Printer Friendly



The Romanian education system, as part of a broader national social system, has been affected by changes caused by globalisation on the one hand and by Romania's accession to the EU on the other. More than at any time in the past, education is now regarded as part of a future career and not as a means towards exploring the real world or towards self-discovery.

Economic changes in Romania, seen above all in the process by which the old centrally planned economy has been de-industrialised, have led over time to a recognition of the importance of other sectors of economic activity, such as IT, agriculture and medicine, which have all become prominent in recent years. Against this background of change, new career orientations have arisen, and this has led, in the collective mentality and especially among young people, to hasty decisions and even to the making of relative value judgments about profiles and specialisations, driven by immediate economic needs or, frequently, influenced by the fashion of the moment.

The earliest decisions are taken upon entry to high school, where both technical and academic courses of study are on offer. Although the technical option has been enjoying something of a revival in recent years, the majority of good pupils aim for academic high schools. Here they have most recently been opting for the maths and science profile, since the prospect of working in the higher-level technical field carries more weight in their minds than individual aptitudes or wishes. The consequence is premature overspecialisation on the part of the young person, who justifies his choice via such cliches as "The maths and science profile gives you more possible career openings" and "It's easier in the humanities profile than in the maths and science one". Attitudes of this kind are not unique to Romania; one reason for them is awareness of a high level of unemployment among people with an academic education in many countries in Europe, above all in the humanities specialisms, particularly in Greece, Spain and Italy. Despite this situation, the underlying issue is people's tendency to make categorical distinctions of the maths/science versus humanities type; this is becoming increasingly apparent in the form of an antagonism that in fact is simply the result of current economic circumstances.

It is the way this phenomenon began that gives our study its raison d'etre. My wish is to grasp the context of this much-debated issue - one that has passed through many phases both of cooperation and of divorce between research that was incorrectly regarded as being either exclusively maths/science or humanities-based in nature, and that has involved a range of understandings, and has manifested itself in different ways.


The approach adopted in this article springs from the fact that in order to reach an understanding of the education system we need to look at the way paradigms of the curriculum have changed over time. The intention is to study, step by step, the various changes in curricular paradigms that have taken place from antiquity up to the postmodern era. The current absence of a generally accepted academic paradigm, even for any individual academic discipline, discourages one from including the contemporary situation in the analysis; the present state of affairs is dominated by hyper-reality, by well or less well-founded challenges being levelled against academic research projects, against the background of a relativisation of classic research methods. We will also be searching for the roots of the way the science/humanities antagonism is currently understood--an antagonism that can lead to wrong choices being made about educational paths, both in terms of decision-making agents in the education system and in terms of choices made by the beneficiaries of the education system, that is, pupils and their parents. This study is in fact a part of a wider-ranging research project looking at the pre-university education system in Romania; that study will also include an element of qualitative analysis in which the science/humanities divide will be investigated at pupil level.

We will present changes in the curriculum in their chronological sequence but also in their spatial context, highlighting the curricular divide that appeared and deepened over time, but also focusing on periods when harmony was achieved between those championing different kinds of curriculum. One such period is observable at present, as a result of the increasing influence of the EU.

Assessments of curriculum change are complex and oriented towards different fields of action, depending on the aim in view. The present work will set out to give a definition of the curriculum that matches the purpose of this analysis, followed by an explanation of those episodes in political history that have generated different ways of approaching universal knowledge.

Work on sources has involved gathering a large quantity of information, given the many and diverse existing studies of this major field of curriculum change. We have employed methods of investigation that are specific to historical geography, in which time is directly correlated with space in the occurrence of a phenomenon. There has also be an attempt to contextualise the phenomenon being studied, caused as it is by human players acting under the influence of religious divides and also the way these have manifested themselves as forces operating at a given moment--a kind of investigation that belongs uniquely to political geography.

My assessment traces the influence of such key figures as Jan Amos Komensky, Franklin Bobbitt, Ralph Winifred Tyler, Benjamin Bloom, Joseph J. Schwab and William Pinar, among others, in the process of identifying changes in the academic paradigm. The article is also indebted to the more recent research work of I. Negre?-Dobridor (2008), C. Braslavsky (2001), and G. Prodan, P. Jonnaert and G. Therriault (2013), who have traced the historical dimension of the phenomenon.


One way of investigating the concepts and terminology used in the realm of education--the method followed in the present article--is by employing the term "paradigm", as suggested by Thomas Kuhn: "In the sense in which it is normally understood, a paradigm is an accepted model or framework; this meaning of the word has made it possible for me, in the absence of any better term, to adopt, as far as it goes, "paradigm". The word paradigm qualifies for this role "because it succeeds, better than its rivals, in resolving some of the issues that are regarded by the practitioner community as acute". To put the matter more clearly, it holds out " a promise of success revealed by certain examples that are privileged in nature and as yet incomplete" (T. Kuhn, 2006, p.72).

