Influences on the School Curriculum - A Head's View

John Anderson
1981, Vol. 14, No. 1,

Abstract


The influences on the school curriculum have increased, are increasing - and ought to be increased further. No school is an island entire of iiself; too many try to be.

THE SHELL OF RECEIVED OPINION. Figure one shows the shell of received opinion which surrounds and constricts the school's curriculum. Schools are usually envisaged as places where the culture and knowledge of the past is transmitted in traditional ways to those who will live in the future. This 'received opinion' says that exams are vital; and yet many jobs at 16 are offered before exam results are known. The purpose of education is held to be to enable pupils to get a respectable job; and yet Agriculture, Music, Art and Design are held in low esteem by parents, despite being among the most job~pecific subjects. Received opinion encourages us in 'the happiest days of our life' syndrome. In 'Titbits' recently, a letter appeared from a man of about 45 who every now and again puts on his school cap of thirty years before and then 'smells' the stationery cupboard and the workshop, those happy aromas of by-gone days. This syndrome leads to the belief that although society is changing, schools should stay as they were and uphold traditIOnal values by traditional methods; unfortunately most schools do not even enforce cap-wearing now. It is a received view that a 'grammar' school is 'per se' 'good'; the fact that the word now applies to independent schools, selective schools and non~elective schools and is therefore meaningless escapes notice. A curriculum is done in a school, it is said; the school is regarded as having a custodial function from about 0900 to about 1600. Schools that work longer hours but finish early in the afternoon are unpopular. Neighbours of our school were afraid that our pupils were 'casing the joint' when they were out on a housing survey. A last facet of a received opinion that is important relates to the financing of schools: 98%of the day-to-day running costs go on salaries; 2%on materials for learning. Any industry so resourced would go bankrupt. Of all subjects, Design suffers most by this.


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