Philosophy of Curriculum

 Develop a concise statement of your beliefs about curriculum, teaching and learning that you might use as an evolving guide in your career in education that includes a selective reference section with key references that you relate to in connection with your personal beliefs (e.g., can be select references from this course and throughout your MS program). 

Philosophy of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

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You will develop an approximately 3 page (plus selected reference list) single spaced 12point

font concise statement of your beliefs about curriculum, teaching and learning that you might

use as an evolving guide in your career in education.

Include a reference section with key

references that you relate to in connection with your personal beliefs (e.g., can be select

references from this course and throughout program).. The following is an important

pedagogical purpose for the development of a philosophy of curriculum, teaching and


“Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than

it was before you practiced your craft. Knowing clearly what kind of dent you want to make

in the world means that you must continually ask yourself the most fundamental evaluative

questions of all–What effect am I having on students and on their learning?” (Stephen

Brookfield, The Skillful Teacher, 1990, pp. 18-19)

What are major components of a philosophy of curriculum, teaching, and learning to be


The literature on philosophies of curriculum, teaching and learning suggests several

components for educators to include in their philosophy statements. Your paper should

include the following components adapted from Nancy Chism’s (1998) article, “Developing a

Philosophy of Teaching Statement.” Your philosophy statement may be in essay form. You

do not have to break it up by the components below; however, you should address all

components in your final statement. Write from a first person perspective and incorporate

your own creative style.

1. Conceptualization of learning: Ask yourself questions such as “How do I think

learning occurs?” “What do I mean by learning?” and “What happens in a learning

situation?” Think of your answers to these questions based on your personal experiences

and making connections to ideas of learning discussed in the literature by citing authors

were appropriate. You might use a metaphor to explain your beliefs about learning or you

might choose to use a more direct approach to conceptualize learning (i.e., describe how you

think learning occurs and what you think occurs during a learning episode, based on

personal observations, experience, and on current literature on teaching and learning).

2. Conceptualization of teaching: Ask yourself questions such as “What do I mean by

teaching?” “How do I facilitate the learning process?” “How do I challenge students

intellectually?” “How do I meet students’ needs and support students academically?”

Again a metaphor or a direct description with respect to motivating and facilitating learning

might be used. Discuss how your personal experiences as a student or teacher and your

reading of the education literature (e.g., curriculum, teaching, and learning literature)

support your conceptualization of teaching. If you have experience teaching, you might also

discuss how your teaching has changed over time and what factors have fostered these


3. Conceptualization of curriculum: Ask yourself questions such as “What do I believe

is the role of curriculum in the teaching and learning of diverse students in preparation for

their futures?” “What are my views of the aims, means, and ends of education and how are

these evidenced in the curriculum I select, create, or adapt and in the school subjects I think

are of value?” Think of your answers to these questions in relation to your personal

experiences and in connections to ideas about curriculum discussed in the literature by citing

authors were appropriate. Based on the extent of your experience, you might also discuss

how your views of curriculum have changed over time and what factors have fostered these


4. Goals for students: Ask yourself questions such as “What content, processes and

skills do you expect students to obtain as a result of learning?” “What goals do you set for

your classes and what is your rationale for these goals?” “What types of activities do you

implement in your classes to achieve these goals?” “How have your goals changed over time

through your personal experiences and/or through the reading of literature (referenced as

appropriate)?” For instance, you might describe your expectations for students to learn not

only content goals, but also develop with respect to affective goals related to beliefs, values,

emotions, and feelings, and process goals such as reasoning and problem solving or skills

such as critical thinking, followed by elaboration on why these are important to you and how

you have or will design individual steps toward accomplishing these goals.

5. Implementation of the philosophy: Ask yourself questions such as “How do I

operationalize my philosophy in the classroom?” and “What personal characteristics in

myself or my students influence the way in which I approach teaching and curriculum

development?” Illustrate how you transform your beliefs of curriculum, teaching and

learning and your goals for students into classroom activities. You may reflect on ways you

present course materials and ways in which you interact with students both in and out of

classes, as well as what activities, assignments, and projects you implement in the

teachinglearning process and the possible consequences of all of these.

6. Professional growth plan: Teachers should set clear goals for themselves and

consider means for accomplishing these goals. Ask yourself questions such as “What goals

have I set for myself as a teacher?” and “How do I intend to accomplish these goals?” For

example, you might illustrate how you have grown professionally over the years, what

challenges exist for you at present, what long-term development plans you have projected,

and what you will do to reach these goals.

7. References: As you create your philosophy, carefully select a limited set of references

that support your ideas (e.g., can be select references from this course and throughout


Refer to these references briefly in the body of your paper and create a reference list at the


Rubric for Philosophy of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning (24 points)

3 points


2 points

1 point

Your philosophy statement is a coherent argument

consisting of clear logic and reasoning.

All components of the philosophy assignment are

clearly addressed.

The points you are making are identifiable and the

relationship between points is understood as you move

from one point to another and across areas of


teaching and learning.

You use appropriate examples and explanations to

support your points across areas of curriculum,

teaching and learning.

Your philosophy statement presents an interconnected

argument across areas of curriculum, teaching and

learning rather than simply explaining points or


Your philosophy statement includes goals for students

and implementation of the philosophy that are clearly

aligned, as well plans for your future professional


You cite appropriate literature grounded in recent

research and theory in connection to your personal


Your statement conforms to professional standards for

style, grammar, and mechanics.

Your statement includes a specifically selected list

references used in support of your ideas and placed at

the end of your statement following APA style.


Philosophy as a Basis for
Curriculum Decisions


FOCUSING QUESTIONS . . d implementation of curriculum?
hil h uide the orgaruzation an

1. How does p osop y g 1 d that shape a person’s philosophy of
2. What are the sources of know e ge

curriculum? d that shape your philosophical view of 1
What are the sources of know e ge3.
curriculum? · diff

. d ends of education er.

4. How do the auns, means, an_ . at must be determined before we can
What is the major philosop~cal is~ue th

5. define a philosophy of curncul~- hil hies that have influenced curriculum
What are the four major educational p osop .6.
in the United States?

7. What is your philosophy of curriculum?

d still do have an impact on schools and

hilosophic issues always h~ve had ~ hools are changing fundamental~y and
society. Contemporary society ~d its :cThere is a special urgency that dictate~
rapidly, much more so th~ m e ~a:oie of schools, and calls for a philosophy o

continuous appraisal and reappraisal of th directionless in the whats and hows of
education. Without philosophy, educators a~ing to achieve. In short, our philo~~phy
organizing and implementing what we ar~ t determines, our educational decisions,
of education influences, and to a large ex en
choices, and alternatives.

PHILOSOPHY AND CURRICULUM . 1· ts with a framework for
. 11 curriculum specia is , h

Philosophy provides educators, espect i{e1 s them answer questions about what t e
organizing schools and classrooms. t f 1 how students learn, and what methods
school’s purpose is, what subjects are: va;~ with a framework for broad issues and
and materials to use. Philosophy provi es e

CHAPTER ONE Philosophy as a Basis for Curriculum Decisions 3

tasks, such as determining the goals of edu­ and activities, and dealing with verbal traps
cation, subject content and its organization, (what we see versus what is read). Curricu­
the process of teaching and learning, and, in lum theorists, they point out, often fail to rec­
general, what experiences and activities to ognize both how important philosophy is to
stress in schools and classrooms. It also pro­ developing curriculum and how it influences
vides educators with a basis for making such aspects of curriculum.
decisions as what workbooks, textbooks, or
other cognitive and noncognitive activities to

Philosophy and the Curriculum Sp
utilize and how to utilize them, what and
how much homework to assign, how to test The philosophy of curriculum sp
students and how to use the test results, and reflects their life experiences, comma
what courses or subject matter to emphasize. social and economic background, ed