The members of any academic community conform to a particular research tradition by proceeding in accordance with a set of rules and principles that have been assimilated via a process of linear development from specific research findings. Since the representatives of a paradigm are formed within it and acknowledge the same traditions, it is not possible for disagreements of substance relating to fundamental issues in the field to arise between them. Academic research does also take place outside these paradigms, but the adoption of a paradigm is a mark of an academic discipline reaching maturity.

Thus, in the words of A. Bryman, what we understand by a paradigm is "a group of convictions and givens that, for specialists working in a particular discipline, influence what should be studied, how the research should be carried out, how the results should be interpreted, etc." (Bryman, 1988, p. 4).

Paradigm shifts are extremely rare and occur within broader socio-cultural contexts, as a rule following events that shape the course of history, natural or social disasters, major scientific discoveries, etc., - events that are turning-points for society as a whole. In the case of the curriculum, we see that such paradigm shifts have occurred, and in the current period this has been due, to a major extent, to globalisation and technological advances. Routine analyses that formerly consumed time and energy are now facilitated, and in effect taken care of, by new technology, which leaves both time and liberty for scientific creativity.

The realm of education has experienced many polemical struggles between educators advancing the views of different specific schools of thought, with representatives of the social and human sciences battling against champions of the exact sciences. We thus find ourselves even looking at several different ways of classifying disciplines and ways of understanding one and the same scientific paradigm. There is however a greater degree of consensus in the ranks of those studying the natural sciences than among social scientists.

The explanation lies both in the nature of research in the social and human fields - highly complex, since man himself is the chief subject of study - and in the significant change that has taken place between antiquity and the present in terms of how distinctions between the disciplines are made. A concise account of this break in continuity will help to elucidate a number of changes that are relevant to the present article.

Use of the term "curriculum" can cause problems and even create confusion, if it is not very clearly defined in the context of some specific piece of academic research. Even an investigation of how the term has been used through history may be of no help, since to this very day it has not received a dictionary type definition that has been even partially accepted.

The etymology of the word (in Latin "curriculum" means a short run) evokes a great range of meanings, which ultimately converge on "the programme of educational/school activity in its entirety and functioning, which takes concrete form in teaching plans, school programmes, school textbooks, guidebooks to methodology (...) that lead to the realisation of objectives", and to the formation of human personality in general and that of the pupil in particular "in accordance with the purposes of education" (Romanian Dictionary of Pedagogy, 1979, p.111).

David Hamilton believes that the earliest pedagogical use of the term curriculum dates back to the period before the Enlightenment, around the late 16th and the early 17th century, and occurred in continental Europe. In his view, the first written attestations in a pedagogical context come from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands (1582) and from Glasgow University (Scotland) in 1633. The explanation is to be found both in the Protestant Reformation's drive to standardise university studies and in a need on the part of governments to control education (in Baker and Hamilton et al., 2009).

American historians believe the idea of curriculum to be an American invention, not as regards its etymology (which is clearly Latin) but in view of the publication in 1828 of the celebrated Yale Report On the Defense of the Classics, which they claim marked the first time in history that the age-old practice of planning courses of study was made into a science. There was indeed a shift of emphasis from study materials to mental capacities - a principle of pedagogical practice that spread throughout the American education system. In terms of disciplines studied, the shift was mainly in the direction of classical subjects, and a whole language-based concept of the future of the curriculum was advanced--one that proposed a return to study materials that were classical and somehow European in nature. It is noteworthy that this was one of the few occasions on which a change in the American school curriculum was not in the direction of practical and economically relevant content. The overemphasis on language study produced by this new curriculum gave rise to a wave of criticism that culminated in 1902 with John Dewey's protest in The Child and the Curriculum, a pamphlet that gave birth to the science of the modern curriculum. Dewey is nowadays universally recognised as the first person to have used the term in a concrete sense when speaking about education; his contribution will be described below, in the part of the article dealing with the history of the term. Something that stands out here is the Protestant pragmatism, equally Northern European and American, shown in the concise definition of terminology - a pragmatism that was to be encountered again in the course of the history of the curriculum and in factors influencing types and systems of education.

We can, however, discern two broad perspectives in relation to how the term was used: curriculum as paradigm, as a model for handling pedagogy with reference to curriculum theory, and curriculum as a specific pedagogical project, focused on the structural components and contexts of learning.

The first of these perspectives, the theoretical one, can be seen as covering a number of approaches: curriculum theory as a version or part of a general theory of teaching, an approach accepted by German theorists; a theory that equates it with pedagogy, so that it in fact takes over all the issues raised by the latter subject, with a focus on psychological aspects--a theory widespread in the US but not universally accepted there; a curricular theory emphasising the importance of system (school reform viewed as curricular reform), but also of process (teaching plans, school programmes and textbooks), a theory accepted and followed in many parts of the world, including in Romania.

