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Hidden, Null, Lived, Material, and Transgressive Curricula  

Wade Tillett and Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Alternative dimensions of curricula fall outside explicit and official curriculum. There is much more to teaching and learning than the formal, planned curriculum claimed by many teachers, administrators, and organizations. Beyond and within the textbooks, lesson plans, tests, and standards exist hidden, null (or absented), lived, material, and transgressive dimensions of curricula (to name only a few). Hidden curricula are messages that are sent implicitly, for example, giving students numerical scores on a quiz and using those scores to assess students as successes and failures functions as a form of micro-tracking, ranking students’ success and achievement in relation to one another in a hierarchical range. This scoring and ranking system implies that students are in competition with one another, that self-worth is evaluated with a score. The action of scoring and ranking itself teaches the lesson and is woven into the fabric of schooling, though it is neither explicitly stated nor explicitly taught (i.e., hidden) that success in learning requires winners and losers at learning. Null (or absented) curricula are topics that are specifically not taken up in the official curriculum. For example, although Protestant Christianity shapes a hidden curriculum of many U.S. schools, religion is largely excluded as an explicit topic of study in most state schools. This fulfills a claim of separation of church and state and religion’s obvious absence reveals a null curriculum. Lived curricula are the lived experience of the learner. For example, a student might experience being bullied, and this would comprise part of their lived curriculum, teaching lessons that are learned, retained, and tapped into over time, long after the specific encounters have passed. Material curricula (a term the authors coin in this article) are the material effects that curricula have on the learner, and more broadly, the world. For example, the grades and scores that students receive in school have direct effects on the future opportunities available to them as people. This is a material curriculum of sorting students into social roles and positionings, with accompanying material outcomes (e.g., a student is denied entry into college and further denied a class of jobs and their corresponding material aspects, such as salary and—in the United States—health benefits). Transgressive curricula are defined through the prism of teaching and learning in resistance to something, in the refusal of something, in defiance of something, or in disregard of something. These alternative dimensions of curricula exist anyplace learning occurs, not just in schools.

Article

Curriculum Ideologies  

Christopher B. Crowley

The study of the curriculum and educational knowledge is a study of ideology. The curriculum is never neutral. It always reflects or embodies ideological positions. Ideologies present within the curriculum are negotiated and formulated through multilayered processes of strategic compromise, assent, and resistance. And as such, the curriculum ideologies become operationalized in both overt and hidden means—constructing subjects and objects of knowledge in active as well as passive ways. Teaching is always a political act, and discussions and debates over curriculum ideologies have a long history within the field of curriculum studies. In terms of its function related to the organization and valuing of knowledge, it remains important to recognize not only the contested nature of the curriculum but also how such contestations have ideological dimensions in the framing of the curriculum. Curriculum ideologies manifest in terms of what might be thought of as values, visions of the future, and venues or forms. This is to say, the curriculum is imbued with processes for valuing assumed choices related to its design, development, and implementation. These choices draw from ideologically based assumptions about the curriculum’s basis in political, economic, historical, sociocultural, psychological, and other realities—whether they be discursive or material in effect. Additionally, these curriculum choices also pertain to the means by which the curriculum achieves these goals or objectives through the formulation of designed experiences, activities, or other forms of learning opportunities. The curriculum—in certain regards as finding principle in the conveying of knowledge through a system of organization related to an outset purpose—has, as a central component to some degree, a vision of a future. The curriculum is something simultaneously constructed and enacted in the present, with often the expressed purpose of having implications and ramifications for the future. The curriculum’s role and purpose in constructing both tested and untested or imagined feasibilities again has to do with some type of vision of learning inflected by ideology. This may even take the form of envisioning a future that is actually a vision of the past in some form, or perhaps a returning to a remembered time that may have existed for some but not others, or by extension a similarly romanticized remembering of a mythic past, for instance. Ultimately, the curriculum, whether translated into practice or in being developed conceptually, is in all likelihood never exclusively one of these, but instead is in all probability an amalgamation of such to differing degrees wherein a multitude of possibilities and combinations exist. Among the key questions of curriculum studies that remain central in terms of both analyzing and theorizing the curriculum are: Whose knowledge counts and what is worthwhile? These questions help to raise to a level of concern the ideological underpinnings of all curricula in ways that through sustained critical dialog might work to collectively build a more sustainably just and equitable world.

Article

Community Organizing as Curriculum and for Curriculum Critique and Reform  

M. Francyne Huckaby

The article explores the connections and contradictions between community organizing and curriculum. Huckaby distinguishes coordinated habits that move a. populace in a particular direction from community organizing that is intentional collective work that is corrective in nature as it aims to advance freedom, rectify injustices, and amend inequalities. Community organizing also functions to expose and reveal the oppressive structures and processed bolstered by hidden curricula that implicitly inform individual actions and practices enacted by people en masse. Community organizing builds movements that are collective in nature, taking into consideration the wisdom and experiences of the community without imposing a prescribed solution or agenda to the issues. This piece specifically attends to grassroots community organizing around neoliberal impositions on education. To disrupt, resist, and refuse neoliberal policies, laws, and structures that further marginalize individuals, grassroots efforts must go beyond networking. Huckaby turns Haraway’s cyborg theory to understand the necessity of weaving, rather than simply networking, to create and sustain solidarity that binds different kinds of things, moving in different directions together. Weaving makes for transformation through connection, affinity, coalition, and political kinship. This process, a process toward not only transformation but also toward freedom offers reciprocal, yet unguaranteed benefits for individuals and the world. As individuals work in groups to better understand their needs, the world, too, has an opportunity to learn. While community organizing as curriculum may not solve all the problems of the world, it acts as a robust vehicle for collective steps toward various types of freedom as individuals demand rights for themselves and others. This text offers examples and forms of community and grassroots organizing including testimonies, teachers’ strike, #hashtags, and teach-ins conceptualized via participatory democracy, critical pedagogy, Kaupapa Maori research, cyborg weaving, freedom from, and freedom for. Community organizing as curriculum and for curriculum critique and reform has a corrective purpose that reveals injustices and seeks to unravel inequalities, while weaving relations that create and sustain solidarity and conjoined liberation.

