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Curriculum Development: Theory into Practice, 2nd ed.

reviewed by Murry R. Nelson - 1982

coverTitle: Curriculum Development: Theory into Practice, 2nd ed.
Author(s): Daniel Tanner, Laurel Tanner
Publisher: Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs
ISBN: 0024189316, Pages: 746, Year: 1995
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 “Has the field of curriculum emerged in a paradigmatic form?” ask the Tanners in the preface to the second edition of their Curriculum Development. Judging by the sheer weight of the volume the answer would seem to be yes, but that requires qualification.

The omissions in Curriculum Development are as intriguing as the paradigms that are formulated. Nevertheless, I feel that this book is the finest work to examine curriculum as a field of study. As Hollis Caswell notes in his “Forward to the Second Edition,”

It is a wide-ranging book that should prove especially useful to serious, rigorous students who wish to help in formulating their own thoughtful conception of the curriculum field with its many problems and issues and a theory that seems to them to provide a consistent approach to the varied tasks of curriculum development. It will also be found helpful by mature scholars in reviewing and reappraising the theories that they accept. (p. xi)

The Tanners draw models and paradigms from the social and physical sciences, reinforcing those ideas throughout the sixteen chapters. The book is divided into four parts, “The Search for Rationale,” “The New Reformation—Science and Sentiment,” “Crosscurrents in Curriculum Reform and Reconstruction,” and “Improving the Curriculum.” The first two are the more useful and interesting.

In Part I, myriad definitions of curriculum are offered. The authors have offered many concepts of curriculum, and its slipperiness is reminiscent of Kroeber and Kluckhohn’s classic work, Culture, which discusses over 200 definitions of culture. The Tanners examine many of the definitions of curriculum, then propose what they call a working definition.

Chapter 4 provides excellent critique and commentary of conflicting educational theories and their relation to curriculum. The authors are thorough as they trace each “vision” of education historically, but their obvious Deweyan point of view often detracts from their objectivity. I am not faulting the authors’ faith in Dewey; what is sometimes unsettling is their apparent feeling that only their interpretation of Dewey is correct. For example, in briefly discussing Elliot Eisner’s The Educational Imagination, they note:

Eisner goes on to conclude that Franklin Bobbitt’s curriculum work in activity analysis stemmed from the traditional established by Dewey and Thorndike. How Dewey can be so linked with Thorndike and Bobbitt, when he clearly and repeatedly criticized the mechanistic approaches developed by these men is indeed puzzling.

In Part II, curriculum is traced historically in the United States from the common school to what they call radical revisionist historians, although the latter usually do not speak for themselves. Rather, interpretive, critical, secondary sources are used to examine the revisionist perspective.

There are sections (in the first two parts particularly) where redundancy and verbosity are common. These are certainly not fatal flaws since wading through the verbiage usually results in a rewarding insight and a respect for the scholarship of the authors.

Each chapter ends with excellent problem questions for study and discussion. These questions are of a high conceptual order and strive to get students to really see how the field of curriculum fits with education and society in general.

The Tanners have carried on a sniping discourse, of sorts, with Professor William Pinar of the University of Rochester. Pinar is the most highly recognized figure of a group that call themselves curriculum reconceptualists. The Tanners have seen this group as offering no substantive contributions to curriculum and thus fail to even mention them in their book. It seems odd that in a book as comprehensive as this no mention of Pinar, Thomas Popkewitz, Madeline Grumet, Michael Apple, or Henry Giroux would be found.

Also surprisingly ignored is the work of Elliot Eisner and his colleagues and former students at Stanford. Eisner’s notions of educational connoisseurship and educational criticism are not presented, which I find a serious omission. These scholars seek to broaden the idea of curriculum evaluation, and their inclusion would strengthen what the Tanners have offered. Part of this deficiency is a matter of definition and taste. The authors of this volume hold a much different view of curriculum evaluation from that of Eisner and thus their chapter “Evaluation for Curriculum Improvement,” though comprehensive, does not consider the more artistic notion of evaluation. Rather, they focus on what is and what has been, not what might be.

This is indicative of Curriculum Development as a whole. The authors have dug deep and present a view of curriculum that is certainly the most historically comprehensive examination in any one volume. The material is solidly researched, painstakingly developed, and thorough, but it looks to what is and generally ignores predictions or hopes for the future. This is not to imply that their research does not include the most recent research on curriculum; generally it does. Nevertheless, even when the Tanners discuss the future, it is with both feet solidly on the ground. They do not soar into futurism, a term not even indexed in Curriculum Development.

Much of this is again a matter of taste. The Tanners were instrumental in the formation of the Society for the Study of Curriculum History and their respected scholarship in the area reflects a belief that the future of curriculum lies in a much more thorough understanding of past curriculum efforts. I embrace those views also, but am not about to declare that there is nothing new under the “curriculum sun,” as the Tanners seem to imply. Despite all this I can think of no better volume to give a scholar who seeks to better understand the roots, shaping, and disputes of curriculum.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 83 Number 4, 1982, p. 649-651
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 770, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 6:05:48 PM

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