What kinds of controversies exist in curriculum?

At the macro-level, curriculum is a highly political discussion.

For people motivated by gender, race or class identities, how often these groups are portrayed and how they are represented is a major focus of attention.

Of course, there is major social controversy over creationism versus evolutionism in school curriculums.

More subtly, the portrayal of American history and patriotism is a subject of conflict between traditionalists and post-modernists.
More conventionally, there is constant conflict over educational philosophies. Many philosophical battles have been lost. Perennialism is largely dead in American public schools. Post-modernism is largely in contention as a teaching philosophy (as opposed to a filter on what is acceptably included in curriculum) at the collegiate level and above. But a robust battle exists between essentialists and progressivists. The NCLB movement and other sources of pull towards ‘basics’ and tight compliance to standards represent the essentialist argument. Those forces calling for a diversified curriculum including arts, music, PE and a more general, student centered curriculum are the modern heirs of progressivism.

Unfortunately, controversy exists at a very basic level in curriculum as well. It would seem any academic area are with more than one representative group has competing ‘official’ views on what the standards should be and thus what curriculum should contain.

Last, but hardly least, is the 200-plus year old fight about which political entity should control curriculum. Ceeded in the 10th Amendment, the power to regulate education rests constitutionally with the states. But the federal government (see NCLB), the states and the local governments all are in continual strife over who controls education, especially curriculum.

Kauchak, P. & Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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