The importance of philosophy in deter­ and general beliefs about people. f._•• …..u­
mining curriculum decisions is expressed vidual’s philosophy evolves and continues
well by the classic statement of Thomas to evolve as long as there is personal growth,
Hopkins (1941): “Philosophy has entered development, and learning from experience.
into every important decision that has ever Philosophy is a description, explanation, and
been made about curriculum and teaching in evaluation of the world as seen from per­
the past and will continue to be the basis of sonal perspective, or through what some
every important decision in the future . . .. social scientists call “social lenses.”
There is rarely a moment in a school day Curriculum specialists can tum to many
when a teacher is not confronted with occa­ sources of knowledge, but no matter how
sions where philosophy is a vital part of many sources they draw on or how many
action.” Hopkins’ statement reminds us of authorities they listen to, their decisions are
how important philosophy is to all aspects of shaped by all the experiences that have
curriculum decisions, whether it operates affected them and the social groups with
overtly or covertly. Indeed, almost all ele­ which they identify. These decisions are
ments of curriculum are based on philoso­ based on values, attitudes, and beliefs that
phy. As John Goodlad (1979b) points out, they have developed, involving their knowl­
philosophy is the beginning point in curricu­ edge and interpretation of causes, events,
lum decision making and is the basis for all and their consequences. Philosophy deter­
subsequent decisions regarding curriculum. mines principles for guiding action.
Philosophy becomes the criterion for deter­ No one can be totally objective in a cul­
mining the aims, means, and ends of curricu­ tural or social setting, but curriculum spe­
lum. The aims are statements of value, based cialists can broaden their base of knowledge
on philosophical beliefs; the means represent and experiences by trying to understand
processes and methods, which reflect philo­ other people’s sense of values and by analyz­
sophical choices; and the ends connote the ing problems from various perspectives.
facts, concepts, and principles of the knowl­ They can also try to modify their own critical
edge or behavior learned-what is felt to be analyses and points of view by learning from
important to learning. their experiences and those of others. Cur­

Smith, Stanley, and Shores (1957) also riculum specialists who are unwilling to
put great emphasis on the role of philosophy modify their points of view, or to compro­
in developing curriculum, asserting that it is mise philosophical positions when school
essential when formulating and justifying officials or their colleagues espouse another
educational purposes, selecting and organizing philosophy, are at risk of causing conflict
knowledge, formulating basic procedures and disrupting the school. Ronald Doll (1986)


PART ONE Curriculum and Philosophy

framework} for the aims and metho~s” of
uts it this way: “Conflict among curriculu~ schools. For Dewey, philosol?hy provides/

P curs when persons … hold pos1- eneralized meaning to our hve~ and a w y
~lannef5 oc a continuum of [different} beliefs g f hinking “an explicit formulation of the …
hons a ong . ,, The conflict may

d persuasions. ::ntal and moral attitudes in r~sp~ct ~? th_e
~n · ~ ~o intense that “curriculum s!udy difficulties of contemporary s~cial hf~- tPF1~

e~odm h lt ” Most of the time, the d1ffer- loso h is not only a starting po~n ogrm s to a a · ·1 · d f
be reconciled “temporan y m e – hopol;. it is also crucial for all curnc~lu~ences can

t the demands of a temporary, sc , dd “Ed cation 1s
O ctivities. For as Dewey a s, ~ . . erence 11 f th r

. d” t task ” However, Do ur e ~he laboratory in which philosophic ~1shnc-1mme ia e · d · · t tors
1 . th t “teachers and a m1ms ra exp ams a • h tions become concrete and are tested. h

who are clearly divided in ph1los~p _Y c:n Highly influenced by Dewey,. Ralp
seldom work together in close prox1m1ty or T ler’s (1949) framework of cur:1cul’:1m
long periods of time.” d” Ic1udes philosophy as only one of five ~ntel

Th more mature and understan mg . ly used for selecting educahona
na common h”l

and th: less personally threatened and ego­ u oses. The relationship betw~en p 1 oso-
involved individuals are, the m~re_ cap~b~e p h rpand the other criteria-studies of le~rn­
the are of reexamining or mod1fy1~~ t e1r p y studies of contemporary life, suggestions

hJosophy, or at least of ~eing ~1l~mg t~ ~;~~ subject specialists, and the psfc~olor
~ !treciate other points of _view. It is 1mp01: f 1 rnm

. g-is the basis for determimng t _e
o ea h h”l phy 1stf for curriculum specialists to regard t~eir school’s purposes. Althoug P 1 os? 1

attitudes and beliefs as tentative-as subJe~t not the starting point in Tyler’s lcubrn~u u1~th’
to reexamination whenever facts or tren s . n equa as1s wbut rather interacts on a
challenge them. Equally danger~us f?rdcu~­ . . h d em to place more the other cntena, e oes se 1 .
riculum specialists is the oppos1t~hm e~~ importance on philosophy for deve o~tg
sion or lack of any philosophy, wh1~ cant t educational purposes. Ty~er (1~49) wn ~:~
reflected in attempts to avoid co13:11:11tmen . o “The educational and soC1al philosophy
a set of values. A measure of positive co~v1c­ h” h the school is committed can s~rve as

1tion is essential to prudent action: Havmg; ;e ~irst screen for developing t~e s~ral p~­
ersonal philosophy that is tentative or su – ram” He concludes that phi osop. y

p d”f” t· n however does not lead g . d f” the nature of the good hfe ject to mo 1 1ca 10 , ‘ . h attempts to e ine ” d
to lack of conviction or disorgam~ed be a~­ d · ty ” and that the e uca-and a goo soC1e , . . t
. Curriculum specialists can arnve a~ their tional philosophies in a democratic soC1e _Y
ior. 1 . the best evidence available,
cone us10ns on · are likely to emphasize strongly democratic
and they then can change when better evi- values in schools.” . b t
dence surfaces. There can be no serious discussion ~ ouf

philosophy until we embrace the questionho t
what is education. When we agree onhw :Philosophy as a Curriculum Source
education is, we can ask what the_ sc oo s

The function of philosophy can be ~on~eived . We can then pursue philosophy,
purpose 1s. d” t

as either the base for the starti:’g pomt m ~ur; ·ms and goals of curriculum. Accor mg ?
. lum development or an mterdepen en aG1 d,1 d (1979b) the school’s first respons1-

ncu . • · lum oo a ‘ h h alls the function of other functions m curncu bility is to the social order, w at e c f
t John Dewey (1916) represents1 “nation-state,” but in our society _the _sens:r~deve opmen · d” h t

the first school of thought by conten mg t a individual growth and potential is ~ .-
,, . h ma be defined as the gen- t Thl·s duality-society versus the md1-philosop Y Y · ·: ,, d that “the busi- moun . . h” 1 · ue
eral theory of education, an . d [th vidual-has been a major ph1losop ica iss
ness of philosophy is to prov1 e e


in Western society for centuries and was a
very important issue in Dewey’s works. As
Dewey (1916) claimed, we not only wish “to
make [good] citizens and workers” but also
ultimately want “to make human beings
who will live life to the fullest.”

The compromise of the duality between
national allegiance and individual fulfill­
ment is a noble aim that should guide all cur­
riculum specialists-from the means to the
ends. When many individuals grow and
prosper, then society flourishes. The original
question set forth by Goodlad can be
answered: Education is growth and the focal
point for the individual as well as society; it
is a never-ending process of life, and the
more refined the guiding philosophy, the
better the quality of the educational process.

In considering the influence of philo­
sophic thought on curriculum, several clas­
sification schemes are possible; therefore, no
superiority is claimed for the categories used
in the tables here. The clusters of ideas are
those that often evolve openly or unwittingly
during curriculum planning.

Four major educational philosophies
have influenced curriculum in the United
States: Perennialism, Essentialism, Progres­
sivism, and Reconstructionism. Table 1.1
provides an overview of these education phi­
losophies and how they affect curriculum,
instruction, and teaching. Teachers and
administrators should compare the content
of the categories with their own philosophi­
cal “lens” in terms of how they view curricu­
lum and how other views of curriculum and
related instructional and teaching issues may

Another way of interpreting philosophy
and its effect on curriculum is to analyze phi­
losophy in terms of polarity. The danger of
this method is that it may simplify philoso­
phies in terms of a dichotomy, and not recog­
nize that there are overlaps and shifts. Table
1.2 illustrates philosophy in terms of tradi­
tional and contemporary categories. The tra­
ditional philosophy, as shown, tends to

Philosophy as a Basis for Curriculum Decisions

overlap with Perennialism and Essentialism.
Contemporary philosophy tends to coincide
with Progressivism and Reconstructionism.