The second perspective, curriculum as a higher-level pedagogical project (in the sense of foregrounding planning), involves highlighting specific characteristics in relation to the context within which achievement is planned. From this point of view, the emphasis is placed on ultimate aims (of system, in the form of educational ideals, of process, in the form of specific objectives), which are expressed school by school in terms of a harmonious balance between pupils' psychological needs (expressed as competences) and the needs of society (basic content imparted at school). This perspective is understood and generally accepted by teachers, the practitioners in the learning process, but undergoes constant change due to both objective (patterns of implementation imposed by society, time and human resources constraints) and subjective (patterns of implementation initiated by teachers) factors.

The present study focuses on the first of these perspectives, viewed in chronological and historical terms, tracing changes that have taken place in the story of the human race in its never-ending pursuit of the educational ideal, subject in its turn to space-time conditioning. School reforms involving the modification of curriculum plans and school programmes, with the consequent implications for the actors in the education process, pupils and teachers, will be dealt with separately in relation to the decentralisation of education in Romania. The second perspective will not be dealt with in this article, except to the extent to which changes brought about by objective factors are reflected in pupils' ease of access at one level of education or another.

We should also note that the employment of the term "educational curriculum" covers two meanings:

1. In a restrictive sense, it means the information that has to be memorised by pupils, their intellectual capacities (understanding, skills, abilities) and capacity to make good use of this information.

2. In an extensive sense, and this is a dominant feature in modern pedagogy, the educational curriculum signifies all the components of the learning process.

According to the educational expert I. Dobridor, "the curriculum is an anthropological constant, as is education, and not merely a transitory preoccupation whose scope is limited to economic interests, professional needs or cultural aspirations. In brief, it is the multilateral art of forming the destiny of and then actualising human personality. It has existed--in tacit and implicit forms--since time immemorial and is as old as education itself. From the twentieth century onwards, explicit curricula--pre-modern, modern, postmodern and ultramodern--have begun to make their appearance" (Dobridor, 2008, p.40).


European and even transatlantic culture owe almost everything to the enormous achievements of Greek culture, which survived both Roman domination and subsequent political schisms in human history. It was no coincidence that the Greeks were the only conquered foes whom the Romans did not call barbarians; rather, they appropriated and even assimilated their culture. Thus, although humanity's constant evocation of the Greeks' supreme curriculum for human perfection may appear extraordinary, it should rather be seen as natural, since the complete, rounded Greek curriculum placed man in the centre of education; education was meant to take place as something lifelong, as a series of biological stages were matched with their cognitive correspondents, right up to preparation for death. This curriculum par excellence, this enkyklios paideia, brought to perfection curricular quests that dated from the dawn of antiquity, from Socrates to the school of Plato and of Aristotle, the disciple of the great master, who closed the circle by devising a first rational curriculum that brought together the first examples of rational reasoning with the rhetoric so dear to antiquity.

The term enkyklios paideia derives from the words enkyklios (circular, necessary, regular) and paideia (education, connected with childrearing). Its meaning is far more profound, and in Renaissance times it was translated by copyists of Latin manuscripts as a single compound word, encyclopaedia. In its broad, present-day sense, the term signifies complete, lifelong learning, a curriculum vitae, as a supreme model for education. It was this approach to education that allowed Greek culture to survive the barbarian invasions, since the curriculum was handed down from one generation to another of Greeks as the one and only way they could safeguard their nobility and superiority.

The common core of this first curriculum was made up of the trivium, the three literary arts (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic) and the quadrivium, the four mathematical disciplines (geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and musical theory). The common element that bound this first curriculum together was the constant striving of the educators of those times to attain the sole aim in view, namely moral living. Whether they were teaching rhetoric or arithmetic, the Greek educators took account of the curriculum and applied it to the age specifics of those in their charge, even making use of the stories of the legendary Olympian gods and Homeric heroes in their approach to developing understanding, despite all the problems posed by having to give explanations based on what could be learned from these characters. The Greek educational ideal aspired to in enkyklios paideia was designed to form well-rounded human beings, a desideratum grasped only much later in Western European culture, when it laid the foundations for what we now call humanism. For the Greeks, the disciplines of the quadrivium blended in a harmonious way with those of the trivium in the quest to form the perfectly accomplished man. Sadly, this is the only known time in the history of the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of science when the disciplines studied made up a unitary and harmonious whole rather than adopting antagonistic positions--science versus arts. The antagonism that succeeded the Greek period is still seen today in the pseudo-divide between maths/science and the humanities.

