Basic Education Curriculum

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Chapters 1-4

Thinking about curriculum is an old thinking about education; it is difficult to imagine any inquiry into the nature of education without deliberate attention to the question of what should be taught. The question of what to teach and how to teach it involves a selection from a vast array of knowledge and beliefs within a culture. Since it is impossible to teach everything, that selection from the culture reflects in part some sense of what is most worthwhile in that culture as seen in relation to the kind of institution the school is and what it can reasonably accomplish.

According to Dewey (1916) education is “a continuous lifelong process which had no ends beyond itself but is its own end” (p.50). Within learning organizations, Senge (1990) stated that “humane, sensitive and thoughtful leaders transmit their value system through daily behavior” (p.191). Bolman and Deal (2003) developed a unique situational leadership theory that analyzes leadership behavior through four frames of reference: structural, human resources, political and symbolic. Each of the frames offers a different perspective on what leadership is and how it operates in organizations; and in this case, schools. These frames are maps that aid navigation, tools for solving problems and getting things done” (p.18). Leaders need to understand their own frame preference and its limits and ideally, combine multiple frames to gain “clarity, generating new options, and finding strategies that work” (p.19). As in all organizations, schools need leaders who can impart a persuasive and durable sense of purpose and direction.

In the area of curriculum design and planning, educational researchers shared values (Deal & Peterson 1991), and tacit knowledge about what “should be (Erickson 1987) as a defining aspect of school culture. Values are often ‘espoused’ as opposed to “in-use’, that is, what people say should and ought to be is often inconsistent with their actual behavior (Argyris and Schon, 1974). Schein (1992) said that one must look deeper than values to find the essence of a culture. Values, enduring beliefs or tendencies to prefer certain modes of conduct or state of affairs over others are often viewed as the most articulated component of culture (Rokeah, 1973). Values define a standard of goodness, quality and an excellence that undergirds behavior and decision making and what people care about (Ott, 1989). Values are not simply goals or outcomes, values are deeper sense of what is important. Deal and Peterson (1999) posited that values focus attention and define success (p.26).

Given the moral pluralism of today’s society, moral discipline closely related to intellectual values is important. The goals of academic excellence and value-centeredness need to be operational in the education we offer.

Social forces that can influence curriculum planning can come from far and wide. The ideas and values of various groups of people include their social goals, ideas about cultural uniformity and diversity, social pleasures, ideas about social change, their plans for the future and their concept of culture. Educational decision making as it relates to the school’s mission is important. For example, various groups may attempt to influence educational policy and therefore curriculum t better meet the needs of children in urban environments and on the other hand, a group may be trying to do the same for rural children. This illustrates how social forces, issues and values can influence curriculum design. Doll (1996) stated that there tends to be a crisis in current social forces and cultures: economic, political and standards funding as well as technology, special needs, ethnic diversity and mobility issues These rapidly changing demographic factors call for self directed curriculum planners who show responsibility for their local and world communities. Global perspectives and understanding, the...
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