April 22, 2002
Curriculum, in my opinion, is the whole picture of education. It includes the teaching philosophy of a school and a teacher, the way the subject is taught in the classroom, the supplements used in assistance of teaching, the attitudes the school, the teachers and the administrators bring to the table, and the knowledge of the subject areas in the minds of the teachers. Curriculum can also be described as “a desired goal or set of values that can be activated through a development process culminating in experiences for students” or as “the planned and guided learning experience and intended outcomes, formulated through systematic reconstruction f knowledge and experience, under the auspices of the school, for the learners’ continuous and willful growth in personal-social competence.”(Curriculum Development, Wiles p. 29) Curriculum includes what our standards of learning are, and the models by which the teachers facilitate the learning of those standards in the classroom. Some definitions of curriculum are very direct and small, as seen above, but I believe that curriculum must include every aspect of education at some point in its definition because it does cover the very broad spectrum in educating people.
Before one can formulate a curriculum for education, that person must first define what their educational philosophy is. This is due to the fact that, as previously mentioned, an educational philosophy is most certainly a key ingredient in the development of a curriculum. In most education circles, there are typically four educational philosophies generally considered to be the most relevant. The first one is known as perennialism. Perennialism is the most conservative, unworkable approach to education. Teachers teach, students learn, and discipline is the defining characteristic of perennialism. Wiles, from Curriculum Development, describes perennialists as people who “favor a curriculum of subjects and doctrine taught through highly disciplined drill and behavior control.” (p. 64)
Idealism is the next philosophy of the four. Idealists agree that the best schools teach subjects of the mind, which are typically found in most high school classrooms. Idealism deals with how events and things in the world should be, so students are taught appropriately. According to those idealists, a schools’ function “is to sharpen intellectual processes, to present the wisdom of the ages, and to present models of behavior that are exemplary.” (p. 66) Students in the idealist model tend to be similar to the students in the perennialism as they are somewhat of a passive role, being receivers of content and memorizing that content.
The third philosophy is known as realism. In the realist world, schools teach students about the world, as it is. According to Wiles, realism is as follows: The realist favors a school dominated by subjects of the here-and-now world, such as math and science. Students would be taught factual information for mastery. The teacher would impart knowledge of this reality to students or display such reality for observation and study. Classrooms would be highly ordered and disciplined, like nature, and the students would passive participants in the study of things. Changes in school would be perceived as a natural evolution toward a perfection of order. (p. 66) Realism is more common in our society with specialty schools and specialty programs in nearly every school, preparing students for the realities they will face in their futures and in the real world.
The fourth and final philosophy is known as existentialism. Existentialists believe that schools exist to help students develop knowledge about themselves and the society in which they live. According to Wiles, “if subject matter existed, it would be a matter of interpretation such as the arts, ethics, or philosophy.” (p. 66) Existentialist schools are few and...