Tempering Critical Theory in Curriculum Praxis

Year: 1995

Author: Payne, Phillip, Hickey, Christopher

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on the second phase of an ongoing research project into postgraduate students' attempts to develop a critical curriculum praxis.

There are two theoretical sources of this curriculum praxis. The first is students' 'personal' theorising about the inadequacies of a curriculum innovation in which they are currently engaged. The second is Brian Fay's (1987) metatheory of the critical social sciences. It provides an intellectual resource capable of explaining the limits to any reform effort.

Notably, Fay's metatheory tempers the utopian aspirations of critical social science. Fay's 'limits to change' thesis has significance to curriculum work where, for example, the repressive myths of critical pedagogy have been alleged (Ellsworth 1988), rebutted (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991, editorialised (Farrell, 1994) and commented about (Anyon, 1994). Meanwhile, White (1994) calls for more empirical work of a critical nature.

The first stage of this research reported on three teachers' critical diagnosis of a troubling curriculum initiative (Payne & Hickey, 1995).

This diagnosis provided the grounds for the second stage of empirical research which is reported here.

This paper will highlight how curriculum workers understand their ideals in relation to changing curriculum contexts and subsequently amend them regulatively and normatively for practicality and non-idealism (Fay, 1987). As such, the findings anticipate Carr's (1995) call for research 'for education'.