Greek paideia survived until the fourth century AD but was increasingly deprived of its principal component, philosophy, which had originally closed the circle of knowledge. The sciences of arithmetic, music and geometry were gradually abandoned as the clerical class of the time limited their intellectual nourishment to that derived from literary studies. Soon even what remained of that education designed to produce the whole man was to be dealt a cruel blow by Christianity. In 525, a highly complex political situation left the Emperor Justinian with no choice but to order the closing of the School of Athens. The barbarian invasions that were in full flow at that point led to the literate groups becoming isolated, since the curriculum no longer represented a qualification for being part of the ruling class and no longer formed part of an official government policy. This led to the rise of Christian asceticism, the so-called monastic solution, in which the solitary life was a sine qua non for attaining Christlike spirituality. It was against this background that various rules and canons made their appearance, each with their strictures laid down by the Christian scribes of the time. Examples would be the Benedictine and Nestorian rules, which dominated education up until the year 1000, particularly in the monasteries. Here we are dealing with a curriculum of a regula monachorum kind.

When political interests felt a need to invoke the support of religion, as a tool of government, a church-based education system took almost over the Europe. The person who made this development possible was a prince of barbarian ancestry who dreamed of reconstructing the Roman Empire. We are speaking of Charlemagne. A rigorous and rigid curriculum, the seven liberal arts, septem artes liberales, was therefore imposed on everyone. It was not humanist and Greek in nature but ecclesiastical. Its Christianised liberal arts left their mark on the subsequent development of European culture and civilisation--a mark that we are conscious of even today in the form of the chasm between those educated in maths/science and those with a humanities background. The need to train experts, that is, priests, for government service imposed a clear differentiation and even straight discrimination between the trivium and the quadrivium, which led to what Snow was to describe in the 1950s as the "cultural divide/chasm" (Dobridor, 2008, p.122). As a consequence, humanistic culture became separated from maths/science culture, as seen in the appearance of differences of substance between the humanist Florentine Academy and the maths/science School of Padua.

Alcuin of York, the product of an established pedagogical centre influenced by the Rule of Benedict, played a strategic role at the court of Charlemagne. His achievement, the setting-up of a rigorous study programme at that court, was taken up enthusiastically by his followers and disciples and made general throughout the Holy Roman Empire. This curriculum, the foundations of which had been laid at the imperial court, was known as the 'palatine school' and was based only on the disciplines that formed part of the trivium. The maths/science disciplines were effectively ignored and derived no benefit from the Carolingian educational impulse.

This policy thus made official the first curricular divide that was to dominate the whole of the Middle Ages, shaping the pre-Renaissance period during which the ancient world was rediscovered in a new and compulsorily Christianised form.

For a millennium, the Middle Ages, far less dark than they are currently perceived to have been by our modern Renaissance men, maintained an antagonism between Revealed Truth and Discovered Truth. Science, being regarded as pagan, was harshly repudiated by Christians. Despite this, some learned Christians, first in the East--the Scholastic Fathers --grasped the potential value of Aristotle's Logica for the Christian church. Thus philosophy was received back into the curriculum of the Christian world, not as an empress of Antiquity but as subordinate to theology. The rediscovery of Greek culture in the West owed a notable debt to the honest and painstaking contribution of the Arabs.

These changes came about not by chance but against the background of political and religious stirrings. The failure of the Crusades, the phenomenon of Protestantism and its consequent separation from the Catholic Church, the collapse of a conservative medieval world - all these factors led to a rethinking of the principles that had held sway in Europe for a thousand years. Against a background of violence, with wars of religion waged between Christians, a number of clear voices were heard calling for the setting-right of human affairs through reforms both political and religious. This action group was represented by the so-called Illuminati. It is to this period that we owe the rediscovery of the Greek curriculum, to a fuller extent than during the Renaissance, and credit is due above all to the labours of a savant who saw beyond his own times: Jan Amos Komensky, known as Comenius. A true Illuminat, capable of seeing far beyond the struggle between science and religion, he proposed, through education, a way of achieving a Europe-wide cultural reconciliation. Putting all his confidence in education, he warned that this was the last chance to save a Christian Europe that was being choked to death by conflicts between Christians. He called his solution pansophia, a clear reference to Greek paideia. Comenius was influenced by the ideas of his time and is very likely to have belongedto the Rosicrucian movement, which had set itself goals that were unattainable at that time: universal educational reform and European unification. The ideas of Rosicrucianism were similar to those of Bacon in their emphasis on experimental science, the missing link in the chain of knowledge in the late Middle Ages. It was in this context that Comenius wrote his famous Didactica Magna (1634-36), the work that has rightly earned him the title of "the father of pedagogy". This represents the last attempt in European history to restore a curriculum that was rounded and comprehensive.

"For curriculum theory in general, the whole of Comenius's oeuvre is significant, but the truly revolutionary ideas that could have laid the foundation of a universal curriculum fit to avert the Euro-Atlantic cultural divide are to be found in this work that was sidelined and became known far too late" (Dobridor, 2008, p.134).