Table 1.2 shows that traditional philoso­
phy focuses on the past, emphasizes fixed
and absolute values, and glorifies our cul­
tural heritage. Contemporary philosophy
emphasizes the present and future and views
events as changeable and relative; for the lat­
ter, nothing can be preserved forever, for
despite any attempt, change is inevitable.
The traditionalists wish to train the mind,
emphasize subject matter, and fill the learner
with knowledge and information. Those
who subscribe to contemporary philosophies
are more concerned with problem solving
and emphasize student interests and needs.
Whereas subject matter is considered impor­
tant for its own sake, according to tradition­
alists, certain subjects are more important
than others. For contemporary educators,
subject matter is considered a medium for
teaching skills and attitudes, and most sub­
jects have similar value. According to the tra­
ditionalists, the teacher is an authority in
subject matter, who dominates the lesson
with explanations and lectures. For the con­
temporary proponent, the teacher is a guide
for learning, as well as an agent for change;
students and teachers often are engaged in

In terms of social issues and society, tra­
ditionalists view education as a means of
providing direction, control, and restraint,
while their counterparts focus on individual
expression and freedom from authority. Citi:
zenship is linked to cognitive development
for the traditional educator, and it is linked
to moral and social development for the con­
temporary educator. Knowledge and the dis­
ciplines prepare students for freedom,
according to the traditional view, but it is
direct experience in democratic living and
political/ social action that prepares students
for freedom, according to the contemporary
ideal. Traditionalists believe in excellence,
and contemporary educators favor equality.

CHAPTER ONE Philosophy as a Basis for Curriculum Decisions 7

Curriculum and PhilosophyPART ONE6 TABLE 1.2 Overview of Traditional and Contemporary Philosophies

Consideration Traditional Philosophy Contemporary Philosophy

Educational Perennialism, Essentialism Progressivism, Reconstructionism

Direction Superiority of past; education for preserving Education is growth; reconstruction of present
in time past experiences; changing society; concern for future

and shaping it

Values Fixed, absolute, objective, and/or universal Changeable, subjective, and/or relative

Educational Education is viewed as instruction; mind is Education is viewed as creative self-learning; active
process disciplined and filled with knowledge process in which learner reconstructs knowledge

Intellectual To train or discipline the mind; emphasis on To engage in problem-solving activities and social
emphasis subject matter activities; emphasis on student interests and needs

Worth of Subject matter for its own importance; certain Subject matter is a medium for teaching skills,
subject subjects are better than others for training the attitudes, and intellectual processes; all subjects have
matter mind similar value for problem-solving activities

Curriculum Curriculum is composed of three Rs, as well as Curriculum is composed of three Rs, as well as skills
content liberal studies or essential academic subjects and concepts in arts, sciences, and vocational studies

Learning Emphasis on cognitive learning; learning is Emphasis on whole child; learning is giving meaning
acquiring knowledge and/or competency in to experiences and/or active involvement in reform

Grouping Homogeneous grouping and teaching of Heterogeneous grouping and integration of students
students by ability by ability (as well as race, sex, and class)

Teacher Teacher is an authority on subject matter; Teacher is a guide for inquiry and change agent;
teacher plans activities; teacher supplies teacher and students plan activities; students
knowledge to student; teacher talks, dominates learn on their own independent of the teacher;
lesson; Socratic method teacher-student dialogue; student initiates much

of the discussion and activities

Social roles Education involves direction, control, and Education involves individual expression; individual
restraint; group (family, community, church, comes first
nation, etc.) always comes first

Citizenship Cognitive and moral development leads to Personal and social development leads to good
good citizenship citizenship

Freedom and Acceptance of one’s fate, conformity, and Emphasis on creativeness, nonconformity, and self­
democracy compliance with authority; knowledge and actualization; direct experiences in democratic

discipline prepare students for freedom living and political/social action prepare students
for freedom

Excellence vs. Excellence in education; education as far as Equality of education; education that permits more
equality human potential permits; academic rewards than one chance and more than an equal chance to

and jobs based on merit disadvantaged groups; education and employment
sectors consider unequal abilities of individuals and
put some restraints on achieving individuals so that dif­
ferent outcomes and group scores, if any, are reduced

Society Emphasis on group values; acceptance of Emphasis on individual growth and development;
norms of and roles in society; cooperative and belief in individual with ability to modify, even
conforming behavior; importance of society; reconstruct, the social environment; independent
individual restricted by customs and traditions and self-realizing, fully functioning behavior;
of society importance of person; full opportunity to develop

one’s own potential

Overview of Educational PhilosophiesTABLE 1.1

Philosophical Instructional TrendsFocusRole of Teacher Knowledge

Base Objective
Great books; Classical subjects;Teacher helps Focus on past

Realism To educate PaideiaPerennialism literary analysis; students think
the rational and permanent proposal

rationally; based constantstudies; mastery person; to curriculumon Socratic
cultivate the of facts and

method and oral
intellect timeless

exposition; knowledge
explicit teaching
of traditional


Back toEssential skills
Essential skills Teacher is

idealism , To promote basics;Essentialism (three Rs) and and academic authority in
Realism the intellec- excellenceessential subjectshis or her field;

tual growth subjects; in education(English,
mastery of explicit of the arithmetic,teaching of

individual; to concepts and science, history, traditional
educate the principles of and foreign

subject matter valuescompeten t language)

Based on students’ RelevantTeacher isKnowledge
Pragmatism To promote curriculum; Progressivism interests; involves

democratic, leads to growth
a guide for

humanisticthe application of problem
social living and develop- education;human problems

ment; a living- solving and alternative .and affairs; scientific


inter-disciplinary and free

process; focus inquiry
subject matter; schooling

on active and
activities, and



Equality ofEmphasis onTeacher serves
Pragmatism To improve

Skills and education ; Reconstructionism social sciencesas an agent of
and subjects culturaland socialchange and
reconstruct needed to research methods; pluralism;reform; acts as aidentify andsoci ety; internationalexamination ofproject director
education for ameliorate education;social , economic,and research
change and problems of futurismand politicalleader; helps
social reform society; problems; focusstudents become \earning is

on present and aware ofactive and
future trends as

concerned with problems
well as nationalconfrontingcontemporary
and internationalhumankindand future


. d F . p Hunkins Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Theory, 3rd ed. (Boston :
Source : Allan C. Ornstein an ranc1s . ‘
Allyn and Bacon, 1998), P· 56-

8 PART ONE Curriculum and Philosophy

The traditional view of education maintains
that group values come first, where coopera­
tive and conforming behaviors are important
for the good of society. Contemporary edu­
cators assert that what is good for the indi­
vidual should come first, and they believe in
the individual modifying and perhaps recon­
structing society.

The Curriculum Specialist at Work

Philosophy gives meaning to our decisions
and actions. In the absence of a philosophy,
educators are vulnerable to externally
imposed prescriptions, to fads and frills, to
authoritarian schemes, and to other “isms.”
Dewey (1916) was so convinced of the
importance of philosophy that he viewed it
as the all-encompassing aspect of the edu­
cational process-as necessary for “form­
ing fundamental dispositions, intellectual
and emotional, toward nature and fellow
man .” If this conclusion is accepted, it
becomes evident that many aspects of a
curriculum, if not most of the educational
processes in school, are developed from a
philosophy. Even if it is believed that
Dewey’s point is an overstatement, the per­
vasiveness of philosophy in determining
views of reality, the values and knowledge
that are worthwhile, and the decisions to be
made about education and curriculum
should still be recognized.

Very few schools adopt a single philoso­
phy; in practice, most schools combine various
philosophies. Moreover, the author’s posi­
tion is that no single philosophy, old or new,
should serve as the exclusive guide for mak­
ing decisions about schools or about the cur­
riculum. All philosophical groups want the
same things of education-that is, they wish
to improve the educational process, to
enhance the achievement of the learner, to
produce better and more productive citizens,
and to improve society. Because of their dif­
ferent views of reality, values, and knowl-

edge, however, they find it difficult to agree
on how to achieve these ends.

What we need to do, as curricularists, is
to search for the middle ground, a highly
elusive and abstract concept, in which there
is no extreme emphasis on subject matter or
student, cognitive development or
sociopsychological development, excel­
lence or equality . What we need is a pru­
dent school philosophy, one that is
politically and economically feasible, that
serves the needs of students and society.
Implicit in this view of education is that too
much emphasis on any one philosophy
may do harm and cause conflict. How much
one philosophy is emphasized, under the
guise of reform (or for whatever reason), is
critical because no one society can give
itself over to extreme “isms” or political
views and still remain a democracy. The
kind of society that evolves is in part
reflected in the education system, which is
influenced by the philosophy that is even­
tually defined and developed.


