chapter  11
21 Pages

Knowledge and the curriculum in the sociology of education: Towards a reconceptualisation

Politicians tell us that we are (or soon will be) in a ‘knowledge society’ and that more and more jobs require people to be ‘knowledge workers’. At the same time, government policy documents have been remarkably silent about what this knowledge is (Department for Education and Employment, 1998, 1999). Is it more of the old disciplinary knowledge or is it a new kind of trans-disciplinary knowledge that is more transient and local (Gibbons et al., 1994; Muller, 2000)? Answers to such questions should lie at the heart of the sociology of education, but are strangely absent there as well (Moore & Muller, 1999; Young, 2000a,b). In this chapter we wish to achieve two things. First, we seek to clarify the nature of the problem and, second, we shall propose a way ahead for the sociology of education. In developing our argument, we will not only be examining the problem of knowledge in the curriculum, but also raising some concerns about how the sociology of education has tended to treat the issue of knowledge more generally. We will argue that contemporary trends in the sociology of education make it peculiarly ill equipped to meet the curriculum challenge posed by debates about the implications of globalisation (Castells, 1996, 1997, 1998) and the massification of post-compulsory education (Scott, 2000) of the past decade.