Curriculum knowledge and justice: content, competency and concept

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Strathclyde]On: 05 October 2014, At: 03:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>The Curriculum JournalPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Curriculum knowledge and justice:content, competency and conceptChristine Winter aa Department of Educational Studies , University of Sheffield ,Sheffield, UKPublished online: 22 Sep 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: Christine Winter (2011) Curriculum knowledge and justice:content, competency and concept, The Curriculum Journal, 22:3, 337-364, DOI:10.1080/09585176.2011.601627</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Curriculum knowledge and justice: content, competency and concept</p><p>Christine Winter*</p><p>Department of Educational Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK</p><p>This study is interested in understanding the configurations ofknowledge underpinning three examples of curriculum policy textsin the specific case of the school subject of geography. The three policytexts are the 1991 Geography National Curriculum (GNC), theOpening minds curriculum and the GNC 2007. I start with theproposal that each selected text promotes a particular type ofknowledge, namely: content, competency and concept. I argue thatdeconstructive reading of three policy texts reveals what are assumedto be legitimate knowledge discourses as well as what is overlooked ineach tidy curriculum scheme. I engage the help of the post-structuralist thinker Jacques Derrida in this deconstructive under-taking. The study demonstrates how the 1991 content curriculumprivileges a western European view of the world; how the 1999competency curriculum overlooks the politics and ethics of knowl-edge by focusing on an economistic, outcomes-driven technical viewof knowledge; and how the concept curriculum offers opportunitiesfor deconstructive reading while at the same time indicating anunproblematical commitment to conflated and assumedly neutralapproaches to knowledge. Opening up curriculum texts to decon-structive reading shows language as insecure and reveals spaces for theincoming of more just ways of thinking about the world.</p><p>Keywords: curriculum; deconstruction; geography; justice; knowledge;policy</p><p>Introduction</p><p>The first Geography National Curriculum (GNC) for young people aged1114 in England was published in 1991. Since this date, the history ofschool geography curriculum policy has been remarkable in terms of itscontinuities and changes, the contestation surrounding its form and thediversity of interpretation through practical implementation in schoolclassrooms. The current state of health of the subject in schools iscomplex. While declining in overall popularity among 14- and 16-year-olds (Winter 2009a), the decline demonstrates some noteworthy spatial</p><p>*Email:</p><p>The Curriculum Journal</p><p>Vol. 22, No. 3, September 2011, 337364</p><p>ISSN 0958-5176 print/ISSN 1469-3704 online</p><p> 2011 British Curriculum Foundation</p><p></p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f St</p><p>rath</p><p>clyd</p><p>e] a</p><p>t 03:</p><p>30 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>patterns of exclusion, for example, inner city schools are likely to havefewer geography examination entries than those in suburban or ruralareas (Weeden and Lambert 2010). Furthermore, the introduction of theBig Picture of the curriculum (QCA 2008) (which gives schools thefreedom to choose their preferred curriculum structure) has intensifiedpressure on the teaching of discrete humanities subjects1 in some schools(Harris and Burn 2010). Both studies indicate inequalities in access toschool geography of a spatial kind. The focus of this article is not quitethis. Instead, it is committed to investigating the possibility of justiceassociated with different configurations of geographical knowledge withinthe school curriculum over a period of time.</p><p>This study involves the examination of three Key Stage 3 (KS3)2</p><p>curriculum texts published between 1991 and 2007 to try to understandtheir underpinning configurations of knowledge. The purpose is toenquire into the possibility or impossibility of a just geographycurriculum through the deconstructive reading of curriculum texts thatreveal what and/or who may have been omitted in approaches to writingcurriculum knowledge for policy past and present. I begin the enquirywith the proposal that each text appears to promote a particular type ofknowledge: as content, competency and concept. The framework of thethree Cs derives from an implicit understanding of the differentconstitutions of knowledge in the curricula held among geographyteachers and teacher educators. At the same time as offering theframework as the starting point of this enquiry, I must expose itslimitations. The three C categories are not mutually exclusive, as bordersbetween them are permeable. Each category does not map singularly andunproblematically on to each curriculum text. Furthermore, thecategories imply transparency and clarity, while concealing the complex-ity of the texts, particularly with regard to the political strugglessurrounding their formulation. Hence, the three Cs framework servesas an organising device, designed as an entree into the enquiry. Iacknowledge that things are more complex than the device suggests andaim to show how the deconstructive reading to follow reveals thesecomplexities. But before doing so, I will introduce the context of thestudy.</p><p>The three curriculum policy texts</p><p>The first text, the 1991 Geography National Curriculum (GNC) (DES1991) is an example of a content-based model of a utilitarian andinformational kind (Rawling 2001). It formed part of a suite of subjectpolicy texts constituting the National Curriculum in England arising fromthe Education Reform Act of 1988. The introduction, by the Con-servative government of the time, of a mandatory, standardised National</p><p>338 C. Winter</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f St</p><p>rath</p><p>clyd</p><p>e] a</p><p>t 03:</p><p>30 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Curriculum consisting of prescribed knowledge, represented a politicalmove to impose centralised control over the curriculum (Ball 1994). Thereason for selection in this study is that whilst celebrated for having givenGeography its place in the sun (Bailey 1989), this policy was, in the eyesof the geography education community, highly problematical in terms ofits faulty structure, overprescription and its overloaded and outdatedknowledge content (see Rawling 2001). As a product of the New Right, itestablished a cultural restorationist ideology as the dominant discourseon geographical knowledge (Ball 1993). The policy emphasised thelearning of factual content (for example, locational knowledge) and well-established skills (like map skills) by means of Attainment Targets(Rawling 1992). Knowledge pertaining to values and attitudes and theirexamination by means of critical political enquiry were noticeable by theirabsence.