Traditional Theory versus Experiential Curriculum: An Open Challenge
Adopting the Traditional Theory posited by theorists such as E.D. Hirsch and Bennett (as cited in Posner, 2004) I would like to challenge my colleagues to recognize that there is a set of pre-determined skills that every child should learn. This is in direct conflict with the Experiential Curriculum Theory and specifically one of Dewey’s major assertions (Posner, 2004).
Contrary to the Experiential approach that, “…assumes that the curriculum is more or less the same as the very process of living and that no two individuals can or should live precisely the same lives” (Posner, 2004. p. 48). Traditionalists recognize that there are critical knowledge, basic skills, and societal ideals that provide a society with the very backbone needed to survive. An example of the importance of this aspect can be understood by conducting a simple review of history. In each societal existence there remains a common need for members of the society to understand and adhere to basic principles set by the greater society for the safety and growth of the groups existence. While these basic principles have changed over time as societies have evolved, we exist now in a society that places a strong emphasis on basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. If those basic skills are not taught by teachers or learned by students within the society, society would find itself lacking in potential for increasing individual and societal growth.
We must not view these needs for critical knowledge as limiting. They are the building blocks from which creativity stems. Further, command of fundamental knowledge facilitates acquisition and engagement in higher order thinking. Thus, regardless of the negative connotation of teaching students to mastery in basic skills [reading, math, and writing] these skills provide the very foundation of knowledge needed to advance learning.
How does society gain from reducing education of its youth to the whims of what the youth is interested in rather than that what the greater society has determined as important. It is only through the manipulation of norms that we have the potential to be creative. There is no chicken and egg discussion – there is no deviation from the norm without the existence of a norm to manipulate.
Posner, G.J. (2004). Analyzing the curriculum (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.