repair theinequality that haunts U.S. society and education. The dumbed down,either/or recommendation of Brooks needs to accede to a more complexformulation that incorporates both local and distant economies, a “com-plicated conversation” that William Pinar (2004) identifies as a centralconcept in contemporary curriculum studies. Admittedly, the review that I write here is headed for Curriculum Inquiry,and not the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, nor the Letters to the Editorcolumn of my local newspaper, and it would be self-serving and specious tocriticize The Handbook essays as if they were written for the latter rather thanthe former. Nevertheless, The Handbook’s announced commitment toaddress the practical, invites me, as I read and review these essays, to takemy place in the village. From here, I am haunted by the subordination ofcurriculum to testing and an accountability system that humiliates teachersand school children and their families with sadistic fantasies of control, andasks leaders who may have a complex and layered understanding of thecurriculum to reduce it to slogans and threats.
  5. 5. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 225 So here we are in Section F of The Handbook, “Inquiring Into Curricu-lum,” on the outskirts of the city, accompanying our inquirers as theyapproach curriculum. The tight little neighborhood that ensconces cur-riculum is the school: cut off from the community, infantilizing teachersand students, as if what is taught, and how it is taught, and to whom it istaught, and by whom, have nothing to do with the price of oil, in vitrofertilization, or headscarves in Turkey. I look to curriculum theory to breakthe grip of the familiar and the comfortable as the scholar travels toanother neighborhood, interrupting the assumptions, rhetoric, metaphorsand methods of what is familiar to her and her community. The essays ofWilliam Schubert and William Pinar, both providing overviews of the field,reveal that curriculum theory has come a long way in connecting what goeson in schools to what goes on in the world. I read these four curriculumessays wondering whether they will close the loop, moving from school tothe world, and then back to the forum where the politics of school changetakes place. As it invigorates a current interpretation of progressivism, “Reenvision-ing the Progressive Tradition in Curriculum,” written by David Hansen,Rodino F. Anderson, Jeffrey Frank, and Kiera Nieuwejaar, recovers thestruggle of those who also recognized the complexity of curriculumchange, and who worried about how their ideas and innovations would bereceived. DuBois, Emerson, and Addams, as presented here, are movingthrough the village square, imagining and engaging the politics that mustemerge as the new visions of education that theory generates are conveyedto citizens. The authors tell us that the meanings we associate with progres-sive education and its progeny—civic education, constructivist education,democratic education, and multicultural education—are so varied andunpredictable that they fail to guide those who would follow its principleswith anything like a common value, standard, or practice. The authors thenabjure taking a position:Our purpose in this chapter is not to advance a particular position in these wide-ranging debates, whose contours seem to shift day by day. Rather we wish to sketcha new horizon against which to assess the claims, accomplishments, and failures ofprogressive education as expressed in curriculum. (p. 441)Once again, I anticipate the long view and weak tea. Then the authors makea surprising choice by moving outside the body of curriculum literature toengage the writings and thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. E. B.DuBois, and Jane Addams. Perhaps in a move to rescue progressivism fromits detractors, they go beneath and around Kliebard’s categories of pro-gressive reform—child study, social efficiency, and social reconstruction—and their contemporary expressions in practice and program, to recoverthe risk and complexity that accompany “profound respect for humanfreedom and agency” (p. 442). They celebrate Emerson’s willingness to