In the final analysis, curriculum specialists
must understand that they are continuously
faced with curriculum decisions, and that
philosophy is important in determining
these decisions. Unfortunately, few school
people test their notions of curriculum
against their school’s statement of philoso­
phy. According to Brandt and Tyler (1983), it
is not uncommon to find teachers and admin­
istrators developing elaborate lists of behav­
ioral objectives with little or no consideration
to the overall philosophy of the school. Cur­
riculum workers need to provide assistance
in developing and designing school practices
that coincide with the philosophy of the
school and community. Teaching, learning,
and curriculum are all interwoven in school
practices and should reflect a school’s and a
community’s philosophy.

Philosophy as a Basis for Curriculum Decisions


Goo~lad, J. I. (1979b~. What schools are for. Bloom-
Brandt, R. S., & Tyler, R. W. (1983) G 1 d

b” · • oa s an mgton, _IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational
o Jectives. In F. W. English (Ed ) F d F
t f · · , w1 nmen­ oundation.
n c11rrzc11!11111 decisions. Alexa d . VA · A • . n na, . Hopk’.ns, L. T. (1941). lJltcrnction: The democratic
ssoc1at10n for Supervision and C . 1 p1ocess. Boston MA· D C H thDevelopment. urncu um Smith B o s ‘ · · · ea , PP· 198- 200.

, . ., tanley, W. 0., J. & Shores, J. H . (1957)Dewey, (1916) . Democracy n11d education . New F11ndn111entals of rnrric11!11111 develop111e11t rev.
D York, NY: Macmillan, pp. 383-384. ed. New York, NY: Worldbook , .

oil[) R: ~- (1986). Curriculum improvement· Tyler, R. W. (1949) B · .· · . .
. . . nszc p1 mczples of rnrrzcu/11111

eAc1sA1ol11l-making and process, 6th ed. Boston. dM an mstructwn. Chicago IL · U . .
: yn & Bacon, p . 30. ‘ Ch. , · mvers1ty of1cago Press, pp. 33_34_


1. Which philosophical approach refl
purpose, (b) what subjects are of vaf~!s r;~r beliefs about (a) the school’s
process of teaching and learnin ? ‘ c ow students learn, and (d) the

2 Wh t · g.
. a curriculum focus would th . .

mend for our increasingly di’v e pherenmahsts and essentialists recom-
3 Wh erse sc ool-age pop 1 ti . at curriculum would th . . u a on. ?

for a multicultural student ;o~:~~;i~~rists and reconstructionists select
4. Should curriculum workers ado . .

pra~tices? Why? Why not? pt a smgle philosophy to guide their

5. Which philosophy is most relevant to contemporary education? Why?


; topic,” “Needs

. F should be for
a grade schema

r “try again.” It
:knowledge the
great ideas take

rre is required.
ections on each
:h paper or the
to write about
>m them. In an
. In any course,
, work they did

neer from the
, Public Broad­
ething without
Uy-you’re just

re failures and

t as they work
ork and brain­
share our pro­
revisions, and
There is a time

Solution to Obstacle 8
I Thought

Instruction W-as for

Elementary Schools

I write this as I sit on a plane going from Chicago to Detroit. There are 119 other people on this plane. We are all going from Chicago to Detroit.
The gentleman on my left is reading today’s newspaper. I am working
on this book. The man across the aisle is snoring in his reclined seat. The
gentleman next to him is punching things into his palm digital organizer.
Behind me is a young woman listening to her personal CD player while
her mother types on a laptop computer.

We are all going from Chicago to Detroit. We all started in Chicago, are
riding in the same plane, and will disembark in Detroit, but we all make
the journey in our own style-a most adult thing to do. There are guide­
lines, of course, rules about when we can get up, when the _electronic
devices need to be turned off. Occasionally our work is interrupted by
announcements, but in the end, we all arrive in Detroit.

Differentiation: allowing individuals to travel together to the same
destination but with their own styles and by accommodating individual
needs whenever possible. Sometimes you can’t stand up. Sometimes you
must power down your computer. Sometimes the crew needs everyone’s
attention up front. The restrictions are tolerated easily because we know
that we are given freedom, when possible, to get our individual needs met.

What if the airlines did not subscribe to differentiation? What if it was
all attendant directed?


60 Differentiating the High Schoof Classroom

“I need everyone to now get out their computers and

power them up.

“But I didn’t bring a computer,” says 14B.

“Share with someone who came prepared” is the reply.

“I have no need to work on a computer. I want to listen to my music,”

“Well, we’re not having music time right now. It’s co

mputer time.”

“I need to use the restroom,” shouts llA.

“If you have a restroom pass, you can use it after computer time. 36A!
Are you sleeping? Wake up! We’re not sleeping our way to Detroit.”

“But I’m tired,” moans 36A.

“Well, I guess you should have gone to bed earlier la

st night.”

“May I read the book I brought with me now as I’m

not interested in

computer work?” asks the one in 17C.

“Absolutely not. You can read your book on the next leg, from Detroit
to Memphis. Right now we’re doing our computers. If I have any more
interruptions, we’ll be staying on board for an extra five minutes after
we get to the gate.”

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? That’s because we are imagining a scene in
which the characters are adults. No one would treat adults that way. We
would never stand for it. Yet if we change the words slightly, we’ll find the
same scene in a chemistry class in Massachusetts.

“We’re going to memorize the gases on the periodic t

able,” announces

the teacher.

“The what?” asks Joan.

“That’s easy. We did this in junior high,” shouts Martin.

“What’s a period table?” asks Joan.

“Not period table, PERIODIC table,” laughs Martin.

”I’ll explain later; just look in the back of your book.”

“I have my own laminated table here in my binder,”

announces Bart.

“I hate this class already,” grumbles Ian. “Wake me when it’s over.”

“Martin, you’re not following along,” reprimands the teacher.

“But I know all this already.”

‘ l

power them up.”


:en to my music,”

mputer time.”

nputer time. 36A!
vay to Detroit.”

st night.”
not interested in

leg, from Detroit
fl have any more
ive minutes after

gining a scene in
~Its that way. We
,tly, we’ll find the

able,” announces


announces Bart.

,hen it’s over.”

, teacher.

Solution to Obstacle 8: Differentiated Instruction Was for Elementary Schools 61

“Well, it will be a nice review then …. Ian, get your head off the table!”
comes the teacher again as she tries to get everyone heading in the
right direction.

“Oh my gosh! Do we have to memorize all this!?” exclaims Joan as she
finds the periodic table.

“Can I use the hall pass?” shouts Ian.

“Not now. We’re in the middle of something,” laments the teacher.

“The middle of what?” asks Ian.

“We’re looking at the periodic table!” comes the frustrated response
from the teacher.

“Oh, well, I brought the wrong book, so can I use the hall pass anyway?”

Ever had one of these days? Me too.
This class may have run a bit easier if there were a couple of assign­

ment choices, a lecture offered to those who needed to learn or review
gases, and an alternative tactile activity, such as a computer program on
gases (for the Ians in the room).


Perhaps the separation between elementary and secondary teaching is a
relatively simple matter called diffusion of responsibility.

If you teach third grade, you have one set of kids all day long. You are
their sole teacher or at least have them for the lion’s share of the day. If a
child isn’t doing well in your class, you must assume nearly all the respon­
sibility. But if you teach 10th grade, you are but one of six or eight teachers
each child has. You can share the blame. If you add in guidance counselors,
assistant principals, and other support people in the building, you can
really cut your share of the responsibility pie down to a very small piece.

In addition to the issue of diffusion of responsibility, there are practi­
cal differences between elementary and secondary teaching. The smaller
student loads in elementary school allow the teachers to do extensive
research on the educational history of their students. Elementary teachers
can track a student’s progress, talk with last year’s teacher, and see how
things have been developing educationally for a student.

It is much easier too for the elementary teacher to be aware of the var­
ious strengths and weaknesses of a particular student across disciplines.
You know that Heather struggles with science yet blooms in history
because you have Heather for both science and history.

But a high school teacher with a 150 to 220 student load rarely has time
to pull and study extensive school records. Nor do we generally have time

62 Differentiating the High School Classroom

to talk to all of a student’s other teachers to discover the student’s individual
strengths and weakness. We may mistakenly think that a child’s perfor­
mance in our class is representative of how the child perfonns across the
board, never realizing that the student has significant strengths or weak­
nesses in other subjects.

