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Scope of Curriculum

Curriculum practice is what curriculum makers’ work at. Curriculum inquiry is the study
of this work in all its aspects: context, assumptions, conduct, problems and outcomes.
Such inquiry embraces at least three kinds of phenomena. The first is substantive and has
to do with goals, subject matter, materials and the like – the commonplaces of any
curriculum. Inquiry is into their nature and worth. The second is political-social. Inquiry
involves the study of all those human processes that through which some interests come
to prevail over others so that these ends and means rather than other emerge. The third is
technical-professional. Curriculum inquiry examines those processes of group or
individual engineering, logistics and evaluation through which curricula are improved,
installed or replaced.

The Substantive in Practice: the substantive takes us into all those matters of goals –
what is taught, how what is taught is arranged or evaluated, what evaluation procedures
are used and so on – which have been gist for the mills of curriculum planners, theorists
and researchers for many years. But the focus almost always has been on what ought to
be, not what is. An external observer might ask questions, such as, what are children and
youth taught in school? How much time is devoted to what topics? When and for what
time periods do topics reappear? What is done with them the second or third time that
was not done the first time these topics were introduced?

There are other perceptions. What do teachers perceive the curriculum to be? Students?
School board members? Parents? The curriculum is in the eye of beholder. And so there
are many curricula perceived simultaneously by different individuals and groups.
Therefore, it is necessary for the curriculum maker that all these points should be kept in
mind while designing the curriculum.

The Political-Social in Practice: one of the blessings of dealing with only substantive
components of curriculum is relative isolation from areas of ultimate use. The
development of ideas is not easy, of course, but any voyage of commitment seeking
acceptance of these ideas in sociopolitical discussions can be soul searing. Ideas must
endure intense competition where much more is at stake than simply their validity.

The term “political” is not used here in any pejorative sense. It pertains to those processes
through which differing views of what is desirable are placed in public competition and,
usually, achieve at least a temporary status of primacy. Views range from those
representing short-term parochial interests to those embracing noble images of the future.
In curriculum planning, governmental leaders choose, for example, between alternative
views of the creation of man and of how capital should be distributed. Their choices place
restrictions on the freedom exercised by local school boards in determining the ends and
means of school under their jurisdiction. Likewise, the choices of both legislators and
school board members have far-reaching implications for what boys and girls study in the
lower schools.
The Technical-Professional in Practice: it is clear that technical operations requiring
specialized knowledge and skills enter into all levels and aspects of practice. State and
national governments employ professional-technical staffs to gather certain essential data
and to implement policy. The superintendent of schools in a local district provides school
board members with information regarding curricular practice and, personally or through
others, seeks to maintain and improve what is taught in the schools. These individuals are
from time to time called upon to report on the economy, efficiency, humaneness or
relevance of educational programs within their sphere of authority.