</p><p>The second curriculum policy text is not strictly speaking ageography text, but I justify its inclusion on the grounds that itrepresents the kind of competency-based curriculum that is currentlyreplacing geography taught as a discrete subject in some schools.3 It is theRSAs4 Education for the 21st Century (Bayliss/RSA 1999), the finalreport of the Opening Minds (OM) project. This project encapsulates aresponse from a non-governmental organisation (the RSA) to thecriticisms levelled at the standardised, statutory National Curriculumorganised in discrete subject knowledge compartments. The OMcurriculum is competency-based and promotes integrated forms ofknowledge. This distinctive approach to knowledge forms my mainreason for selecting it as a focus of study. In addition, and unlike the 1991and 2007 policy texts, it represents a response to the perceived call for aneducational system that prepares young people to take their places withinthe global knowledge-based economy of the future.</p><p>The third policy text under study is the 2007 concept-based GNC(QCA/DCSF 2007). It was selected because it exhibits a shift in emphasisfrom the prescribed subject knowledge content of the earlier GNC to aminimal framework of concepts, processes, range and content which givesteachers freedom and flexibility to plan and implement the curriculum.The change to a Labour government in 1997 and the influence of ThirdWay thinkers and policies in Britain brought about a reform ofcurriculum policies, heralding a shift from the tightly framed subject-based National Curriculum to curriculum deregulation and choice. Theconception of curriculum knowledge informing this policy is differentfrom the other two, since it is pinned to a scheme reminiscent, to someextent, of the modern version of liberal education as proposed by R.S.Peters (1966). Each of the three curriculum texts attempts to convey aparticular perspective about the nature of the subject knowledge ofgeography.</p><p>The Curriculum Journal 339</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f St</p><p>rath</p><p>clyd</p><p>e] a</p><p>t 03:</p><p>30 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Two additional GNC policy texts were published between 1991 and2007 (DfEE 1995; DfEE/QCA 1999) which were not selected for studybecause, while the former can be described as a revision and the latter adistinct reworking, they both remain legacies of the 1991 text. As Rawlingstates, these interim versions of the GNC are still held within thetraditional and now outdated shell of subject content (2001, 83).</p><p>Derrida, deconstruction and education</p><p>In his Letter to a Japanese friend, Derrida stated: Deconstruction is nota method and cannot be transformed into one. . . . Deconstruction is noteven an act or an operation (1988, 3). Derrida was concerned thatdeconstruction would be appropriated and domesticated by academicinstitutions and applied through instrumental and rule-bound proceduresthat sharply contravene the thinking behind it. He argues thatDeconstruction takes place. . . . It deconstructs itself. It can be decon-structed (1988, 4). To define and systematise deconstruction refutes thevery arguments underpinning its existence that I introduce later:differance and deferral.</p><p>Derridas project opens up new avenues of thought for educationalpolicy and practice research in the sense that it questions the existence of:a fundamental ground, a fixed permanent center, as an Archimedeanpoint which serves as both an absolute beginning and as a center fromwhich everything originating from it can be mastered and controlled(Biesta 2001, 38). In other words, Derrida invites us to lay bare the hiddenassumptions underpinning western metaphysical thinking about educa-tion by scrutinising its constituting and regulating structures in order toopen up a space for the incoming of the other (Garrison 2003, 352). Petersand Burbules acclaim the opportunities afforded by a Derrideanperspective to question conceptualisations of reading and writing asaccorded by western traditions of education through the deconstructivereading of educational texts of all kinds, whether of policy, curriculum,classrooms, performance, traditions, or subjects (2004, 71). Standish(2004), Ulmer (1985) and Leitch (1996) offer suggestions as to howeducational practice might be reconsidered following Derridean thought.</p><p>Deconstruction is, however, not without its critics. Bernstein (1992)describes the double bind of deconstructing western metaphysics in sucha way that avoids nihilistic relativism. He poses the question What do wedo after deconstruction? Other critics, like Constas (1998), argue thatpost-structuralism fails to offer conclusions or to provide guidelines toimprove educational practice (see Peters and Burbules 2004), while Leiter(2004) describes Derridas legacy to the humanities as one of shame (seeWilliams 2005, 48). In contrast, scholars like Biesta (2009a) and Caputo(1997) propose that deconstruction is affirmative in the sense that it opens</p><p>340 C. Winter</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f St</p><p>rath</p><p>clyd</p><p>e] a</p><p>t 03:</p><p>30 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>up sites for inventionalism where deconstructions role as a thoroughlypolitico-ethical project can be realised through the incoming of the other.Biesta understands Derridas project as an opportunity to move towardsa responsive, ethically responsible, participatory, action-centred andpluralistic educational experience (Biesta 2006).</p><p>Curriculum policy research and geography education</p><p>The field of school geography curriculum policy research was stronglyenhanced through Rawlings seminal 2001 contribution. Rawling adopteda critical policy sociology approach to the political history of the impactof policy on the definition, character and status of the school subject ofgeography in England between 1980 and 2000. Her work includes apowerful critique of the 1991 GNC the first curriculum policy text to bediscussed in this article. More recent research contributions to debatesabout geography curriculum policy include Butt (2008), Lambert (2008),Morgan (2009), Lambert and Morgan (2010), and Winter (2009a, 2011),who chart the fluctuating health and status of the school subject under theinfluence of changing policy priorities and concerns. These studiesprovide the backdrop for the discussion to follow. Few researchers haveengaged Derridas ideas in researching curriculum policy in England.Pykett drew on both Foucau...</p></li></ul>


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