This comprehensive curriculum was worked out in theoretical terms but could not be put into practice; it was abandoned for political reasons, both by the neo-Freemason movement (speculative Freemasonry was gaining ground at the expense of the practicant branch) and by their like-minded brethren in the newly-founded Royal Society in England. Comenius' masterpiece was the Consultatio catholica, which could have revolutionised the European spirit and enforced (through a process of bonding) a re-laying of the foundations of European culture by means of a happy symbiosis between revelation and scientific research, but what actually happened was a schism between the two. All the same, Comenius, this spirit of genius who came on the scene at the close of the Renaissance, had so profound an influence that he is today one of the symbols of the European Union, present everywhere in the realm of education both as a symbol and in terms of good practice. It may be that education in Europe, in the new context in which it has been liberated from the burden of the political and of schools that are nationalist in origin (naturally so, at a given time in history), will be able to set this spirit free from its centuries of imprisonment. If this could happen, then, at least at the level of higher education, the common denominator could be the quest for truth, as it was at the dawn of the Renaissance or--and why not?--for the moral purpose pursued by long-gone but much-aspired to Greece.

With the coming of the French Revolution, in the schools of the Enlightenment, education was separated from the Church. Holy Scripture was replaced by the revealed truth expressed in the all-inclusive Encyclopaedia. The curriculum continued to have a structure that corresponded to the septem artes liberales, but the religious purpose that had given them their unity, at least as philosophy in the service of theology, with all its minuses, was abandoned, and thus there was a sharp separation between the humanist curricula (centred on the disciplines that belonged to the trivium) and the maths/science curricula (which developed the disciplines covered by the quadrivium). We therefore witness a second bifurcation in the curriculum, which occurred first in French secondary education with its literature and arts high schools and science high schools. Nevertheless, despite this laicisation of education, France did not give up its Carolingian traditions, but this delimitation did not have a profound impact on the possibility of a rounded, comprehensive curriculum. The situation was different in Protestant Europe and in particular on the other side of the Atlantic, where Freemason states, dazzled by the Enlightenment but forgetting the Illuminati, for the first time in modern history made education subordinate to national policies through a process of rationalisation and through the Protestant work ethic, both later given their theoretical foundation by Max Weber. This led to a second bifurcation in the curriculum, with the rise of craft schools known as vocational schools (arbeitschule). These had their origin in the old craft guilds and trade associations and were practical in their orientation. They excluded disciplines that they regarded as merely sources of information, with the consequence that the septem artes liberales in effect disappeared from programmes of study. Thus perished such educational ideals as Pico della Mirandola's l'uomo universale and Comenius' attempt to bring reconciliation via pansophia. The wound opened up by the wars of religion was deepened, and the cultural chasm between the south of Europe and the Protestant north widened. This chasm has persisted, in one form or another, up to the present day, although the "new Rome" is now to be found, geographically speaking, in the north-west. We should not fail to mention the efforts made much later in Germany to reconcile art with work via architecture and the Bauhaus movement, but the harm was already done.

These Enlightenment approaches to the curriculum mark the gradual passage towards the modern age, in which curriculum content was for the first time described in explicit terms. It is in this period too that the foundations of the scientific theory of the curriculum were laid.

The modern period in the history and culture of European civilisation began before the modern period in pedagogy; we can only speak of the latter during the twentieth century. A number of successive stages may be distinguished:

a. The pre-modern period lasted from around 1902, the year in which Dewey's The Child and the Curriculum was published, although some writers place its beginning later, until 1918, when Bobbitt formulated the first principles of the curriculum in his The Curriculum. This was the period of great industrial expansion, especially in the Euroatlantic region, and this had its related impact on educational policies. The factory became the centre of life and efficiency, productivity and rationalisation the supreme truths. A graduate was thus regarded, in this period, as a product of education. All the premodern models of the curriculum that date from this time draw their inspiration from Taylor's model, at the core of which lie the objectives of productivity and efficiency. Their aims are purely economic in nature. Taylor gave a systematic summary of his economic thinking in The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). The reasoning involved in these theories goes so far as to assert that everything that is useful is also good (money included) and that experience is the sure way to the truth. This was the era of the first and the winner, motifs that represented

the common denominator for so many American citizens of different cultural backgrounds. This way of thinking was exported all over the world via the factory, the symbol of mass production. The first major world crisis (Great Depression), both economic and social in nature, slowed down the advance, and this drive towards an efficient society was weakened. Sadly, this approach also spread to the then Communist countries, but at a very late stage and when it was already exhausted in the areas where it had originated. In Romania, paradoxically, this model of social organisation is still taken seriously by a part of the population, and the wish to form citizens on the model of the American middle man is part of the country's public policy (although Romania's accession to the EU has somewhat moderated this reigning sentiment).

In 1918 the US National Education Association pronounced its judgment that vocational education must be directed towards meeting practical needs.

