Curriculum isn’t just what’s learned in class, it also involves
school rules, procedures, and routines.
o Has to nurture personal traits and technical
competencies to create citizens who will participate in
civic and economic realms
Promoting arithmetic and grammar
Boost skills in debating, reasoning, persuading,
and critical thinking
Promote authority, respect, trust, honesty,
civility, fairness, responsibility, and tolerance.
In today’s world, schooling can only capture a slice of what is
known. The sum of human knowledge could never be
condensed into one curriculum
Educators constantly need to decide what to teach, when, and
the best ways to do it
o Sociologists seek to understand and explain these
Schools use curriculum to sort and select students
o Create curricular tracks that stratify students then
decide which students go to which track
Example: Academic vs Applied in high schools.
o Testing creates stratification.
Success in school is tied to occupational
Schools also aim to socialize students into competent
members of society.
Sociologists often distinguish between manifest and latent
functions of schools
Content: The Multiple Dimensions of Modern Progressivism
Traditional Style: teaching was centered on the teacher, and
students were drilled on the acquisition of disciplinary content
Progressive Style: Child centred. Make school more
egalitarian and humanistic. Focus on the needs of the
The shift happened because:
o Courses should be useful
Example: Latin and Greek classes were dropped
o Needed to accommodate the needs of more students,
as students were forced to stay in school longer o Curriculum has become more diverse within broad
Example: Having various levels of math courses,
then separating it into different little subject
areas. Calculus, accounting, data management,
o Subject-based, book knowledge became more
Students today learned more at younger ages than in the
Core subjects in elementary school have remained stable
o Even the time dedicated to each subject hasn’t really
Form: Rationalizing and “Blocking” Knowledge
Schools have delivered a rationalized and bureaucratic
o Only a few “free schools” have de-structured and un-
o Among mainstream schools, the form of the curriculum
doesn’t really vary.
Involves a division of labour
o Not enough time to teach everything that is expected,
what educators have done is divide subjects into
smaller courses, called “curricular blocks”
Example: Science became biology, chemistry,
o As students pass through each grade level, the
curriculum becomes more organized into blocks.
o A consequence of blocking can be that schools feel like
an assembly line. Subjects are crammed into an
unchangeable window of time.
o This process alienates students, and creates compliant
o Limits subject integration.
Blocks aren’t all bad.
o Teachers can see if students are mastering that specific
o Can promote specialized skills
Blocks are not seen as equals. Some courses are seen as
serious while others not so much.
Demographics are an important rationalizing pressure on the
curriculum. Students come to school with different abilities, preparedness, and motivations but administrators responded
with a standardized timetable.
More Rationalized Form: Types of Evaluation, Assessment, and Testing
Modern schooling involves a lot of judging, testing, etc.
Functionalists and Human Capitalists:
o Evaluations ensure that the most capable students get
the most demanding occupations
o Evaluation limits mobility for lower classes
o Assessments are about legitimating schools’ authority,
which underlies the use of credentials to access the
most prestigious and coveted jobs
Testing as Sorting and Selecting
o Tests sort learners into different ability levels and
streams. Schools are able to declare who is the best
and smartest. Grades are the primary aspect in badges
o Decisions are often based off “summative” tests. Which
is an attempt to summarize the main things that have
been learned within a specific interval.
o Also based off “norm-referenced” standards. This
compares students based on a standard norm level.
Students are either above or below the norm.
o Tests are made by humans, and therefore can have
o Tests only cover the most important topics, but are
more focused on being able to memorize facts rather
than demonstrate a deeper understanding of the
o Problem with anti-testing argument is that it implies
that schools should teach students things that cannot or
should not be tested.
o Creating quality assessments is more difficult than it
Testing as Diagnostic
o Sometimes testing can be to monitor students progress,
and assist their future learning.
Called “Formative evaluation”
Designed to highlight levels of comprehension,
occurring throughout the course.
o Good teaching requires formative evaluation. It allows
teachers to see where their students are at, and if their
teaching methods are working. o Teachers tend to prefer this type of evaluation where
politicians believe in standardized testing.
Testing as Accountability
o In democracies, all publicly funded institutions are seen
as being accountable to elected officials
o In the past policy was left to school boards to decide
curriculum and teaching methods. But now the
provincial government has taken control of these areas.
Accountability has become about student
achievement based on a pre-set standard.
o Policy makers are focusing on improvement over time.
o In the USA, they want to link achievement to funding.
But its very controversial.
Causation: Social Influences on the Curriculum
A dispute centres on identifying external groups that help
create the curriculum, and their degrees of influence.
Functionalist: Focus on the moral elements of school, and its
role in meritocratic selection. They see curricular form and its
content as broadly sculpted by forces and modernization.
Think that societal consensus decides what is taught.