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From Curriculum Theory to Theorizing  

Gabriel Huddleston and Robert Helfenbein

Curriculum theory is shaped and held within the larger field of curriculum studies, but its distinctive focus on understanding curriculum as opposed to developing it places it is stark contrast with other parts of the larger field. This focus is further distinctive when curriculum theory shifts to curriculum theorizing. Curriculum theorizing emerged in the United States, principally at Bergamo conferences and precursor conferences, in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (JCT), and through scholars associated with the reconceptualization. It has spread internationally via the International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies and its subsidiaries in many different countries and cultures. Some scholars hold that curriculum theory includes curriculum theorizing as well as normative and analytic conceptualizations that justify or explain curriculum decisions and actions. Curriculum theorizing attempts to read broadly in social theory so as to embody those insights in dealing with issues of curriculum, and can take philosophical, sociological, psychological, historical, or cultural studies approaches to analyses, interpretations, criticisms, and improvements. This approach has built upon what has become known as the reconceptualization, which began in the late 1970s and continues into the early 21st century. Increasingly, the field has taken up analysis of contemporary education policy and sociopolitical contexts as an outgrowth of its work. Issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, and dis/ability, and the ways in which their intersectionality impact the lived experience of schools, continue to motivate and direct the field of curriculum studies. In so doing, criticism, analysis, interpretation, and expansion of such issues have moved the focus of curriculum theorizing to include any aspects of social and psychological life that educate or shape the ways human beings reflect upon or interact with the world.

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Curriculum Studies, Critical Geography, and Critical Spatial Theory  

Robert Helfenbein and Gabriel Huddleston

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, spatial terms have emerged and proliferated in academic circles, finding application in several disciplines extending beyond formal geography. Critical geography, a theoretical addition to the home discipline of geography as opposed to being a new discipline in itself, has seen application in many other disciplines, mostly represented by what is collectively called social theory (i.e., sociology, cultural studies, political science, and literature). The application of critical spatial theory to educational theory in general, and curriculum theorizing in particular, points to new trajectories for both critical geographers and curriculum theorists. The growth of these two formations have coincided with the changes in the curriculum studies field, especially as it relates to the Reconceptualization of that field during the 1970s. In terms of critical spatial theory especially, the exploration of how we conceptualize place and space differently has allowed curriculum studies scholars to think more expansively about education, schools, pedagogy, and curriculum. More specifically, it has allowed a more fluid understanding of how curriculum is formed and shaped over time by framing the spatial as something beyond a “taken-for-granted” fact of our lives. The combination of spatial theory and curriculum studies has produced a myriad of explorations to see how oppression works in everyday spaces. The hope inherent in this work is that if we can understand how space is (re)produced with inherent inequities, we can produce spaces, especially educative ones, that are more just and equitable.

Article

Tools of Conviviality: Art in the Postcolonial Imagination  

Cameron McCarthy

Key arguments regarding the relationship between postcolonial art and aesthetics and the emancipatory imagination have implications for pedagogical and curriculum reform in the era of globalization. Postcolonial art, aesthetics, and postcolonial imagination are, and invoke paths through and exceeding, dominant traditions of thought in critical thinking on the status of art. These dominant critical traditions have led us to what Cameron McCarthy calls the “forked road” of cultural Marxism and neo-Marxism: the antipopulism of the Frankfurt School and Habermas and their contemporary affiliates versus the populism of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies and those insisting on the nearly virtuous engagement of the First World working classes with contemporary consumer culture. These approaches have tended, McCarthy maintains, to generate critical apparati that silence the historically specific work of the colonized inhabitants of the Third World and the periphery of the First. In beckoning curriculum and pedagogical actors in a different direction, toward postcolonial art and aesthetics, McCarthy argues that the work of the postcolonial imagination dynamically engages with systems of domination, authority over knowledge, and representation, destabilizing received traditions of identity, association, and feeling, and offering, in turn, new starting points for affiliation and community that draw on the wellspring of humanity, indigenous and commodified. Key motifs of postcolonial art (literature, performance art, sculpture, and painting) illuminate organizing categories or new aesthetic genres: counter-hegemonic representation, double or triple coding, and utopic and emancipatory visions. These ethically informed dimensions of postcolonial art and aesthetics constitute critical starting points, or tools of conviviality, for a conversation over curriculum change in the tumult of globalization and the reassertion in some quarters of a feral nationalism.