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Richard McKenna

Tutorial Paper:
The Curriculum in and for a Democratic Society Curriculum Studies.
Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 323-340.
Curriculum Ideologies
Author: Wilfred Carr


The author explores three curriculum ideologies in this text: Classical Humanism; LiberalProgressivism and Vocational-Modernism.
Firstly in Classical-Humanism the author traces the routes back to the medieval era in European
history around the time the Roman Empire collapsed. Highlighting how education was strongly linked
to religion with books writing in Latin leaving mostly priests being able to read them. Women at the
time did not have access to education therefor could not read the Latin books, that where stored in
monasteries. As education developed and universities where set up they too were largely influenced
by the church.
The latter suggests that religion has a huge impact on education, in particular it played a key role in
the development of the idea that was the fore of classical-humanist philosophy the author suggests
that medieval period and the golden age of human civilisation was a thing of the past as learning at
this time was directed towards learning about the Greek or Roman classical writers with a stronger
emphasis on religious writers of antiquity.
The author then explores the becoming of the book known today as the Bible, highlighting how in
the early days of religious men, the many debates around the merits and de-merits of different books
which were shaped to the final authorised collection which became known as the canon. At this time
another set of great books where drawn up of a non-religious kind, called Humanities which gave
the name Classical-Humanist
As highlighted in the latter speaks of how the relationship between education and religion impacted
the knowledge content that was to be covered, in which the church men delivered religious content
from the the canon and these men where not to be questioned. This methodology was associated
with the classical-humanist philosophy of education.
Secondly the author looks at Liberal-Progressivism which is associated with the period in European
history known as the Enlightenment this term describes a revolution in thinking around the time of

the 1600s, the latter is a major shift away from the Classical Humanism approach. Initially people
started to think of the future thinking that this could be better than the past shifting away from the
canon and other historic books. This was the first time people started critically thinking about the
future and how this could impact education, sparking the start of the social sciences. The author then
highlights that from this enlightenment people started to seek democracy and human rights which had
major impacts on society. From this various revolutions where happening such as French revolution
and the American War of Independence. This focus on the social sciences influenced the modern
world highlighting individual freedom and human rights as well as a profound impact upon
education. The classical-humanist educators at this time which were still of the belief that the
curriculum should consist of the canon vs. the Liberal-progressive educators of the entitlement where
of the view that education should develop the individuals own abilities and capacities.
Lastly the author looks at Vocational-Modernism, indicating that by the mid-1800s, most counties in
Europe and North America where going through a massive social transformation. This was the start of
the new industrial society stemming from the increase of employment in factories and mills. The
author identifies the major shift in education as prior to this time it was seen for people to could afford
it until now that many countries governments would provide education for all young people. This seen
the Irish national school system being developed in 1831, it was not until 40 years later that the
English system was developed. The author highlights of this time where people began to question
whether a classical-humanist or a liberal-progressive approach to education was most suitable.
The author speaks of an American writer, David Snedden who provides his version of an answer to
the latter questions by the people. Indicating that the liberal approach in education was all well and
good, but did not contribute to a person being able to go out and work and earn a living. Snedden
further defines education into social classes i.e. Professional education prepared lawyers, physicians,
engineers, teachers to name a few where by education in the household arts prepared girls for
dressmaking, cooking, and management of the home.


In this Tutorial paper I found it to be a pleasant read, having previously touched on this topic
the previous year it was good to revisit it, there is a small bit of information in this text and
the logical sequence is clear. From this read I dont think there is enough literature provided
to give a good detailed example of what each ideology it, from this section of the text I
believe it seems to be portrayed that Classical-humanism is all about the church, although the
church and its relationship with education cannot be denied. After reading the full paper Carr
wrote, this further indicates that society was viewed in an aristocratic manor and it resonates
with Platos image of society ruled by an elite group acting as the custodians of traditions
values and universal truths (1998, p. 327). What this section of text fails to highlight is the
main purpose of education being steadiness and cultural continuity which promotes a

curriculum that is dominated by maths, grammar and literature (p. 327), teachers being
required to be an authoritative master of academic discipline, whilst teaching in a manner,
particularly so as to appear patronizing. As a future educator I would disagree with just using
this teaching method, Do all students benefit from this? In todays classroom it is extremely
diverse with many student having different learning styles that we need to promote each
which is highlighted on the British council website (British Council, 2010) .