The article that stirred up this premodern wave of pedagogical practice was J. F. Bobbitt's "The Elimination of Waste in Education", which appeared in Elementary School Teacher in 1912. Bobbitt's watchword was efficiency, and the fundamental idea was that pupils needed to be prepared not for school but for adult life. According to this hard-bitten approach, schools would be managed like a commercial enterprise that needed to function cost-effectively. Sad to say, this focus on outcomes, the use of the expression product of education, and the efforts to make schools pay their way through the employment of the concept of cost per pupil are current realities in the pre-university education system in Romania--a situation that would have turned those American modernists of a hundred years ago green with envy.

In 1924 Bobbitt published How to Make a Curriculum, which he hoped would show how to put Taylor's principles into practice.

b.The modern stage began after the Second World War and ended at the close of the 1980s, when the first postmodern challenges to it arose. The pragmatism of the premodern period was preserved, but in a new form. Advances in psychology were exploited in the form of motivational techniques and through the use of feedback. While the premodern period was one of mechanisation, of making use of and exploiting man's physical and motor resources, the modern era was more subtle in that it exploited human cognitive resources. Performance aims were now no longer expressed in terms of economic efficiency but rather in terms of human efficiency. Against this more democratic background of making the most of each human being, educators attempted to introduce into schools the new economic model of management by man, leading to a more nuanced way of treating pupils. Schools, particularly those for older pupils, thus set themselves the aim of turning out specialists and professionals in fulfilment of the mantra of efficiency. However, moral or at least aesthetic education was once again sidelined, the result being the creation of the one-dimensional man that Marcuse was to describe in the 1960s.

The modern period opened with and was dominated by the rational model put forward in 1949 by R. W. Tyler. A student of Bobbitt, Tyler was influenced by his ideas, but his own model, based on feedback, is comprised of four fundamental rational questions that seek for similarly rational resposes.

The first of these questions is based on the presupposition that the whole of society (students, experts, beneficiaries) needs to be consulted. This approach, making society as a whole take responsibility for the destiny of those studying, is something genuinely novel. The second question suggests very clearly that the choice of learning experiences should be left in the hands of experts, since otherwise errors will be made in connection with the setting of objectives.

The third and fourth questions suggest the need for representative teams of experts, thus anticipating reforms in the curriculum that took place after the 1970s.

It was the relative simplicity of Tyler's model that brought it both success and recognition, since it was a tool that could be adapted to a range of social and economic situations.

Critics of the modern curriculum linked this simple, rational and efficiency-oriented model to what they termed the triumph of mediocrity, but they failed to take into account the condition and pressing needs of society in those years after the Second World War when this approach to pedagogy was developed.

At the level of its academic grounding, modern pedagogy owed much to the contributions of two great figures of the time, Benjamin Bloom and Robert Gagne. Both extended and provided theoretical foundations for Tyler's rational model by introducing a new, qualitative dimension into the study of education and advancing methods that were viable and remained almost unchallenged for several decades. This scientific trend, which was based on large scale data processing and involved the use of tools provided by mathematics and information technology, ultimately became so rational that by the end of the period it could be described as pedagogy without children or, in the words of Gusdorf Georges, "the science of Man, but without people".

Bloom managed to produce the first taxonomy of pedagogical objectives, comparable in its own time with the periodic table of the elements. This, as many experts in the field have noted, was the birth of pedagogy as a science.
Level and definition               Examples

1. Knowing-memorising information  Remembering a list of words, a date
                                   in history, the name of a book, a
                                   number, a symbol, etc.;
                                   Reciting a poem
                                   Reproducing the definition of a term
                                   or classification, or of a theory.
2. Understanding-reformulating     Reformulating a definition in one's
information in one's own words;    own words;
extrapolating from information;    Paraphrasing a rule;
summarising a text, commenting     Expressing a formula or graph in
on a text.                         words.
3. Applying-using information in   Applying a mathematical formula to
a new situation                    solve a problem; Applying
                                   psychological theories about learning
                                   in educational practice.
4. Analysis-dividing information   Discovering the premises underlying a
into its component parts;          philosophical essay; Identifying
discovering, by personal           flaws in an argument.
effort, the component parts of a
whole, or of relationships.
5. Synthesis-producing something   Devising a plea in defence of a
new by combining several pieces    specific point of view expressed in a
of information.                    debate;
                                   Devising a personal action plan.
6. Evaluating-formulating a        Giving a critical review of a theory
value judgment about a creative    /a literary text/a technical
                                   invention, etc.; Examining the
                                   internal and external validity of an

Fig. 2. The cognitive realm (Bloom's taxonomy, 1956; personal
interpretation based on

During the same period, the psycholinguist John B. Carroll enunciated the theory of mastery learning in a 1960 article in The Process of Education, drawing on the cognitive theory of Jerome S. Bruner. According to C. Bruner, anything can be learned at any age, as long as the right educational tools are used.

