Curriculum is all about power. Decisions about what knowledge to teach are an exercise of power and therefore a weighty ethical responsibility. What we choose to teach confers or denies power. To say that pupils should learn ‘the best that has been thought and said’ is never adequate. Start the conversation, and questions abound: ‘Whose knowledge?’; ‘Who decides on “best”?’.
Such questions reflect concern about whether schooling reproduces inequalities or interrupts them. Such questions matter. But reducing knowledge to voice will not get us far either. The contentious questions – Which works of literature? Which historical stories? Which art? – cannot be resolved by some optimal blend of diversity, some nirvana of neutrality, as though distribution across the sources of knowledge or types of knower will settle things. No matter how redemptive of former injustice, no holy grail of content selection will be reached.
Nor does adding in preparation for the 21st century help. How can we decide what is relevant to the ever-shifting ‘now’? Worse, relevance quickly merges with perceptions …
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