Saturday, November 12, 2005

27] Curriculum Theory and Postmodern Tools

ON CONELLY AND CLANDIN’S POSTMODERNIST TOOLS FOR CURRICULUM PLANNING

by Azly Rahman

Conelly and Clandin’s Teachers as Curriculum Planners provides perspectives which are not entirely new to teachers involved in Whole Language approach to teaching. Tools such as journal writing, biography, picturing, and document analysis are among those which have been in use in Language Arts in addition to a range of other tools in the domain of creative movement, reading, writing, media, and speaking which are personalistic in nature. Conelly and Clandin essentially tried to contextualize the principles and strategies within the field of emerging curricular practice partially using the rhetoric of postmodernism. Refreshing perhaps is the authors’ Gestalt and transcendental analytic approach to curriculum planning they called “rediscovering of curricular meaning” framed to include the learner, teacher, subject matter and milieu. Whilst William Pinar’s seminal work in the 1970s on reconceptualizing of the curriculum has given us the paradigm shift upon which curriculum is to be made more personalized and whilst William Slattery’s Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era provide the rationale why curriculum need to be looked at from the postmodern context, Conelly and Clandinin’s work detailed the nature of involvement which can be undertaken by the actors ready to re-engineer the curriculum; from the board of directors to the child in the classroom. The strength of the work lies in the comprehensive range of suggestions on how to create an inclusionary and meaningful approach to such a rediscovering which in turn would scaffold learners’ construction of knowledge. It is thus constructivistic in approach permeating all levels – from administrators to learners. I find the idea relevant to our realization of the terms “situated cognition” wherein teachers are also required to define their philosophy and exercise reflective ability so that they and the learners are together subjectivity knowledge; echoing the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran’s idea that “your children are not yours… they come out of you but not of you” and “…children are like arrows of which you are the bow which launch them” and in Socrates’ idea of the innateness of knowledge in the human being. Teachers, in this postmodernist context are ones who live in a shared milieu but do not necessarily claim monopoly to knowledge, for in Arthur C. Clarke’s words, “the future is a different world… they do things differently” and for learners, we are preparing them for a future which in fact is a present consisting of a archived past. Through apprenticeship and guided participation, learners appropriate knowledge, skill and understanding of “situations”, via scaffolds erected by teachers, learning then becomes situated, dynamic, and transformative. Reading the underlying assumptions of Conelly and Clandin’s work, I could sense a strong undercurrent of complexity and chaos theory, anti-foundationalism, subaltern narratives, reflexivity, and futurism as strands. If I could envision the aftermath of a many decades of mass deployment of Conelly and Clandinin’s strategies in all schools, something as such below would develop: State-mandated curriculum would be transformed in character; from a “rock logic” to “water logic” nature in which fluidity in growth and shifting grounds in its parameters will be the feature. Within the disciplines, knowledge will be organic, mutative, and morphic, much more than interdisciplined. An analogy of this organic-mutative-morphic nature of knowledge construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction (the “Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu” nature of things in Hindu philosophy) would be the three-dimensional pattern created out of the Artificial Intelligence – generated patterns derived out of mathematical equations as in the Mandelbrott set manifested within the paradigm of Chaos and Complexity theories. The water logic transformation as such can give birth to Kuhnian paradigm shifts which would be characteristic of integrative, comprehensive, and complex systems based upon the principles of “perpetual transitions”. Since state-mandated curriculum legitimizes the state and hegemonizes over the minds of those schooled (echoing the claims of Theodore Adorno and Antonio Gramsci), decades of “water logic” transformation of bodies of knowledge (especially in the area of “soft ideological sciences” such as social studies and history) can wither the state an pave way for its dissolution, echoing Thomas Kuhn’s idea that paradigms will shift when contradictions can no longer be contained, just as capitalism within a particular nation can no longer carry its own weight and therefore had to transform into imperialism. Such a dissolution and consequently withering away of the postmodern state can then set the stage for peaceful revolutions which can give rise to the leadership of the techo-mystics as such as much dreamed of by Socrates and Plato who saw the beauty of the republic governed by philosopher kings. Perhaps the nature of world politics will change if the most powerful nations on the face of our Spaceship Earth are governed by techno-mystics who will then spread the message of goodwill through the use of technology towards moral ends and through the sharing of creative products in altruistic ways. Wouldn’t there be beauty in looking at a perfect world, one which would be ruled by those who have understood the maxim “I wept when I had no shoes until I saw a man with no feet”? Since the managers of virtue (curriculum implementers, principals, teachers, curriculum committees,) will become decentered and “empowered by being disempowered” by the postmodern possibility of personalistic interpretation of knowledge constructs as well as freedom for the individual to make his/her history to demystify power an to deconstruct invented realities – all these can help create a positive atomization of society as critical, creative, and futuristic, and life-long learning organic entity. Everyone can then find their own meaning to living and truth within themselves and achieve wisdom in their own lifetime. The “McDonaldized” idea of “state-legitimated schooling for economic development and social advancement “ can be transformed into the notion of learning as living and living as learning “ with the “truth always out there, within, and everywhere” Perhaps the notion of “TRUST NO IDEOLOGY” (with the greatest apologies to The makers of X-Files!) can be the dominant idea of the age. Such comments above thus reflect the link between the ideas proposed in Conelley and Clandinin’s work and the possibilities which can emerge if we look at these from a speculative philosophical and futuristic perspectives. I have provided a scenario based upon the principles of futurism (trend analysis/scenario-building) of which ideas when extrapolated as such can perhaps predict changes. Just as the postmodern perspective can provide us with tools to critically analyze modernity and modernism, Connelly’s and Clandinin’s suggestions which are postmodern in character can provide educators with the means to build scenarios of living, learning, and creating which must be made more and more humane. The idea of growth then, can be looked at not necessarily as one spiraling upwards and acquiring more and materials in the process but to grow would then mean, to live, to simply live, and to continually ask the ontological, epistemological, and axiological questions of living. In short, to reflect upon Kung Fu Tze; we may then continue to live with questions and to ask ones which are simple. For, aren’t the simplest questions the most profound?

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Born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru; holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication; pursuing fifth, MFA in Creative Writing; has taught more than 50 courses in six different departments; written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia; teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spanning over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education; has edited and authored seven books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia's GE-13 (2013), a first Malay publication Kalimah Allah Milik Siapa?: Renungan dan Nukilan Tentang Malaysia di Era Pancaroba (2014), Controlled Chaos: Essays on Mahathirism, Multimedia Super Corridor and Malaysia's 'New Politics' (2014), One Malaysia under God, Bipolar (2015); resides in the United States teaching courses in Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Political Science, and American Studies.