It is easier sometimes for elementary teachers to tailor assignments
for a student because they are privy to this information. If I know that
Henrie really enjoys art and has tremendous confidence and feelings of
self-efficacy in this area, then I know to try to incorporate art choice into
some subjects that are more difficult for him. The secondary teacher, how­
ever, has to hope to stumble upon such insights. It takes at best several
weeks to get to know your students enough to discover and learn their
interests and learning strengths.

Perhaps the biggest difference between elementary and secondary
school is found in the philosophy of differentiated instruction through
student centered classrooms. Traditional student centered models have
been relegated to elementary classrooms. When most of us picture a student
centered room, we picture students in centers. The mental model of cen­
ters with alphabet blocks just doesn’t fit with our taller, more developed
teenage students.

; .1–Cito–r;c.t”l:JSnc!’.-5!
, Ll D ,__J _f~ Cl 1–l

CJ Cl -z:,~i.\ ~c
D 0

‘-‘-EaBb CcDdf:e.


Classic student centered approaches such as Montessori tend to run
at best through about the sixth grade. Most resources for student centered
models are geared for elementary teachers, and articles showing active,
engaged learners tend to feature photos of youngsters working in art
centers or sitting on carpet squares on the floor. Rarely does a high school
teacher see visual representations of 16-, 17-, and 18-year-old students


ient’ s individual
a child’s perfor­
forms across the
engths or weak-

lor assignments
,. If I know that
, and feelings of
e art choice into
.ry teacher, how­
s at best several
· and learn their

and secondary
ruction through
ed models have
picture a student
al model of cen­
more developed

;sori tend to run
student centered
showing active,

, working in art
:,es a high school
ear-old students

Solution to Obstacle 8: Differentiated Instruction Was for Elementary Schools 63

working in learning centers, stations, or active classrooms. About the closest
thing we see to that image is a science fair.


The truth, however, is that differentiation works beautifully at the high
school level. Children are children; some are just taller than others. And
children have a natural curiosity about the world. They like to learn. They
like to discover and play with things and ideas and concepts. Just because
children are 15 or 17 years old does not mean they don’t like to explore
new areas.

Differentiated classrooms take advantage of the child’s natural curiosity.
And a differentiated high school classroom has the advantage of having
much more capable learners who can apply their discoveries in a much
more complex manner.

Find what your students enjoy naturally and try to incorporate your
subject into their natural world.


Don’t be afraid to borrow some ideas from our peers in elementary edu­
cation. Take many of the ideas that come from elementary schools and spin
them to fit your population. Traditionally, elementary schools do keep a
rather student centered approach to learning. The same principles and
ideas that work with younger children can be applied to more difficult
subjects. And of course best of all, our students are intellectually more
mature. Unlike elementary students, our students can think more abstractly
and more globally and are more idealistic about the world. They have
more personal background, and their brains are at a very different stage of

Practical Solution Idea 8.1: Divide your room into resource centers.
Put printed, bound material, such as textbooks, library books, and

reference materials, in one location. Put art materials in another section.
Divide off one comer as a video-watching area (use headphones for the
sound). Allow students to move around to gather material from the cen­
ters or actually provide workspace in these areas.

Practical Solution Idea 8.2: Allow a wide range of developmentally appro­
priate materials.

Remember that not all your students are strong readers. Make sure you
have text and reference materials to allow all your students the opportunity

64 Differentiating the High School Classroom

to gather information in printed form. Some students think and reason
better with materials they can manipulate. Some students do better when
they can talk through their problem-solving strategies. Allow space and
opportunity for students to work in a variety of settings with a variety of

Practical Solution Idea 8.3: Assign jobs.
Have different students monitor areas or complete class tasks. Don’t

be afraid to use some of the large wall hanging models that match students
to jobs which are frequently found in first grade classrooms. Jobs could
include things like textbook monitor, art supply lender, lab maintenance
monitor, or video center monitor.

Practical Solution Idea 8.4: Teach through art.
Probably the most obvious avenue into the adolescent world is their

music. As I will elaborate on a little later in this book, due to the nature of
art and the nature of the adolescent brain, art speaks the language of the
adolescent. And of course their favorite art form is usually music.

Take advantage of this opportunity. Use youth music and other art
forms to help students apply and understand new concepts. We see a lot
of music and art used and taught in high school, but it is seldom their art,
the art that speaks to today’s youth. Classical art is wonderful, as are jazz
and modern symphonic music, but that’s not what most of our students
use as the vehicle of emotional expression in their popular culture. As dif­
ficult as it may seem to you, look for ways to tie your teaching into today’s
youth art. Popular movies, music, and graffiti are expressions of their
new emotional explorations-the centerpiece of adolescence. Can you find
recurring themes of history in some of today’s music or movies? Can you
find math patterns? Can you tie in science principles to films or modern
poetry? Can you find contemporary music to reflect contemporary world

One of the things elementary educators do so very well is to take their
cues from the students. They watch for natural developmental interests
and tie into those. We as high school educators should be doing the same
thing. Start taking some cues from your students.

20 Chapter 2

the kinds of pictures on the bulletin ofboards, the racial (COmlpCJsitiiorn
the school staff, and the fairness with which studeruts fro>m different
racial, cultural, and ethnic groups are disciplined and susspemded. ]Multi­
cultural education reforms the total school environment so t:halt thte hid­
den curriculum sends the message that cultural and ethmic: diiversity is

valued and celebrated.
8. The counseling program. In an effective multicultural :sch1ooll,counse­

lors help students from diverse cultural, racial, and et:hnlic grolllpS to
make effective career choices and to take the courses needed Ito pursue
those career choices (Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexandeir, 1995; Sue,
1995). Multiculturally oriented counselors also help smdents to reach
beyond their grasp, to dream, and to actualize their dreams.

Multicultural educators make the assumption that if the preceding
eight variables within the school environment are reformed and restruc­
tured and the dimensions of multicultural education are implemented,
students from diverse ethnic, cultural, and language groups and of both
genders will attain higher levels of academic achievement and the inter­
group attitudes and beliefs of students from all groups will become more


B().,{\ ·3, ( ) l.s) 9 9 9 ) YI o d/4U-, 0 ·’1
+o /)/) l,v’\.+,C f dA,tULJ,-~htrfX{ o/1 J

~ .Go~~”‘:\ fY\ 6a·A~ A\ljn Lo,1,

A 1 id-r


It is important to distinguish between curriculum infusion and curricu­
lum transformation. When the curriculum is infused with ethnic and
gender content without curriculum transformation, the students view
the experiences of ethnic groups and of women from the perspectives
and conceptual frameworks of the traditional Western canon. Conse­
quently, groups such as Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos
are added to the curriculum, put their experiences are viewed from the
perspective of mainstream historians and social scientists. When curric­
ulum infusion occurs without transformation, women are added to the
curriculum but are viewed from the perspectives of mainstream males.
Concepts such as “The Westward Movement,” “The European Discovery
of America, 11 and “Men and Their Families Went West” remain intact.

When curriculum transformation occurs, students and teachers
make paradigm shifts and view the American and world experience from
the perspectives of different racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender groups.
Columbus’s arrival in the Americas is no longer viewed as a “discovery”
but as a cultural contact or encounterthat had very different consequences
for the Tainos (Arawaks), Europeans, and Africans (Golden et al., 1991;
Rouse, 1992; Stannard, 1992). In a transformed curriculum, the experi­
ences of women in the West are not viewed as an appendage to the expe­
rience of men but “through women’s eyes” (Armitage, 1987; Limerick,

This chapter discusses the confusion over goals in multicultural edu­
cation, describes its goals and challenges, and states the rationale for a
transformative multicultural curriculum. Important goals of multicul­
tural education are to help teachers and students transform their think­
ing about the nature and development of the United States arrd the



Chapter 3

world and also to develop a commitment to act in ways that will make
the United States a more democratic and just nation.


A great deal of confusion exists, among both educators and the general
public, about the meaning of multicultural education. The meaning of
multicultural education among these groups varies from education
about people in other lands to educating African American students
about their heritage but teaching them little about the Western heritage
of the United States. The confusion over the meaning of multicultural
education was indicated by a question the editor of a national education
publication asked me: “What is the difference between multicultural
education, ethnocentric education, and global education?” Later during
the telephone interview, I realized that she had meant “Afrocentric edu­
cation” rather than “ethnocentric education.” To her, these terms were


Before we can solve the problem caused by the multiple meanings of
multicultural education, we need to better understand the causes of the
problem. One important cause of the confusion over the meaning of
multicultural education is the multiple meanings of the concept in the
professional literature itself. Sleeter and Grant (1987), in their compre­
hensive survey of the literature on multicultural education, found that
the term has diverse meanings and that about the only commonality the
various definitions share is reform designed to improve schooling for
students of color.

