chapter  5
17 Pages

The role of the disciplines in curriculum: a critical realist analysis

The purpose of education is to help equip students with the knowledge and capacities they need to make their way in the world. If the world is characterized by complexity, stratification and processes of emergence, then a key role for curriculum is to provide students with access to and the means to navigate this complexity. This is why an ontological commitment to realism has epistemological implications for curriculum. These implications are that curriculum must be founded on a realist theory of ontology, epistemological fallibility and in opposition to judgemental relativity (Bhaskar 1998d). In other words, the guiding insights for curriculum should be that: first, the natural and social worlds exist independently of our conceptions; second, our knowledge about the world will always be fallible; and third, there are few grounds for making judgements and so relativism is avoided. Consequently, while it would be retrograde to teach students one final version of ‘truth’, they nonetheless need access to the conceptual tools that can help them make these judgements. This chapter develops the argument begun in the previous chapter, which is that the pursuit of truth should be a normative goal of curriculum, recognizing the corrigibility of our knowledge and the need to revise it in light of evidence. Its key argument is that the academic disciplines provide access to the natural and social worlds, even if this access is imperfect.