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Curriculum Windows: What Curriculum Theorists of the 1990s Can Teach Us About Schools and Society Today

reviewed by Lois Christensen — August 10, 2018

coverTitle: Curriculum Windows: What Curriculum Theorists of the 1990s Can Teach Us About Schools and Society Today
Author(s): Thomas S. Poetter, Kelly Waldrop, Tasneem Amatullah, Cleighton Weiland, & Jody Googins (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681237865, Pages: 239, Year: 2017
Search for book at Amazon.com

Curriculum Windows: What Curriculum Theorists of the 1990s Can Teach Us about Schools and Society Today aims to illuminate paths to reform. The editors of this volume shatter traditional didactic, data-driven, competitive windows through which to view curriculum and splinter theories by “writing themselves into the book” (Poetter, 2013, p. xxxi) of diverse humanistic theories (e.g., Delpit, 2006; Eisner, 1994; Fine, 1991; and hooks, 1994). Poetter’s seminal collection of 1990s curriculum texts serve as a starting point for authors to juxtapose past curriculum models (Tyler, 1949) and critical scholarship (Pinar, 2004), keenly reinterpreting issues related to sexuality, ethnicity, economics, gender, and politics that  influence student learning.

In Chapters One and Two, Frabotta and Weiland rethink controversial topics and flawed theory. Using Eisner (1994) and Freire’s (1970) work, they clarify LGBTQI discourse. Weiland exposes the “horrors of factory floors” (p. 19), describing commercial scripted curricula and restrictive mandates that subjugate educators. Frabotta and Weiland open windows to make traditionally uncomfortable topics (such as sex ed) comfortable.

In Chapter Three, Miller advocates for student accountability, comparing mechanistic theory to implementing curricular connoisseurship (Eisner; 1994) and emphasizing that “Tyler’s (1949) rational-linear approach to curriculum planning has had an immense influence upon the state and federal reporting of successes and failures of public education” (p. 33). In Chapter Four, Nguyen-Horowitz stresses reflective practice, and in Chapter Five, Graham establishes that collaboration transforms learning, validating authentic change through civil deliberation. Chapter Five also describes how Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Jeff Foster facilitated student deliberation about gun issues. In this case, students practiced skills of “deliberation beyond teachers deciding the best course of action” (p. 73).

In Chapter Six, Tasneem Amatullah poses the questions: Why label students as clients? Why stifle teachable moments and student inquiry? Amatullah stresses the need to rid education of consumeristic language and approaches. A discussion of the concept of redistributive classroom power would strengthen Amatullah’s chapter. In Chapter Seven, Jody C. Googins offers a glimpse into Harlem’s Central Park East and contrasts it to Ohio’s Federal Hocking High School. Googins proposes that students flourish by developing “habits of mind” within community schools where all stakeholders participate. In Chapter Eight, Winn dissects access, equality, and student voice through hooks’ (1994) critical work, questioning how educators’ biases can be unshackled through emancipatory practice. In Chapter Nine, Phillips presents obstacles to equal access related to race, class, and gender, and also addresses the assumptions made by privileged white educators. Relating to Winn and Phillips’ chapters, Ngorosha states in Chapter Ten that “true education can and should be emancipating” (p. 145), and that race is a social construction, not a “biological manifestation” (p. 146).

In Chapter Eleven, Shaobing Li explains struggles toward equity that require critical reflection and multicultural education. Citing the valuable lens provided by Maxine Greene (1973), Li advocates for diverging from mechanized education and embracing students’ identities while stressing aesthetics and democratic citizenship.

In Chapter Twelve, Genesis Ross considers how past theory informs the future. Culturally relevant curriculum opposes traditional models. In Chapter Thirteen, Priscilla Tamankag discusses the struggle of Latinx students, lamenting that intersectional realities are “conspicuously missing” (p. 202) from the perspectives of teachers and administrators. Latinx students are often “caught between two languages” (p. 204) trying to choose between school culture and their own.

In Chapter Fourteen, Ellerbe searches for an alternative to the alternatives, contextualizing pedagogy in democratic education (Beane, 1997). She rejects “the boundaries we have created between life and education” (p. 220), arguing that humans are not standard. Curriculum that is “anti-intellectual and dehumanizing” forfeits “creativity and imagination” (p. 221). Ellerbe also argues that traditional curriculum perpetuates institutionalized racism and “forces students to fit into a mold” (p. 231). She therefore proposes integrated curricular content to develop students’ autonomy, social knowledge, and critical thinking.

Curriculum Windows: What Curriculum Theorists of the 1990s Can Teach Us About Schools and Society Today is a call to implement humanistic democratic curricula. The editors argue that transformation requires intentional reflection on hegemonic power and students’ economic station, diversities, gender identification, intersectionalities, and political agendas. Educators can accomplish this by contemplating curriculum through new windows.




Beane, J. A. (1997). Curriculum integration: Designing the core of democratic education. New

York: NY: Teachers College Press.


Delpit, L. (2006). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Eisner, E. W. (1994). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New York, NY: MacMillan.

Fine, M. (1991). Framing dropouts. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Seabury Press.

Greene, M. (1973). Teacher as stranger: Educational philosophy for the modern age. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 10, 2018
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22463, Date Accessed: 8/16/2018 9:39:30 PM

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About the Author
  • Lois Christensen
    University of Alabama at Birmingham
    E-mail Author
    LOIS CHRISTENSEN teaches in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
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