To advance the field and to reduce the multiple meanings of multi­
cultural education, scholars neec to develop a higher level of consensus
about what the concept means. Agreement about the meaning of multi­
cultural education is emerging among academics. A consensus is develop­
ing among scholars that an important goal of multicultural education is
to increase educational equality for both gender groups, for students from
diverse ethnic and cultural groups, and for exceptional students (Banks &
Banks, 1997; Grant & Ladson-Billngs, 1997; Grant & Tate, 1995). A major
assumption of multicultural education is that some groups of students­
because their cultural characteris:ics are more consistent with the culture,

Curriculum Transfo1mation 23

norms, and expectations of the school than are those of other groups of
students-have greater opportunities for academic success than do students
whose cultures are less consistent with the school culture. Low-income
African American males, for example, tend to have more problems in
schools than do middle-class Anglo males (Gibbs, 1988).

Because one of its goals is to increase educational equality for stu­
dents from diverse groups, school restructuring is essential to make mul­
ticultural education become a reality. To restructure schools in order to
provide all students with an equal chance to learn, some of the major
assumptions, beliefs, and structures within schools must be radically
changed. These include tracking and the ways in which mental ability
tests are interpreted and used (Mercer, 1989; Oakes, 1992). New para­
digms about the ways students learn, about human ability (Gardner,
1983; Gould, 1981), and about the nature of knowledge will have to be
institutionalized in order to restructure schools and make multicultural
education a reality. Teachers will have to believe that all students can
learn, regardless of their social-class or ethnic-group membership, and
that knowledge is a social construction that has social, political, and nor­
mative assumptions (Code, 1991; Collins, 1990; Harding, 1991). Imple­
menting multicultural education within a school is a continuous process
that cannot be implemented within a few weeks or over several years.
The implementation of multicultural education requires a long-term
commitment to school improvement and restructuring.

Another important goal of multicultural education-on which there
is wide consensus among authorities in the field but that is neither
understood nor appreciated by many teachers, journalists, and the pub­
lic-is to help all students, including White mainstream students, to
develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they will need to survive
and function effectively in a future U.S. society in which one out of
every three people will be a person of color. Our survival as a strong and
democratic nation will be seriously imperiled if we do not help our stu­
dents attain the knowledge and skills they need to function in a cultur­
ally diverse future society and world. As Martin Luther King stated
eloquently, “We will live together as brothers and sisters or die separate
and apart as strangers” (King, 1987).

This goal of multicultural education is related to an important goal
of global education. An important aim of global education is to help stu­
dents to develop cross-cultural competency in cultures beyond our
national boundaries and the insights and understandings needed to
understand how all peoples living on the earth have highly intercon­
nected fates (Becker, 1979). Citizens who have an understanding of and
empathy for the cultures within their own nation are probably more
likely to function effectively in cultures outside of their nation than are

24 Chapter 3

citizens who have little understanding of and empathy for cultures
within their own society.

Although multicultural and global education share some important
aims, in practice global education can hinder teaching about ethnic and
cultural diversity in the United States. Some teachers are more comfortable
teaching about Mexico than they are teaching about Mexican Americans
who live within their own cities and states. Other teachers, as well as some
publishers, do not distinguish between multicultural and global education.
Although the goals of multicultural and global education are complemen­
tary, they need to be distinguished both conceptually and in practice.


We need to think seriously about why multicultural educators have not
been more successful in conveying to teachers, journalists, and the gen­
eral public the idea that multicultural education is concerned not only
with students of color and linguistically diverse students but also with
White mainstream students. It is also not widely acknowledged that
many of the reforms designed to increase the academic achievement of
ethnic and linguistic minority students, such as a pedagogy that is sen­
sitive to student learning styles and cooperative learning techniques,
will also help White mainstream students to increase their academic
achievement and to develop more positive intergroup attitudes and val­
ues (Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Shade, 1989; Slavin, 1995).

It is important for multicultural education to be conceptualized as a
strategy for all students for several important reasons. U.S. schools are not
working as well as they should be to prepare all students to function in a
highly technological, postindustrial society (Bell, 1973; Graham, 1992).
Most students of color (with the important exception of some groups of
Asian students such as Chinese and Japanese Americans) and low-income
students are more dependent on the school for academic achievement
than are White middle-class students for a variety of complex reasons.
However, school restructuring is needed for all students because of the
high level of literacy and skills needed by citizens in a knowledge society
and because of the high expectations that the public has for today’s
schools. Public expectations for the public schools have increased tremen­
dously since the turn of the century, when many school leavers were able
to get jobs in factories (Cremin, 1989; Graham, 1992). School restructur­
ing is an important and major aim of multicultural education.

Multicultural education should also be conceptualized as a strategy
for all students because it will become institutionalized and supported

Curriculum Transfonnation 25

in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities only to the extent that
it is perceived as universal and in the broad public interest. An ethnic­
specific notion of multicultural education stands little chance of success
and implementation in the nation’s educational institutions.


Some readers might rightly claim that an ethnic-specific curriculum and
education already exists in the nation’s educational institutions and that it
is Eurocentric and male dominated. I would agree with this claim but
believe that the days for the primacy and dominance of the mainstream
curriculum are limited. The curriculum that is institutionalized within our
nation’s schools, colleges, and universities is being seriously challenged
today and will continue to be challenged until it is revised to more accu­
rately reflect the experiences, voices, and struggles of people of color, of
women, and of other cultural and social-class groups in U.S. society. The
curriculum within our nation’s schools, colleges, and universities has
changed substantially Within the last two decades. It is important that
these changes be recognized and acknowledged. Students in today’s educa­
tional institutions are learning much more content about ethnic, cultural,
racial, and gender diversity than they learned two decades ago. The ethnic
studies and women’s studies movements have had a significant influence
on the curriculum in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities.

The dominance of the mainstream curriculum is much less complete
and tenacious than it was before the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights
Movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The historical, social, and economic
factors are different today than they were when Anglo Americans estab­
lished control over the nation’s major social, economic, and political
institutions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The economic,
demographic, and ideological factors that led to the establishment of
Anglo hegemony early in our nation’s history are changing, even though
Anglo Americans are still politically, economically, and culturally domi­
nant, as Supreme Court decisions that slowed the pace of affirmative
action initiatives during the 1980s indicated.

Nevertheless, there are signs throughout U.S. society that Anglo dom­
inance and hegemony are being challenged and that groups such as Afri­
can Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos are increasingly demanding
full structural inclusion and a reformulation of the canon used to select
content for the school, college, and university curriculum (Butler &
Walter, 1991; Graff, 1992). It is also important to realize that many com­
passionate and informed Whites are joining people of color to support

26 Chapter 3

reforms in the nation’s social, economic, political, and educational insti­
tutions. It would be a mistake to conceptualize or perceive the reform
movements today as people of color versus Whites.

One pervasive myth within our society is that Whites are a mono­
lithic group. The word White conceals more than it reveals. Whites are
a very diverse group in terms of ethnic and cultural characteristics, polit­
ical affiliations, and attitudes toward ethnic and cultural diversity. Many
Whites today, as well as historically, have supported social movements
to increase the rights of African Americans and other people of color
(Branch, 1988). Reform-oriented White citizens who are pushing for a
more equitable and just society are an important factor that will make
it increasingly difficult for the Anglo-Saxon vision to continue to dom­
inate our educational institutions.

Whites today are playing an important role in social reform move­
ments and in the election of African American and Latino politicians.
Many White students on university campuses are forming coalitions with
students of color to demand that the university curriculum be reformed
to include content about people of color and women. The student move­
ments that are demanding ethnic studies requirements on university
campuses have experienced major victories (Hu-DeHart, 1995).