  6. 6. 226 MADELEINE R. GRUMETseek transformation, suffering the struggles and relishing the challenges ofchange: “He acknowledges that a transformative mode of life will lead tounsettlement in mind, outlook and work—a frightening circumstance. Butit will also generate expanded meanings and prospects—for Emerson, aglorious condition” (p. 444). Rather than subscribing to a linear, teleological progressivism, Emerson,they note, locates it in the infinite imagination, creativity, and vitality ofhuman beings, and they find this more diffuse possibility in DuBois as well.In their response to DuBois’s 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk, the authorscelebrate DuBois’s conviction that every human being can contribute and“be a coworker in the kingdom of culture” (cited on p. 446). To supportthis assertion they cite DuBois’s statement that even the dehumanizingconditions of slavery have generated wisdom:The rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their innerlife, and the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world newpoints of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts.(DuBois, 1903, cited on p. 446)Again, they point out that DuBois, like Emerson, did not romanticize thestruggle of education, for he recognized that to change cultural conven-tions or personal assumptions is unsettling, challenging communities andindividuals to grapple with new understandings. Finally, in their reading of Jane Addams, Hansen et al. emphasize hercommitment to operate without preconceived theories and ideologies thatmight obscure the presence of the people with whom she worked. Sheworks to draw out their gifts, their contributions, and to support a neigh-borhood where these gifts are shared. As with DuBois and Emerson, theyfind her unsentimental and unafraid:What flows through Addams’ account is a sense of vitality that comes from acommunity learning and relearning what it means to dwell together in a polis-in-the-making. The Settlement is in fact an experiment in unsettlement, as precon-ceived notions are jarred loose in shaping and reshaping of community interaction.(p. 450) These carefully selected vignettes sifted from the writings of these threeinnovators reveal their ebullient confidence in humanity. It is the optimismand challenge that I find in Arendt’s (1958) celebration of natality, thepromise and possibility of every new consciousness of every new child.Hanson, Anderson, Frank, and Nieuwejaar then bring these readings to thework of John Dewey. I confess that many years ago, when Bill Pinar and I(1975/2006) were trying to introduce the analysis of autobiographicalnarratives of educational experience or to critique the atomistic behavior-ism of learning objectives, we were often met with the patronizing responsethat Dewey had already said all this (and, they implied, had said it better).
  7. 7. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 227There was a time during the late 1970s when I had a repeated fantasy ofgathering a large audience at the American Educational Research Associa-tion (AERA) just to announce that John Dewey was dead. Well, while thesereenvisioning authors have not joined me in Deweycide, they have broughtthe passionate voices of Emerson, DuBois, and Addams to join his prose,where passion ebbed as he moved with care and specificity to engage thedialectics of every problem he considered. And they also join these writersso we can hear the struggle that their visions entail:In their view, even the most shining ideals regarding education, justice, freedomand the like, can crush human flourishing unless they are leavened with a sober,critical appreciation for the inescapable fact that human growth always entailshuman cost. They do not regard education as additive but as transformative (cf.Jackson, 1986) which in their view is not a happy, sweet, progressive process ofaccumulating fact, knowledge, or insight. Rather, the process is an uncomfortable,alternately distressing, and joyous experience of loss—and through that, perhaps,of gain. (p. 454)The authors emphasize Emerson’s recognition that growth requires us toabandon our comfortable ways: “To develop a new insight, an old one mustbe let go. To deepen knowledge, prior understandings must be dropped.To grow as a person, or as a people, requires shedding layers of previousselfhood or community” (p. 454). What the authors of “Reenvisioning the Progressive Tradition in Cur-riculum” have offered us is a strong and compelling account that chal-lenges a critique that portrays progressivism as indulgent, sentimental, ornaively loyal to an idea of inevitable progress. Their argument culls theEmerson, DuBois, and Addams texts for the unsettling and stimulatingessence of progressiveness, a method of the philosopher that informs, butdoes not produce, curriculum theory. To my mind, what has always distin-guished curriculum theory from philosophy of education, and these daysfrom cultural studies, as well, is its address to some manifestation of thepractice of curriculum. I recognize that it is a hard task, often impossible inbrief essays, to encompass all these elements; nevertheless, this essay, cel-ebrating the complexity and dynamism of progressivism’s village, does so byavoiding its reception of academic theory. The comfortable distance from our contemporary village that this lastessay enjoys is deliberately waived in “What the Schools Teach: A SocialHistory of the American Curriculum Since 1950” by Barry Franklin andCarla C. Johnson, who take on the challenge to bring the theoros home. Theauthors introduce their piece by saying that they will be examining theconflict between proponents of curriculum organized around the aca-demic disciplines and those who supported curriculum designed aroundtopics of life adjustment. They intend to discriminate their piece fromKliebard’s essay in Phillip Jackson’s (1992) Handbook of research on curricu-lum by emphasizing how these ideas “have played themselves out in practice
