Ethics of a Prescribed Curriculum essay

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Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) spoke 'initiation' and 'induction' as learning functions and held that these forms of learning effectively reached further than 'training' and 'instruction' which are instrumental learning. The initiation stage of learning is an independent learning stage where the learner grasps and understands for themselves the object of learning and in which the learner's dependence upon both the teacher and upon learning structures are lessened. A higher stage of independent learning was referred to by Stenhouse as 'induction' and is a stage of learning in which the learner has come to the place of owning, valuing and believing in the object of learning for themselves. Stenhouse affirmed the need for foundational knowledge upon which the higher learning skills can be constructed and held that the functional knowledge must be solidly in place before higher learning functions could begin.

Curriculum, according to the work of Grundy "is often written and spoken about in an idealistic sense as if there is a perfect 'idea' of a curriculum of which all individual curricular are more or less imperfect imitations." (1987) Curriculum is "not a concept, it is a cultural construction…a way or organizing a set of human educational practices." (Grundy, 1987) Grundy states that a framework for "meaning or curriculum practices is provided by the theory of 'knowledge constitutive interests' proposed by the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas." (1987) The knowledge-constitutive interests do not merely represent an orientation towards knowledge or rationality on the part of the human species, but rather constitute human knowledge itself." (Grundy, 1987) It is explained by Richard Bernstein that "such interests or orientations are knowledge-constitutive because they shape and determine what counts as the objects and types of knowledge. Knowledge-constitute interest both shape what we consider to constitute knowledge and determine the categories by which we organize that knowledge." (1979) Grundy notes that Habermas identified "three basic cognitive interests: (1) technical, (2) practical and (3) emancipatory and states that these interest constitute the three types of science by which knowledge is generated and organized in our society. These three ways of knowing are: (1) empirical-analytic; (2) historical-hermeneutic; and (3) critical. (Grundy, 1987)

VIII. Conclusion

This work has examined the various philosophical concepts related to the prescribed curriculum and this close examination has resulted in the researcher gaining an understanding that the question of what is or alternatively is not ethical in regards to the curriculum is very much dependent on the dominating 'school of thought' that reigns supreme and the paradigm that the question of ethics regarding the curriculum arising within. For the purposes of democracy there can be no question that the elective process within the curricular framework is desirable and viewed as the most ethical framework from which to formulate the curriculum because invasive control of the curriculum by the government or religious authorities serves to supplant the ideals of the amount of freedom the student should posses in the pursuit of their educational goals. However, the prescribed curriculum should not be considered so lightly as to dismiss the inherent importance of the prescriptions which it contains for the educational attainment of students in that in order that the student attain a degree in a specific field of study there is knowledge that the student must necessarily gain and be in full possession of if they are to effectively practice in that field of study. Therefore, there is an ethical obligation to be met in ensuring that students receive the necessary education and training to step forth into their roles in their field of study as a professional that is knowledgeable and suitably educated to assume their professional position adeptly rather than due to the lack of field-specific learning to commit some atrocity of malpractice against society-at-large. The ethical aspects of the prescribed curriculum are aspects that must be carefully balanced in today's educational system just as historically has been the case as this study has clearly demonstrated.


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Fenner, David E.W. (1999) Ethics in Education. Routledge, 1999.

Moles, Joanne (2005) You Say Potato Implications of a Prescribed Curriculum on Three Irish Physical Education teachers. Paper Presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conferences, University of Glamorgan, 14-17 September 2005.

Murphy, Anne (2008) The Interface between Academic Knowledge and Working Knowledge: Implications for Curriculum Design and Pedagogic Practice. Dublin Institute of Technology 2008.

Noddings, N. (2003) Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education, 2e, Berkeley: University of California Press.

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