The Anglocentric curriculum will continue to be challenged until it
is reformed to include the voices and experiences of a range of ethnic and
cultural groups. The significant percentage of people of color, including
African Americans and Latinos, who are in positions of leadership in
educational institutions will continue to work to get the experiences of
their people integrated into the school and university curriculum. These
individuals include researchers, professors, administrators, and authors of
textbooks. Students of color will continue to form coalitions with pro­
gressive White students and demand that the school and university cur­
riculum be reformed to reflect the ethnic and cultural reality of U.S.
society. Demographers project that students of color will make up about
46 percent of the nation’s school-age youths (ages O to 17) by 2020 (Pal­
las, Natri~llo, & McDill, 1989). Parents and community groups will con­
tinue to demand that the school and university curriculum be reformed
to give voice to their experiences and struggles. African American par­
ents and community groups are the major agents pushing for a curricu­
lum that reflects African civilizations and experimental schools for Black
males (Chmelynski, 1990; Lee, 1992).

Feminists will continue to challenge the mainstream curriculum
because many of them view it as male-centric, patriarchal, and sexist.
Much of the new research in women’s studies deals with the cultures of
women of color (Anderson & Collins, 1992; Hine, King, & Reed, 1995;
Jones, 1985). Women’s studies and ethnic studies will continue to inter-

Curriculum Transfonnation 27

connect and challenge the dominant curriculum in the nation’s schools,
colleges, and universities.


I have argued that an ethnic-specific version of multicultural education
is not likely to become institutionalized within the nation’s schools, col­
leges, and universities and that the days of Anglo hegemony in the U.S.
curriculum are limited. This is admittedly a long view of our society and
future. Multicultural education is now facing a strenuous and well­
orchestrated challenge from conservative groups and scholars (D’Souza,
1995; Schlesinger, 1991). This challenge will continue, will be fierce, and
will at times become ugly and pernicious. It will take diverse forms,
expressions, and shapes. I believe that part of the confused meanings of
multicultural education results from the attempts by neoconservative
scholars to portray multicultural education as a movement against West­
ern civilization, as anti-White, and by implication, as anti-American
(Ravitch, 1990a; Sirkin, 1990). The popular press frequently calls the
movement to infuse an African perspective into the curriculum Afrocen­
tric, and it has defined the term to mean an education that excludes
Whites and Western civilization (Daley, 1990).

The term Afrocentric has different meanings to different people.
Because of its diverse interpretations by various people and groups, neo­
conservative scholars have focused many of their criticisms of multicul­
tural education on this concept. Asante (1987) defines Afrocentricity as
“placing African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African
culture and behavior” (p. 6). In other words, he defines Afrocentricity as
looking at African and African American behavior from an African or
African American perspective. His definition suggests that Black English,
or Ebonics, cannot be understood unless it is viewed from the perspec­
tive of those who speak it. Afrocentricity, when Asante’s definition is
used, can describe the addition of an African American perspective to
the school and university curriculum. When understood in this way, it
is consistent with a multicultural curriculum because a multicultural
curriculum helps students to view behavior, concepts, and issues from
different ethnic and cultural perspectives.


The push by people of color and women to get their voices and experi­
ences institutionalized within the curriculum and the curriculum canon

28 Chapter3

transformed has evoked a strong reaction from neoconservative scholars.
Consequently, a battle over the canon between people of color, feminist
scholars, and neoconservative scholars is taking place. The neoconserva­
tives have founded two organizations to resist multicultural education:
the Madison Center and the National Association of Scholars. The resis­
tance to multicultural education has been strongly expressed in a series
of editorials and articles in popular and educational publications (Finn,
1990; McConnell & Breindel, 1990; Leo, 1990; Ravitch, 1990a, 1990b), as
well as in several best-selling books (D’Souza, 1991; Schlesinger, 1991).
The multiculturalists have founded two national organizations to defend
and promote ethnic and cultural diversity in the nation’s schools, col­
leges, and universities: Teachers for a Democratic Society and the National
Association for Multicultural Education.

Many of the arguments in the editorials and articles written by the
opponents of multicultural education are smoke screens for a conserva­
tive political agenda designed not to promote the common good of the
nation but to reinforce the status quo and dominant group hegemony
and to promote the interests of a small elite. A clever tactic of the neo­
conservative scholars is to define their own interests as universal and in
the public good and the interests of women and people of color as special
intereststhat are particularistic (Ravitch, 1990a). When a dominant elite
describes its interests as the same as the public interests, it marginalizes
the experiences of structurally excluded groups, such as women and peo-

ple of color.
The term special interest implies an interest that is particularistic and

inconsistent with the overarching goals and needs of the nation-state or
commonwealth. To be in the public good, interests must extend beyond
the needs of a unique or particular group. An important issue is who formu­
lates the criteria for determining what is a special interest. It is the dominant
group or groups in power tl:h.athave already shaped the curriculum, insti­
tutions, and structures in their images and interests. The dominant group
views its interests not as spiecial but as identical with the common good.
A special interest, in the vi1ew of those who control the curriculum and
other institutions within society, is therefore any interest that challenges
their power and dominant ideologies and paradigms, particularly if the
interest group demands the canon, assumptions, and values of the
institutions and structures lbe transformed. History is replete with exam­
ples of dominant groups th;at defined their interests as the public interest.

One way in which pe•ople in power marginalize and disempower
those who are structurally excluded from the mainstream is by calling
their visions, histories, goals, and struggles special interests. This type of
marginalization denies thte legitimacy and validity of groups that are
excluded from full participation in society and its institutions.

Cuniculum Tra1.1sformation 29

Only a curriculum that reflects the experiences of a wide range of
groups in the United States and the world, and the interests of these
groups, is in the national interest and is consistent with the public good.
Any other kind of curriculum reflects a special interest and is inconsis­
tent with the needs of a nation that must survive in a pluralistic and
highly interdependent world. Special interest history and literature, such
as history and literature that emphasize the primacy of the West and the
history of European American males, is detrimental to the public good
because it will not help students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and
attitudes essential for survival in the twenty-first century.

The aim of the ethnic studies and women’s studies movements are
not to push for special interests but to reform the curriculum so that it
will be more truthful and more inclusive and will reflect the histories
and experiences of the diverse groups and cultures that make up U.S.
society. Rather than being special interest reform movements, they con­
tribute to the democratization of the school and university curriculum.
They contribute to the public good rather than to the strengthening of
special interests.

We need to rethink concepts such as special interests, the national
interest,and the public good and to identify which groups are using these
terms and for what purposes, and also to evaluate the use of these terms
in the context of a nation and world that is rapidly changing. Powerless
and excluded groups accurately perceive efforts to label their visions and
experiences special interests’ as an attempt to marginalize them and to
make their voices silent and their faces invisible.


Our concept of cultural literacy should be broader than the one pre­
sented by Hirsch (1987) in his widely reviewed book, Cultural Literacy:
What Every American Needs to Know. Hirsch writes as if knowledge is neu­
tral and static. His book contains a list of important facts that he believes
students should master in order to become culturally literate. Knowledge
is dynamic, changing, and constructed within a social context rather
than neutral and static, as Hirsch implies. Hirsch recommends transmit­
ting knowledge in a largely uncritical way. When we help students to
attain knowledge, we should help them to recognize thilt knowledge
reflects the social context in which it is created and that it has normative
and value assumptions (Banks, 1996a).

I agree with Hirsch that there is a need for all U.S. citizens to have a
common core of knowledge. However, the important questi::ms are: Who

: 1′,1,,




Chapter 3

will participate in the formulations of that knowledge? and Whose interests will
it serve? We need a broad level of participation in the identification, con­
struction, and formulation of the knowledge that we expect all of our cit­
izens to master. Such knowledge should reflect cultural democracy and
serve the needs of all of the people. It should contribute to public virtue
and the public good. Such knowledge should not serve the needs of dom­
inant and powerful groups, as much school and university knowledge
does today. Rather, school knowledge should reflect the experiences of all
of the nation’s citizens, and it should empower all people to participate
effectively in a democratic society. It should help to empower all citizens
and encourage them to participate in civic discourse and citizen action.


Educators use several approaches, summarized in Figure 3-1, to integrate
cultural content into the school and university curriculum (Banks,
1988a, 1997a). These approaches include the contributions approach, in
which content about ethnic and cultural groups are limited primarily to
holidays and celebrations, such as Cinco de Mayo, Asian/Pacific Heritage
Week, African American History Month, and Women’s History Week.
This approach is used often in the primary and elementary grades.
Another frequently used approach to integrate cultural content into the
curriculum is the additive approach. In this approach, cultural content,
concepts, and themes are added to the curriculum without changing its
basic structure, purposes, and characteristics. The additive approach is
often accomplished by the addition of a book, a unit, or a course to the
curriculum without changing its framework.