  8. 8. 228 MADELEINE R. GRUMETin ordinary schools and classrooms” (p. 461), instead of focusing on thetheories and arguments of prominent intellectuals. Their review of the life adjustment movement suggests that it providedthe rationale for changes made to curriculum in Michigan in the 1950s:a ninth-grade math requirement in Detroit, which permitted students tochoose among algebra, general mathematics, or remedial mathematics;science curricula in physics and chemistry devised for students who werenot college bound; and the development of a course entitled Basic Living.Their review of disciplined centered curriculum reform describes the 1956National Science Foundation and private foundation formation of thePhysical Science Study Committee, led by Jerrold Zacharias, and the focuson the structure of the disciplines that signified anxiety in the United Statesin the face of Soviet science and technology. Commenting on the leader-ship of Jerrold Zacharias and Jerome Bruner, Franklin and Johnson pointout that both had had research experience related to military concernsduring World War II and the early days of the Cold War, suggesting withsome irony that their discipline centered initiatives shared the functional-ism of the life adjustment movement that they opposed. This commentreminds me of my frustration with the reductive and misleading categoriesof the Brooks’s article discussed earlier. It points to the multiple discoursesthat constitute curriculum deliberation and the ways that the speakers whopromote curriculum approaches borrow and steal from each other in orderto persuade their publics. Franklin and Johnson follow this portrait of the two movements with ahistory of their influence in the Minneapolis school system, which, in 1945,instituted “Common Learnings,” a 2-hour block that blended social studiesand English and connected them to contemporary topics as well as to thetheme of self-understanding. In response to parental charges of lax instruc-tion, the Board of Education made “Common Learnings” optional in 1950,changed its name to the less directive “Double Period Program” in 1957,and in 1960 dropped it altogether, returning English and Social Studies totheir own titles and discipline-centered instruction. After describing the defeat of the structure of the disciplines curriculum,Man: A Course of Study, and the disappearance of that movement by the endof the 1960s, Franklin and Johnson turn to the emergence of basic skills.Unfortunately, the “bottom up” aspirations of the social history claimed bythese authors as their method, recedes as the narrative turns to the effortsof foundations and commissions to develop curricula that would addressthe needs of poor urban students, address falling SAT scores, satisfy abehaviorist approach to accountability, and differentiate curriculum so thatit could serve the needs of a diverse population of students. But referencingDenny’s 1978 study of a suburban Houston District, the authors point outthat teachers throughout the district sustained multiple descriptions ofwhat they were teaching, consonant with this citation that they offer fromGoodlad (1984): “Only rarely did we find evidence to suggest instruction
  9. 9. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 229likely to go beyond mere possession of information to a level of under-standing its implications and either applying it or exploring its possibleapplications” (p. 466). Denny’s and Goodlad’s findings indicate that even when curriculumpolicies seem to respond to conceptual agendas, they may have little effecton the instruction that takes place in classrooms. I suppose that one coulddraw the conclusion from this assertion of teachers’ imperviousness, thataccountability efforts such as the ones we are witnessing today, scriptinglessons and testing constantly, are necessary if one is to change classroominstruction. But that conclusion unnecessarily assumes the exclusion ofteachers from the forum that debates the proposed changes and theirtranslation into policy: an exile that has consistently characterized thepolitics of teaching. While Franklin and Johnson’s ambition to provide a social history ofcurriculum in the last 50 years is admirable, the space allotted to theirstudy in The Handbook could not have supported the detailed accountrequired to accomplish their goal. Of course, having lived through thisera, it is possible that I find the tale less compelling than younger readersmight. What is more interesting to me in their essay is their