Chris's Reviews > The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958

The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958 by Herber Kliebard
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Sep 27, 11


The Struggle for the American Curriculum is not a book to entertain; it is a book to be read in order to understand the sordid history that begat today's subject-oriented, objective-laden, test-obsessed curricula. Kliebard reveals the American curriculum is not neutral. It was the results of many tense compromises (between racist pseudo-scientists and ideologues) and economic exigencies (the rise of industry, the Great Depression, and the Cold War). The curriculum that emerged from these struggles was a highly politicized animal, often divorced from actual research, teacher input, and students’ needs. Perhaps the most tragic irony is how little we seem to have learned from these past struggles; in the ongoing debates on curriculum reform, we’re racing back to where we started.

The Struggle for the American Curriculum helped me understand the multifaceted power relationships that shape curriculum. No longer do I see American curriculum as a neutral entity. Whether it is Charles Elliot reifying the Western ethnocentrism in the Committees of 10 and 15, or the Texas Board of Education approving ethnocentric history textbooks in today's draconian test culture, we cannot shake the value-laden decisions that prize one group’s knowledge over another. Most frightening is the pervasive sense of déjà vu I felt in reading Kliebard’s book. The curricular reforms we believe will ameliorate inequality are too often the ghosts of races already run. In our efforts to close achievement gaps, we may be stuck perpetuating them.
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message 1: by Deb (new)

Deb Abernathy Chris, I am concerned that the current standards movement, The Common Core State Standards, will heighten the stress that schools place on testing. One such stress applies to teachers, because now states' education agencies must require that teachers' evaluations are based on students' scores if they wish to be considered for the financial aid from the federal government. Another stress is that teachers have no idea how this new testing framework will be implemented. In addition, students are expected to cover more sophisticated material at an earlier age than in previous models. This means that there will be gaps in what students have had when they come to the classroom. Not that teachers haven't experienced that before, but now their evaluations will reflect it.


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