Curriculum Theorizing: Everybody Hates an Ivory Tower

Ivory Tower

The Ivory Tower

Work with me here. I have no idea how I will capture these thoughts in words, at least that make sense. I can start only with a deeply felt sense that I am in trouble.

At almost the midpoint of this semester course in curriculum theorizing, all of the following are true:

  1. If you were to ask me for a flat-out definition of curriculum theory since the reconceptualization of the field, I would draw a blank.
  2. If you were a classroom teacher in a school threatened with closure for failing to make AYP and you asked me how curriculum theory could help you, I would have no immediate answer. (A gut feeling, maybe. But nothing I could put into words.)
  3. If you were one of my M.A. students and told me to forget all that abstract stuff, why won’t I just tell you how to teach, I would have some answers. But they wouldn’t be directly about theorizing curriculum. They’d be arguments for the necessity of establishing a philosophical foundation for one’s pedagogy, a touchstone for reflective practice that would give you a shot at staying sane in a field gone mad with regimentation and intimidation.

In that my esteemed & beloved doctoral advisor has been and continues to be a key force in the development of the reconceptualized field, you can see how the above might be problematic.

It’s not that I don’t want to understand, be able to engage in professional discourse (i.e., not sound like an idiot). It is either that I have been so firmly entrenched in the Tyler Rationale that I will need to be dynamited out of that, or that my tendency to resist (& desire to subvert– in a friendly way, of course ;-))  institutional conventions makes me a genetic reconceptualizer.

Here are questions I have scrawled in the margins of one of the readings for tonight’s class:

–What are the possibilities of bridging theory & practice in this moment in time/history?

–What is the value of theorizing in a field under siege?

–How do I frame the process of theorizing curriculum in a way that will persuade anyone to do some thinking with me?

It’s possible these are not the best questions, but they are where I am starting right now. My assignment to myself: write some answers to these by next week. Or come up with different questions. Make that and.

Mapping Curriculum Theory

Mapping Curriculum Theory


AttributionNoncommercialShare AlikeThe Ivory Tower” © 2008 lobotomy 42 Used via: Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For a closer view of the map, above, keep double-clicking on the image.

2 responses to “Curriculum Theorizing: Everybody Hates an Ivory Tower”

  1. Steven says:

    Hi Karen, I love the blog. I wish to use your map of the field on a poster I am preparing for a conference and am seeking your permission and format for attribution. Thanks.

    • Karen says:


      Thanks so much. Are you a curriculum person? What’s the conference? (Oh, so many questions. 🙂 )

      I’m not sure what to say in terms of format for attribution. If it’s an academic conference, wouldn’t you just use APA, citing the blog?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.