Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Curriculum Studies Reader

    Edited by David J. Flinders and Stephen J. Thornton

    New York: Routledge, 1997. 362 pp. $75.00; $24.99 (paper)

    In The Curriculum Studies Reader, David Flinders and Stephen Thornton have collected a series of thirty essays on various aspects of curriculum that will be of interest to all who want to know why we teach what we teach in schools.

    In Curriculum Theorizing, William Pinar (1975) reminds us that the word "curriculum" derives from the Latin word "currere," meaning "to run the course." Seen as a process, curriculum then becomes, according to Pinar, "an educational journey or pilgrimage" (p. 400). From this perspective, the work of Flinders and Thornton suggests that curriculum may well be a return trip that takes us back to the point from which we originated. The authors are careful to let us know that, while the context of the inevitable debates over curriculum may change, the underlying arguments remain the same: "What do schools teach, what should they teach, and who should decide? Is the primary aim to foster skills or foster critical thinking? Should education aim to mold future citizens, to engender personal development, or to inspire academic achievement?" (p. vii).

    The editors begin the journey with a look at the historical development of curriculum to enable readers "to appreciate the antecedents and changing social contexts in which . . . contemporary traditions are rooted" (p. viii). From the work of Franklin Bobbitt, John Dewey, and George Counts in the early twentieth century, Flinders and Thornton wind through the post-1957 Sputnik era in which many of these earlier curriculum theories were challenged. With essays by John Goodlad, W. James Popham, Elliott Eisner, Lauren Sosniak, Philip Jackson, and Joseph Schwab, the book runs the course into the curriculum age of educational reform, objectives, and curriculum by committee. It was, as Joseph Schwab writes, an age in which education pursued "the art of the practical" and left the "ephemeral bandwagon" (p. 115) of theory behind.

    After this leg of the journey, we enter the post-Sputnik period of what Flinders and Thornton call "pondering the curriculum." The essays on this period--by William Pinar, Dwayne Huebner, Maxine Greene, Elliot Eisner, Diane Ravitch, Milbrey McLaughlin, Paulo Friere, Gail McCutcheon, F. M. Connelly, and Miriam Ben-Peretz--deal with the process of reconceptualizing the curriculum from the empiricist approaches of the earlier periods. As the slate of authors indicates, this section includes a variety of perspectives from which this "pondering" emanates, including those of teachers and researchers.

    The final section is even more diverse and includes essays that examine contemporary debates and issues such as HIV education, environmental concerns, diversity, educational restructuring, class, race, and gender. The broad diversity suggests, as Flinders and Thornton write, that "each author has his or her agenda" (p. 207). If we look closely enough, however, we can see that the "templates of the past have been retooled to fit the concerns of our present and future possibilities" and that the "perennial questions" of curriculum are still there (p. x). Thanks to Flinders and Thornton, we have come back to them and realize that, as they notify us in their Introduction, "much changes while remaining the same" (p. x).

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    Book Notes

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