It was fascinating to read, that the bible was complied with many debates of religious men
going back and forth defending various merits of the books that compiled the canon. From
further research it is written that the term canon is used to describe the books that are
connected with the bible and not the bible in its entirety. There has been some difficulty in
identifying what books are actually a part of the bible, as the bible itself does not list these
books (Bruce, 1998, p. 17).

From this text, my understanding is that the Liberal-Progressivism in its day was a way
forward, it being linked to the enlightenment further indicates that at this time of the
intellectual European movement seen people starting to think for themselves which is what
the new Junior Cert reform is seeking (NCCA), rather than living solely for traditions people
started to emphasise reason and individualism, from further reading on this key philosophers
that influenced this era have been Rousseau and Kant to name two, as printed in the Stanford
encyclopaedia of philosophy, this also indicates that the Enlightenment was a time in
history that thought and culture, which sparked dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy,
society and politics; these revolutions swept away the medieval world-view and ushered in
our modern western world (Stanford Encyclopedia, 2010). Liberal-Progressivism can be
seen in todays education such as GMITs CCAM campus which offers a liberal humanist
tradition of curriculum, people who are into the arts would attend the like of CCAM as it
would focus on the holistic development of the person and what culture they are interested in,
rather than running through the material of the course compared to teaching through the
material like a teacher. This liberal curriculum would be along the lines of the new Junior
Cycle reform which commenced roll out as of September 2014, which posing learning rather
than teaching to the syllabus, as in this form of curriculum see it more than list of subjects as
Rose Malone highlights throughout chapter three in Brendan Walshs book education
studies in Ireland that people contribute the experience they have gained in their lives and
share these experiences (Walsh, 2011).

Lastly the author looks at Vocational-Modernism in this text, I can relate to this more so than
Classical Humanism and Liberal-Progressivism as Drogheda is or was a large industrial town
with a busy port, it is of similar lines of the massive social transformation that happened in
the mid 1800s where people where educated according to the growth in the economy i.e.
with new jobs arising with the combined use of water, coal and steam power boosted a
growth in factories and mills which feeds the local society.
From further research into Vocational-Modernism in the 19th century, as stated in the
Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy it was J S Mills who built on work of Jeremy Bentham
around the time of the industrial revolution built (2002), it was this philosophy that indicated
who this type of curriculum prepares young people for real life work. This curriculum also
gives people the skills for the 21st century in communication, being able to share knowledge
and make use of new technologies in the school and outside.
As Snedden said in the main text indicating how:

Professional education prepared lawyers, physicians, engineers, teachers, clergy, and

military personnel.
Commercial education prepared bookkeepers, clerks, stenographers, commercial
travellers, and business leaders.
Industrial education prepared bricklayers, machinists, shoemakers, metal workers,
factory hands, and others in higher manufacturing pursuits.
Agricultural education provided skill and knowledge of farming and agriculture
Education in the household arts prepared girls for dressmaking, cooking, and
management of the home (Carr, 1998)

Is this not a sense of promoting social class within local communities??



British Council. (2010, 0 08). Learning styles and teaching. Retrieved from
teaching english:
Bruce, F. F. (1998). The Canon of Scripture . Manchester: Inter-varsity Press.
Retrieved from
Carr, W. (1998). Pedagogy Culture & Society. Curriculum Studies, 323 - 340.
Stanford Encyclopedia. (2010, 08 20). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia:
Walsh, B. (2011). Education Studies in Ireland: the Key Disciplines. Dublin: Gill
& Macmillan Ltd.