presentationof the linkage between developments in the Michigan system to theseagendas. Given the evidence they cite that teachers were not particularlyattentive to the curriculum issues they address, it seems probable that thepassage of these curriculum projects into policy and then practice musthave required other players. For instance, in 1967, the creation of theEducation Commission of the States, a collaboration of Terry Sanford,former governor of North Carolina, and John Gardner, then president ofthe Carnegie Corporation, became a locus for education politics (Educa-tion Commission of the States, 2008). It was inspired by Conant’s argu-ment that the states needed to create a mechanism that would supporttheir sharing of ideas and information and that would counterbalancethe growth of federal influence through the GI Bill, the National DefenseEducation Act, and the Great Society Legislation. Its initial funding andactivity supported the development of the National Assessment of Educa-tional Progress until it was shifted to the Educational Testing Service in1983. The dynamics of this consortium and of the National Governors’Association may have had significant influence on the flourishing ofthe audit culture, as state leaders subscribed to assessment systems thatwould lend credibility to their leadership of their states’ educationagendas. The authors conclude their essay by observing that the debates about lifeadjustment curriculum versus discipline centered curriculum have all butdisappeared under the onslaught of accountability and assessment, leavingcurriculum scholars with nothing to do. To lighten their despair, theysuggest the possibility that dissatisfaction with No Child Left Behind(NCLB) may provide us, once more, with something to do.
  10. 10. 230 MADELEINE R. GRUMET As the Franklin and Johnson essay depicts a curriculum policy journeythat moves from theory to state politics, national economies and parentalpressure, it indicates the breadth of the discourse that informs curriculumdecisions. This diversity appears as well in the essay that initiates thissection, as William Schubert invites domain shifting and code switchingand lauds blurring the boundaries among the categories that he employs toorder the work he describes. Taking up The Handbook’s project to addresscurriculum and instruction as practiced between the 1960s and the presentday, Schubert glosses scholarship gathered under these headings: practicalinquiry, curriculum evaluation, existentialist perspectives, hidden curricu-lum, critical theory, counterculture teachers, teacher action research,reconceptualist theorizing, and curriculum history. These inquiries arefollowed by a review of the kinds of curriculum that are explored: curricu-lum as intended, taught, experienced, embodied, hidden, tested, null, andcurriculum experienced outside schooling. What we find in this journey isinclusive and expansive. The review that Schubert offers is consonant with the careful andinsightful attention that he has dedicated over many decades to the work ofcolleagues (1985, 2002). Given the diversity of the field, it is an effort suchas his that offers us the sense that we share a discourse. The impetus forSchubert’s wide range of topics is his ambition to diminish the theory/practice divide, bringing together all kinds of curriculum studies. Never-theless, because of its inclusiveness and brevity, this collection of ways ofapproaching curriculum must relinquish the detail and complexity thatemerge when theoretical insights come up against the interests and habitsthat influence the curriculum decisions that our communities make. Butthe questions that Schubert raises at the end of the essay—“What, however,if schools have become so fully institutionalized to serve affluence that thedemocratic project has been transformed into preparation for autocracy oroligarchy of a new corporate world?” (p. 412)—summon the theoros, forthey require on one hand a view from a distant perch that can take in a bigworld, and, in this example, a report that links what goes on in school towhat goes on in our government and globalized economy. His finalcomment calls for “public discourse, including that of children and youths”on the questions that drive curriculum theory. William Pinar’s essay “Curriculum Theory Since 1950” uses the term“crisis” to stand for this moment that threatens to immobilize Franklinand Johnson, when surveillance and humiliation appear to silence thecomplex conversations that he identifies with curriculum. Pinar sees thefield of curriculum theory developing under the leadership of MaxineGreene, Dwayne Huebner, and James B. Macdonald in response toanother moment when the conversation was usurped by military andpolitical interests. While his essay, like Schubert’s, is a review of the field,he situates the curriculum theory he describes as responses to the politicsof its time.
  11. 11. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 231 Modestly, he fails to mention his own remarkable, persistent, and fruitfulefforts to provide a forum for the conversations that ensued: his develop-ment of the theme of reconceptualization (Pinar, 1975), founding of TheJournal of Curriculum Theorizing and of the annual conferences and bookseries devoted to curriculum theory, and the establishment of the Ameri-can Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies and itsinternational affiliates. His essay strives to convey the broad and deepscholarship that has evolved as curriculum scholars have claimed under-standing curriculum as the goal of their work. “Through the curriculumand our experience of it,” he argues,” we choose what to remember aboutthe past, what to believe about the present, and what to hope for and fearabout the future” (p. 493). This temporal frame extends, he contends, toparticular curriculum theory discourses that situate themselves historicallywith the recognition that they participate in a discourse that they did notinitiate and will not resolve. What follows are sketches of curriculum theory discourses, indicatingtheir salient themes and citing many of their contributors. The curriculumtheory topics mirror many of those in the encyclopedic text, UnderstandingCurriculum, that he authored with Reynolds, Slattery, and Taubman in1995. Pinar addresses curriculum history and curriculum theory discoursesrelated to politics, multiculturalism, gender, phenomenology, postmodern-ism and poststructuralism, autobiography, aesthetics, theology, institution-alism, and finally, internationalization. Like Schubert, Pinar approaches The Handbook not as a platform for hisargument, but as an opportunity to map the field of argument of and forothers. Nevertheless, toward the end of the essay, we hear his passionatedefense of the deep and wide scholarship that he deems necessary forcurriculum thought:Contemporary curriculum theory speaks to the significance of academic knowledgefor subjective meaning and social reconstruction. These three domains of curricu-lum are inextricably interrelated, for each structure the other two. Academic knowl-edge languishes in an anti-intellectual and commercial culture concerned only withpractical application. Social and subjective reconstruction cannot occur withoutacademic knowledge. (p. 502) Pinar identifies three terms—“academic knowledge,” “subjectivemeaning,” and “social reconstruction”—necessary to the dynamism of cur-riculum theory. I agree that the reconceptualization of curriculum has led towonderful and stimulating scholarship that broadens the domain of curricu-lum to include the rich discourses of social theory, literature, philosophy,and history. I also agree that the existential and autobiographical projectshave engaged curriculum scholars creating links between their scholarshipand their own lived experiences of curriculum. I suspect, nevertheless, thatthe project of social reconstruction requires a deeper investment in our
  12. 12. 232 MADELEINE R. GRUMETschools and communities than we have been able to accomplish. In a recentessay that Amy Anderson, Chris Osmond, and I prepared for KathleenGallagher’s collection, The Methodological Dilemma (2008), I recommended asimilar triadic structure for curriculum theory in our research: • One, the study of the curriculum phenomena as a cultural object. This means that the topic, whether it is whole language literacy, arts integration, or hands-on science, is recognized as cultural object with a social history, anchored in ideology, and nested in layers of meaning that call for clarification and interpretation arguing that not only do they have to be present but that each strand’s claims need to be considered and challenged from the perspective of the other two. • Two, the study of the curriculum object as an event. This means that curriculum happens, in schools, every day. It is a transaction that takes place among teachers and students, administrators and school boards, legislators and federal and state agencies. This is a strand of ethnographic research that strives to grasp the lived experience and meaning of curriculum to these actors. • Three, the study of curriculum in the perspective of the researcher. This means that the consciousness of any scholar who has been schooled is itself saturated and shaped by curriculum. Curriculum inquiry requires a recapitulation of the researcher’s own history of experi- ence and associations with the object to be studied.It seems clear to me that both Pinar’s and my own schema for curriculumtheory must involve this address to curriculum as an event that happens intime and place and politics, as well as a rhetoric that will carry this workback to a public forum if curriculum theory is to contribute to the projectof social reconstruction. Because curriculum theory developed during the half century that wit-nessed the defeat of British and French colonial imperialism, the break upof the Soviet Union, the folly of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Move-ment, identity politics, and postmodern and poststructuralist exposés of allpostures, national, scientific, and theoretical that pretend to have the biganswers, it is not surprising to find curriculum theorists reluctant to gen-eralize, to make claims, to take the lead. Nevertheless, after 8 years ofleadership in the United States that ignored so many complex dimensionsof domestic and foreign policy, we live in communities that yearn forchange. The practice of curriculum theory must also involve its pleading,and much as we abhor the redacted version of our understanding that mayfind its way into our Op-Ed pieces or letters to the editor, that is a languagewe must learn to speak, as well. I confess that the great appeal of the work that I did as dean of twoschools of education were the opportunities these positions provided toparticipate in a public forum that extended beyond the campus and
  13. 13. CURRICULUM INQUIRY, THEORY, AND POLITICS 233beyond academic discourse. Insulated again in the campus culture of theprofessoriate, I worry that my impulse to see curriculum theory speak itsconcerns and insights in the public forum compensates for my own inhi-bitions and my reliance on the shelter of the professoriate. I find comfort,however, in the conclusions of three of the four essays that I have reviewed.Franklin and Johnson, Schubert, and Pinar all conclude their essays withresolve to draw curriculum theory out into the forum: Pinar names 9/11 asa reminder that “curriculum scholars must attend to curricular develop-ments world wide” (p. 502); Schubert asks, “How can curriculum inquiryenable public discourse . . . ?” (p. 412); and Franklin and Johnson hopethat the dissatisfaction with NCLB will “offer an opening for reasserting theimportant and contentious issues of how the curriculum should be orga-nized and what schools should teach” (p. 574). In the past few years the American Association for the Advancement ofCurriculum Studies has initiated survey research to gather information onthe status of the field in colleges and universities in the United States.Associated with this project are discussions at national meetings invitingcurriculum theorists to discuss how they teach curriculum theory. Perhapsthis research and discussion will reveal the paths we may take to engage ourcommunities in our complex conversations.REFERENCESArendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Brooks, D. (2008, June 13). Obama, liberalism and the challenge of reform. The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/ 06/13/opinion/13brooks.html?_r=1&oref=sloginDenny, T. (1978). Some still do: River Acres, Texas. In R. E. Stake & J. A. Easley, Jr. (Eds.), Case studies in science education (Vol. 1, pp. 1/1–1/125). Urbana- Champaign, IL: Center for Instructional Research and Curriculum Evaluation.Education Commission of the States. A brief history of the Education Commission of the States. Retrieved June 6, 2008, from http://www.ecs.org/thml/ aboutECS/ECShistory.htmFox, S., Marom, D., & Scheffler, I. (2003). Visions of Jewish education. London: Cambridge University Press.Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school; Prospects for the future. New York: McGraw- Hill.Grumet, M., Anderson A., & Osmond, C. (2008). Finding form for curriculum research. In K. Gallagher (Ed.), The methodological dilemma: Creative, critical and collaborative approaches to qualitative research (pp. 136–156). New York: Routledge.Jackson, P. W. (1986). The practice of teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.Jackson, P. W. (Ed.). (1992). Handbook of research on curriculum: A project of the American Education Research Association. New York: Macmillan.Nightengale, A. W. (2004). Spectacles of truth in classical Greek philosophy. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Pinar, W. (Ed.). (1975). Curriculum theorizing: The reconceptualists. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.Pinar, W. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  14. 14. 234 MADELEINE R. GRUMETPinar, W., & Grumet, M. (1975/2006). Toward a poor curriculum. Troy, NY: Educa- tor’s International Press.Pinar, W., Reynolds, W., Slattery, P., & Taubman, P. (1995). Understanding curricu- lum. New York: Peter Lang.Schubert, W. (1985). Curriculum: Perspective, paradigm and possibility. New York: Prentice Hall.Schubert, W. (2002). Curriculum books: The first 100 years. New York: Peter Lang.