This discovery means, in a nutshell, "the art of teaching everything to everyone". Bloom used his taxonomy to set out the principles of mastery learning, as he wished to thereby give it a style that was more natural and closer to spontaneous learning processes. Bloom's dream of giving pedagogy scientific status by providing it with experimentally verifiable objectives represents his greatest contribution and one that had a profound impact on the modern era (Carroll, 1989).

The same period also saw the appearance of Robert Mills Gagne's ideas on the technology of education as formulated in his The Conditions of Learning (1966). The aim of this highly ingenious work, based on analysis of hundreds of different theories of learning, was to grasp the most important mechanisms involved in the learning process. Thus Gagne's famous hierarchy identified first eight and later nine mechanisms that every person possesses, a route to the fulfilment of the neo-Comenian dream in the context of the demands now imposed by mastery learning. Gagne made a further major contribution in his Principles of Instructional Design, published in 1974, in which he stressed the concept of educational technology. He drew a distinction between two kinds of explanatory design frequently used by pedagogues and by teachers in general: macroprojection, for designing processes and systems at curricular level, and microprojection, which is concerned with designing experiments for class use. We here find ourselves in the position of spectators at a disputation between the two giants of modern pedagogy, Bloom and Gagne, knowing that their models will remain incompatible but accepting that both approaches have much to teach us.

The end of this Odyssey of curriculum development in the modern period, like others before it, was announced prematurely and not taken seriously until too late; the person responsible was Joseph J. Schwab, regarded by many who have studied the history of pedagogy as the father of postmodern curricular thinking. Schwab's remarkable career was matched by a genius for intuition that meant he was far in advance of his time. A natural science graduate, he was one of the few philosophers of pedagogy; he took unimportant positions that paid him less than what was standard at the time so that he could devote himself to psychometric research in the area of the curriculum, making especial use of his thorough knowledge of mathematics and biology. Schwab took an active part in the protests of the 1960s, both in Europe and in America. He charged educators with their lack of contact with students and claimed that modern curriculum styles were out of touch with the realities of life. This led him, in 1969, to write College Curriculum and Student Protest, in which he took the side of the demonstrators. However, it was in The Practical: A Language for Curriculum, which was included in the prestigious volume Curriculum and Education (1977), that Schwab delivered his prophecy about the death of the modern curriculum. In all his works, which were based on many years of hands-on analysis, he criticised the way theoreticians ran away from the realities of education, and their head-in-the-cloud thinking. With this position as his starting- point he formulated six types of common mistakes, from the distant nature of curriculum architecture imposed by law as a result of shortfalls in the education system to the pointless and sterile debating of forms without content, involving the rediscovery of truths by other names. His criticism extended to accusations of what we would today call plagiarism (see Schwab, 1969). A seeming anomaly in his analysis of curricular needs is his call for a return to the study of what American pedagogues called Great Books. It is striking that this should come from a teacher of natural sciences who published a work with the title The Nature of Scientific Knowledge as Related to Liberal Education. The discovery that shaped his career and that laid the foundations for a new paradigm that anticipated postmodernism was that any curriculum is based not on reality but on the interpretation of reality, the basic method thus being interpretation.

In the realm of pedagogy, the postmodern age, like the modern age, made its presence felt later than in the arts, architecture and other areas, where there were upheavals in the 1960s. Besides the prognostications of Schwab which we have described above, another notable phenomenon was that pointed out by C.P. Snow as early as 1959 in his celebrated study Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, in which he drew attention from a different angle to the old chasm between humanist culture and maths/science culture. His point of view underlined not merely the antagonism which we have described above but also the dehumanisation of man. It was precisely this that constituted his criticism of the modern engineering seen in the spoiling of the process of human formation through the use of a curriculum that was fragmented and over-concerned with efficiency (Snow, 1959). Thus the burning concern of the new pedagogues was the curriculum, which should aim at integrating human concerns and values for the sake of producing complete human beings. Postmodern ideas about the curriculum made their appearance only in the 1980s, with the declared aim of going beyond the limits of rational knowledge imposed by the phenomenal, as modern science was pronounced to be insufficient to meet human needs. For this reason, postmodernism views with concern the secondary effects the new technologies are having upon the human condition. For this reason too, it postulates a verdict regarding the unprecedented dehumanising of man. From here to theories that repudiate scientific rationality it was but one step, taken by assimilation either with the Dadaism of the inter-war years or with the New Age movement. In consequence, this enthusiasm for the curricular theory of education appears to have waned at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Today we are living in the hypermodern period of reconciliation both with modern principles and with the virtues of Greek paideia.

In this analysis, which has in fact been a chronicling in space-time of humanity's journey from the point of view of the curriculum, I have attempted to present those ancient issues that have the potential to divide academic researchers by separating them into either maths/science or humanities specialists.


