Curriculum Matters

by Daniel Friedrich
Associate Professor of Curriculum
Director of the Doctoral Program
Dept. of Curriculum and Teaching
Teachers College, Columbia University

I have always found my work to be situated at the intersection of the fields of Curriculum Studies and Comparative and International Education. I find that the central questions animating Curriculum Studies –What counts as knowledge? Whose knowledge counts? What knowledge is centered and marginalized in educational settings? How is knowledge pedagogically produced, reproduced, and circulated?– are so much more interesting when looked at through an international and comparative lens. FreshEd has been such a wonderful source of inspiration for considering how some of my favorite scholars take on those questions, explicitly or implicitly, and for demonstrating to my students the importance of curriculum not as an object of study, but as a way to read the world around us.

Shenila Khoja-Moolji’s conversation with Will is a fantastic example considering curriculum as a set of questions. In discussing her work in teacher professional development in Pakistan, Dr. Khoja-Moolji struggles with her own complicity in perpetuating asymmetrical power/knowledge relations between Pakistan and the West, while at the same time attempting to disrupt them by taking on a decolonizing approach in how she understands the role of teachers in the process of knowledge production.

The webinar led by Weili Zhao, Stephen Carney, and Iveta Silova, and moderated by Will serves as a great introduction to what is perhaps one of the most productive discussions currently taking place in the field, which is, how can we decenter the human when considering our imaginations and productions of worlds otherwise? While we have only scratched the surface of a curriculum beyond the human, I cannot wait to see where we get from here.

One of my favorite books of the past few years has been the one recently published and presented by Fran Vavrus. Schooling as Uncertainty weaves together deep theoretical reflections with autobiographical narrative, resulting in a breath-taking text that forces us to question how we came to think of schooling as salvation, and what are the consequences of attempting to disentangle to knot of development, certainty, schooling, education, and the self. What other knowledges are made possible when we question our deepest assumptions?

Finally, the works of one of the most important figures in contemporary Curriculum Studies, Tom Popkewitz, resonate through all the episodes I mentioned, and of course, in my own work. In his conversation with Will, Dr. Popkewitz reflects on the production of “the practical” as always emerging from specific historical understandings that are anything but “purely practical.” All the FreshEd episodes I recommended urge us to take theory seriously, and in that, to never stop reflecting on our own implication in the production of educational knowledge. Curriculum matters.

July 1, 2021