Article

The Curricular Insights of Ivan Illich  

Dana L. Stuchul and Madhu Suri Prakash

Ivan Illich’s curriculum vitae provides the frame through which to elaborate three insights—neither curricular, ideologic, utopian, nor messianic, yet penetrating contemporary givens: the institutionalization of values, the “ritualization of progress,” and the perversion of persons under the regime of scarcity. The former priest—whose challenges to the Church as it extended to similar corporate entities of the State rendered him a pariah—was arguably least understood at the moment he was most known. Yet, reviewing the entirety of his corpus, the judgment of Agamben resonates: “Now is the hour of Illich’s legibility.” This “legibility” reveals Illich’s project: his commitment to the struggle for both justice and freedom in the form of cultural, technological, and institutional inversion. His three insights—interculturality, the hidden curriculum of schooling, and a politics of limits—sought to contribute to a redirection of societies away from ecological, cultural, and social demise. His contributions address the following questions: What are the limits—ecological, technological, economic, political—within which pluralistic societies can exist? What do a society’s chosen “tools” say about what it means to be human? What are the terms—justice and freedom—within which the contemporary crises of global pandemic, of climate collapse, and of widespread immiseration and dispossession can be addressed?

Article

Gender, Girls, and Schooling  

Marnina Gonick

The schooling of girls has, across different times and places, often been a matter of heated public debate. From the 1800s to the present, contentious issues such as the purpose of girls’ education, curriculum content, and the meanings given to girls’ bodies within educational sites have led to varying discussions, opinions, and policies. At the center of these debates are the questions of how gender is understood; how it is used in a given place and time in the division of labor, the economy, and the family; and how it is assumed that young girls and women should be instructed for eventually taking up the positions deemed appropriate for their time and place. It is impossible, however, to simply talk about girls’ schooling as if this refers to a singular group of people. Differences in class, race, ethnicity, region, citizenship, sexuality, and other characteristics shape both the contours of the debate and the experience of schooling. Thus, any discussion of the issue of gender, girls, and schooling needs to take an intersectional approach—one that takes into consideration the ways in which identity categories work together within and across differences to produce experience, identity, and meaning. Currently, the question of girls’ education finds its strongest articulation in relation to the Global South. International organizations and major corporations alike have used their platforms to advance the cause of educating girls in the interests of national and global development. This has proved to have consequences that do not always take into account the complexity of girls’ lives in their local contexts. Issues of gendered inequalities in the Global North are sometimes mistakenly assumed to have been resolved, things of the past. However, girls in schools continue to face issues such as sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As a result, their issues are often misunderstood or marginalized within school communities.

Article

Curriculum of Social Movements  

William Ayers, Rick Ayers, and Joel Westheimer

Social movements change the world. Thus, they shape curriculum. Participation in movements educates the public by altering viewpoints and actions. Likewise, participants learn through participation in social movements; therefore, social movements can be considered curricula. The experiences of social movements are curricula that exist in and out of schools. Examples of the myriad connections among school curriculum, nonschool curriculum, and social movements interact in dynamic fluidity. Curriculum is much more than a course syllabus, set of plans, or the indoctrinations or liberations intended by schools. Curriculum includes all experiences of schooling and contexts that influence schooling: intended, taught, tested, hidden, excluded, outside, peer-driven, and more. It encompasses knowledge, relationships, and interpretations that students bring to school or anywhere else. These multiple dimensions of curriculum also exist in the diverse experiences, institutions, and gatherings of everyday life. Alternative forms of curriculum have been envisioned and enacted over the centuries to overcome the dominance of autocratic forms of education. Social movements educate and are therefore curricular. A noteworthy example of curricula of social movements is the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the Mississippi Freedom Schools in the United States. Another example is the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, founded by Myles Horton and based on the Danish model of folk schools, which was a center of inspiration and praxis for participants in the Civil Rights Movement. Emancipatory educational movements are exemplified in the problem-posing work of Paulo Freire, initially in Brazil, evolving to counter the oppressiveness of “banking” forms of education in many parts of the world. Freire has shown how oppressed persons could be major creators of their own education, by learning to name, write, and read the world to compose a more just world. In the second decade of the 21st century, young climate activists, such as Xiye Bastida and Greta Thunberg, have advocated ecological renewal; this has grown into a worldwide movement, captured in the title “Fridays for Future.” Local examples include the insightful stories in The Journal of Ordinary Thought, inspired and evoked by Hal Adams and authored by the parents of students in some of Chicago’s most impoverished Black neighborhoods in the late 20th century. Global movements include Black Lives Matter, which has manifested itself as an act of solidarity in the second decade of the 21st century. Social movements, of which the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. are an emblematic example, teach the power of learning and the learning of power. They help raise the deepest and most worthwhile questions: What does it mean to be human? Who am I in relation to others? What kind of a society do we want to create? How can schools and other public spaces become generative sites of contention and authentic engagement? That is where a curriculum of social movements comes to life. What lessons might educators learn from the examples of a curriculum of social movements? How should we live? How will we live? What will you do about it?