Who and What Shape the Curriculum?
Excerpt from: Teachers, Schools, and Society: A Brief Introduction to Education p. 354-358
Although all three curriculums are powerful forces, the public and the press typically focus on the most visible—the formal or official curriculum—when evaluating schools. Given the current emphasis on standards and testing, and the recurrent controversies over the teaching of evolution or the place of religion in the curriculum, the formal curriculum is constantly in the news. As a future teacher, it makes a lot of sense for you to begin thinking about who decides what you should teach. In fact, what you teach is decided by competing interest groups, and the product sometimes feels as though it was created in a pressure cooker. (See Figure 10.1.) Anyone, from the president of the United States to a single parent, can impact what is taught in your classroom. Let's take a brief tour of some of the chefs at work on the curricular pressure cooker.
Teachers develop curriculum both formally and informally. They may serve on textbook selection committees that determine what texts the school will purchase, or they may actually work on writing a district's curriculum. In a less formal but no less powerful way, classroom teachers interpret and adapt whatever official text or curriculum guide has been assigned, stressing certain points in a text while giving scant attention to others; supplementing with teacher-made materials or directing students to the Internet.
Parental and Community Groups
Parents can be quite forceful in impacting the curriculum. They might advocate for more rigorous academic courses, concerned about poor student performance on standardized tests, or they may desire more practical vocational training, such as an increase in computer science courses. Banning certain books or videos from the curriculum is also not unusual. In more conservative communities, religious fundamentalists have objected to the absence of Christian values, while liberal communities have objected to books that use racial, ethnic or gender slurs and stereotypes.
Reprinted with the permission of McGraw-Hill Companies.
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