Knowledge of the principal changes that have taken place in human history in terms of the curriculum, at different times and in different places, is vital to the understanding of how to design an academic research project. It can likewise provide support for qualitative research that takes account of social constructs of the maths/science versus humanities type which still dominate the collective mind even though they no longer match the current situation. Embarking upon the study of this field without the knowledge of the academic paradigm shifts that have occurred at specific points and in specific places can lead to incorrect approaches being followed in research into the geography of education. It is therefore necessary for the researcher to possess a detailed knowledge of the way in which time and space have played a major role in the construction of religious identities, the expression of which was reflected in different ways of interpreting reality, which in their turn gave rise to specific educational models.

To summarise:

The history of the antagonism between maths/science and humanities can be seen as a history of European thought and also of different pedagogical practices.

The differences were to a great extent caused by political changes that then brought about religious reforms. These changes fragmented Europe into the Latin south, inheritor of Roman institutions, though later modified by the achievements of republican states influenced by the French model, and the Protestant north-west, with its extension in America, in which the federal state is the model; this part of Europe has been shaped by religious reforms and by pragmatism and economic mercantilism.

At the time of writing, the EU is involved in bringing reconciliation between the north and the south, under the aegis of Brussels, and educational models, to be acceptable, need to keep in view their nationally specific character but do so within this new historical and political context.


Baker, B., (ed.), Hamilton D. et al. (2009), New Curriculum History. EDUCATIONAL FUTURES RETHINKING THEORY AND PRACTICE, Volume 33. Sense Publishers, pp. 3-21.

Bryman, A., (1988), Quantity and Quality in Social Research, London: Allen & Unwin.

Bryman, A., (1989), Research Methods and Organization Studies. Contemporary Social Research: 20. Routlege: Unwin Hyman.

Bobbitt, J. F., V (1924), How to Make a Curriculum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Braslavsky, C., (2001), Tendances mondiales et developpement des curricula [Global trends and curriculum development]. Lecture given at the Journees internationals sur les politiques nationales d'education et de formation. Brussels: Association francophone d'education comparee (AFEC).

Carroll, J. B., (1989), The Carroll Model: A 25-Year Retrospective and Prospective View. Author(s): John B. Carroll. Educational Researcher, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan-Feb 1989), pp. 26-31. American Educational Research Association.

Cristea, S., (1998), Dictionar de termeni pedagogici [Dictionary of pedagogical terms]. Editura Didactica si Pedagogica Bucuresti.

Deng, Z., (2014), The "Why" and "What" of Curriculum Inquiry: Schwab's The Practical Revisited. Education Journal, Vol. 41, Nos 1-2, pp. 85-105. The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Dobridor, I., (2008), Teoria generala a curriculumului educa?ional [General theory of the educational curriculum]. Ia?i: Polirom.

Eisner, E. W., (1967), Franklin Bobbitt and the "Science" of Curriculum Making. How to Make a Curriculum by Franklin Bobbitt. The School Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, Seventy-fifth Anniversary Issue (Spring, 1967), pp. 29-47.

Hamilton, D., (1990), Curriculum History. Deakin University Press, Geelong. Victoria (Australia).

Jonnaert, P., Therriault, G., (2013). Curricula and curricular analysis: Some pointers for debate. Prospects. Comparative Journal of Curriculum, Learning, and Assessment. December 2013, Volume 43, pp. 397-417. Open file.

Kentli, F., (2009), Comparison of hidden curriculum theories. European Journal of Educational Studies 1(2). Ozean Publication.

Kuhn, T., (2006), Structura revolu?ilor ?tiin?ifice [The Structure of Scientific Revolutions]. Bucharest. Editura Humanitas.

Nicolescu, V., (1979), Dic?ionar de Pedagogie [Dictionary of Pedagogy]. Institutul de Cercetari Pedagogice si Psihologice [Institute of Pedagogical and Psychological Research], Bucharest: Editura Didactica si Pedagogica.

Prodan, G., (2011), Paradigma Curriculumului In Societatea Moderna [The Paradigm of the Curriculum in Modern Society]. Eftimie Murgu University, Resita, Romania

Stone, M. K., (1985), "Ralph W. Tyler's Principles of Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation: Past Influences and Present Effects".Dissertations. 2382. Loyola University Chicago ;

Schwab, J., (1969), The Practical: A Language for Curriculum. The School Review. Vol. 78, No. 1 (Nov. 1969), pp. 1-23. The University of Chicago Press Journal.

Snow, C. P., (1959), The Two Coltures. Cambridge University Press.

Petru Laurentiu RAMPU

West University Of Timisoara, Department Of Geography Email:
COPYRIGHT 2017 West University of Timisoara, Department of Geography
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Rampu, Petru Laurentiu
Publication:Geographica Timisiensis
Date:Sep 22, 2017

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters