This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Most Anglophone curriculum scholars who have participated in, and chronicled, the reconceptualization of their field since the late 1960s would acknowledge the generativity of Joseph Schwab’s landmark 1969 text, The Practical: A Language for Curriculum, in which he argues persuasively that one facet of effective deliberation is “the anticipatory generation of alternatives.” A corollary of this assertion is that the speculative imagination is no less significant for curriculum inquiry than the historical imagination. Schwab reasons that “effective decision . . . requires that there be available to practical deliberation the greatest possible number and fresh diversity of alternative solutions to problems” and, for this reason, the literature and media known generically as SF (an initialization that encompasses science fiction/fantasy/fabulation among many others) are essential resources for the anticipatory generation of global curriculum visions. From its earliest archetypes, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), which depicted the creation of monstrous life and thereby both created and critiqued an enduring myth of modern industrial society, SF has consistently demonstrated that imagined and material worlds are always already so entwined that they cannot be understood in isolation. Similarly, in 21st-century technoculture, bioethical debates over the status of emergent citizens/subjects, such as embryonic stem cells or “brain dead” patients, challenge ideas about what counts as life or death, while epidemics and their attendant panics conflate the management of borders, disease vectors, and agriculture trade with speculative fantasies about invader species and zombie plagues. Through its exemplifications of the arts of anticipation, SF exercises the speculative imagination and offers critical conceptual tools for understanding and negotiating the milieux of contemporary curriculum theorizing and decision-making.