Neither the contributions nor the additive approach challenges the
basic structure or canon of the curriculum. Cultural celebrations, activi­
ties, and content are inserted into the curriculum within the existing
curriculum framework and assumptions. When these approaches are
used to integrate cultural content into the curriculum, people, events,
and interpretations related to ethnic groups and women often reflect the
norms and values of the dominant culture rather than those of cultural
communities. Consequently, most of the ethnic groups and women
added to the curriculum have values and roles consistent with those of
the dominant culture. Men and women who challenged the status quo
and dominant institutions are less likely to be selected for inclusion into
the curriculum. Thus, Sacajawea is more likely to be chosen for inclusion
than is Geronimo because she helped Whites to conquer Indian lands.
Geronimo resisted the takeover of Indian lands by Whites.

Curriculum Transformation 31

Level 4
The Social Action Approach

Students make decisions on impor­
tant social issues and take actions
to help solve them.

The Transformation Approach
The structure of the curriculum is changed
to enable students to view concepts, issues,
events, and themes from the perspective of
diverse ethnic and cultural groups.

Level 2
The Additive Approach

Content, concepts, themes, and per­
spectives are added to the curriculum
without changing its structure.

Level 1
The Contributions Approach

Focuses on heroes, holidays,
and discrete cultural elements.

FIGURE 3-1 Approaches to Multicultural Curriculum Reform

The transformation approach differs fundamentally from the contribu­
tions and additive approaches. It changes the canon, paradigms, and basic
assumptions of the curriculum and enables students to view concepts,
issues, themes, and problems from different perspectives and points of
view. Major goals of this approach include helping students to understand
concepts, events, and people from diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives





32 Chapter 3

and to understand knowledge as a social construction. In this approaach,
students are able to read and listen to the voices of the victors and I the
vanquished. They are also helped to analyze the teacher’s perspective’. on
events and situations and are given the opportunity to formulate .and
justify their own versions of events and situations. Important aimss of
the transformation approach are to teach students to think critically .and
to develop the skills to formulate, document, and justify their cornclu-

sions and generalizations.
When teaching a unit such as the “Westward Movement” usirng a

transformation approach, the teacher would assign appropriate readtngs
and then ask the students such questions as: What do you think the
“Westward Movement” means? Who was moving West-the Whites or
the Native Americans? What region in the United States was referred to
as the West? Why? The aim of these questions is to help students to
understand that the Westward Movement is a Eurocentric term because
the Lakota Sioux were already living in the West and consequently were
not moving. This phrase is used to refer to the movement of the Euro­
pean Americans who were headed in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.
The Sioux did not consider their homeland “the West” but the center of
the universe. The teacher could also ask the students to describe the
Westward Movement from the point of view of the Sioux. The students
might use such words as The End, The Age of Doom, or The Coming of the
People Who Took Our Land. The teacher could also ask the studenti to
give the unit a name that is more neutral than “The Westward Move­
ment.” They might name the unit “The Meeting of Two Cultures.”

The decision-making and social action approach extends the transform.a­
tive curriculum by enabling students to pursue projects and activities ‘.hat
allow them to take personal, social, and civic actions related to the con­
cepts, problems, and issues they have studied. After they have studiedthe
unit on different perspectives on the Westward Movement, the stud~nts
might decide that they want to learn more about Native Americans ind
to take actions that will enable the school to depict and perpetuate nore
accurate and positive views of America’s first inhabitants. The stud!nts
might compile a list of books written by Native Americans for the sclool
librarian to order and present a pageant for the school’s morning exe:cise
on “The Westward Movement: A View from the Other Side.”


Major goals of a transformative curriculum that fosters multiculturalit­
eracy should be to help students to know, to care, and to act in ways hat

Cuniculum Transformation 33

will develop and foster a democratic and just society in which all groups
experience cultural democracy and cultural empowerment. Knowledge
is an essential part of multicultural literacy, but it is not sufficient. Knowl­
edge alone will not help students to develop an empathetic, caring
commitment to humane and democratic change. An essential goal of
a multicultural curriculum is to help students to develop empathy and
caring. To help our nation and world become more culturally demo­
cratic, students must also develop a commitment to personal, social, and
civic action, and the knowledge and skills needed to participate in effec­
tive civic action.

Although knowledge, caring, and action are conceptually distinct, in
the classroom they are highly interrelated. In my multicultural classes
for teacher education students, I use historical and sociological knowl­
edge about the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups to
inform as well as to enable the students to examine and clarify their per­
sonal attitudes about ethnic diversity. These knowledge experiences are
also a vehicle that enables the students to think of action they can take
to actualize their feelings and moral commitments.

Knowledge experiences that I use to help students to examine their
value commitments and to think of ways to act include the reading of
Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot’s (1988) pow­
erful biography of her mother, one of the nation’s first African American
child psychiatrists; the historical overviews of various U.S. ethnic groups
in my book, Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies (Banks, 1997a); and sev­
eral video and film presentations, including selected segments from Eyes
on the Prize II, the award-winning history of the Civil Rights Movement
produced by Henry Hampton, and Eye of the Beholder, a powerful video­
tape that uses simulation to show the cogent effects of discrimination
on adults. The videotape features Jane Elliott, who attained fame for her
well-known experiment in which she discriminated against children on
the basis of eye color to teach them about discrimination (Peters, 1987).

To enable the students to analyze and clarify their values regarding
these readings and video experiences, I ask them questions such as: How
did the boo],<, film, or videotape make you feel? Why do you think you feel that way? To enable them to think about ways to act on their feel­ ings, I ask such questions as: How interracial are your own personal experiences? Would you like to live a more interracial life? What are some books that you can read or popular films that you can see that will enable you to act on your commitment to live a more racially and eth­ nically integrated life? The power of these kinds of experiences is often revealed in student papers, as is illustrated by this excerpt from a paper written by a student after he had viewed several segments of Eyes on the Prize II (Muir, 1990):






34 Chapter 3

I feel that my teaching will now necessarily be a little bit different
forever simply because I myself have changed . … I am no longer quite
the same person I was before I viewed the presentations-my horizons
are a little wider, perspectives a little broader, insights a little deeper.
That is what I gained from Eyes on the Prize.

The most meaningful and effective way to prepare teachers to
involve students in multicultural experiences that will enable students
to know, to care, and to participate in democratic action is to involve
teachers in multicultural experiences that focus on these goals. When
teachers have gained knowledge about cultural and ethnic diversity
themselves, looked at that knowledge from different ethnic and cultural
perspectives, and taken action to make their own lives and communities
more culturally sensitive and diverse, they will have the knowledge and
skills needed to help transform the curriculum canon as well the hearts
and minds of their students. Only when the curriculum canon is trans­
formed to reflect cultural diversity will students in our schools and col­
leges be able to attain the knowledge, skills, and perspectives needed to
participate effectively in the global society of the next century.


Multicultural education is needed to help all of the nation’s future citi­
zens to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to survive in
the twenty-first century. Nothing less than the nation’s survival is at
stake. The rapid growth in the nation’s population of people of color,
the escalating importance of non-White nations such as China and
Japan, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor make it
essential for our future citizens to have multicultural literacy and cross­
cultural skills. In the twenty-first century, a nation whose citizens can­
not negotiate on the world’s multicultural global stage will be tremen­
dously disadvantaged, and its very survival may be imperiled.



Teachers and administrators for schools of today and tomorrow should
acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to work with students
from diverse cultural groups and to help all students develop more pos­
itive racial attitudes. Teachers and administrators also need to restructure
schools so that they will be able to deal effectively with the nation’s grow­
ing diversity and to pr~pare future citizens who will be able to compete
in a global world economy that will be knowledge and service oriented.

The first part of this chapter describes the demographic trends and
developments related to the nation’s changing ethnic texture and future
work force, states why school restructuring is essential in order to pre­
pare the work force needed for tomorrow, and describes the major vari­
ables of multicultural school reform.

The second part describes the characteristics of children’s racial atti­
tudes and guidelines for helping students to acquire more positive racial
attitudes, values, beliefs, and actions. This knowledge is essential for the
preparation of teachers and administrators who will practice in twenty­
first century schools.


The U.S. work force faces several major problems as we enter the twenty­
first century that have important implications for the professional work





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