Position Stmt on Educ LO5529

Sun, 11 Feb 1996 21:39:53 -0500 (EST)


Marion Brady

The traditional general education curriculum in America's schools
and universities is, in my view, indefensible, and recent variations and
innovations offer little improvement.


1. The curriculum is supposed to model reality.
2. Reality is a seamless whole.
3. No curricula presently in use models reality holistically.
4. Present approaches* to the curriculum are, therefore, unacceptable.

(*e.g., disciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary,
interdisciplinary, theme, cultural literacy, concept, student need, social
problem, multicultural, ethnic, the "Great Books," etc.)


In varying degrees, present approaches to the curriculum also:

- Ignore vast areas of extremely important knowledge
- Disregard basic principles of learning
- Lack overarching goals with which instruction directly connects
- Fail to disclose the subjective nature of perception
- Are bulky, time consuming and inefficient
- Have no built-in mechanisms adapting them to change
- Emphasize information absorption rather than generation
- Are generally perceived by students as irrelevant to life as it's
- Lack criteria both for choosing content and for determining
relative significance
- Sell the human potential for intellectual growth very short
- Depend heavily on extrinsic motivators
- Do not progress smoothly through levels of increasing complexity
- Lag behind scholarly work in the various fields of knowledge

A curriculum with just one of the above problems would be
unacceptable. The traditional curriculum and its variants suffer from all
of them.

Present thrusts of school reform--longer school days, lengthened
school terms, flexible scheduling, block scheduling, magnet schools,
year-round schedules, mandated course distribution requirements, various
approaches to student grouping, team teaching, alternative staffing,
broad-based evaluation, technological innovations, etc.--leave curricular
problems untouched.


Our major curricular difficulties stem from narrow assumptions
about the primary purposes of education. Those assumptions (somewhat
simplified for the sake of clarity) are:

1. Teachers should help students store knowledge.
2. Teachers should help students learn how to acquire knowledge to


I contend (again, somewhat simplifying) that:

1. Teachers should help students understand experience.
2. "Understanding experience" requires a mental map that, as new
information is sensed, says (a) "Only these parts of incoming information
are important," (b) "Organize the parts like this," and (c) "Here's how
the parts are (or may be) related to information already in place."
3. The teacher's primary responsibility is to help students become
familiar with and improve the mental maps that control their selection of
information, its organization, and its integration.

Upon these propositions a general education with none of the
problems earlier identified can be fashioned.

I maintain that all other general objectives of education--those
related to work, to citizenship, even to the acquiring of so-called "basic
skills"--are secondary. But even if they are not so considered, they will
be far more likely to be met successfully when pursued indirectly by way
of increased knowledge of self and the human situation.

The basic changes required for putting a comprehensive, holistic,
systemically integrated curriculum in place are entirely intellectual.
Those changes can be made by today's teachers, in today's classrooms, with
today's students, within today's budgets, observing existing bureaucratic
boundaries. Even course titles can remain the same. Certain
institutional changes will facilitate transition, but are not absolutely

For further elaboration, I invite visitors to my homepage. (The
page will scan best with NetScape Browser or Microsoft Internet Explorer):

http://ddi.digital.net/~mbrady (OR)

I welcome the closest-possible scrutiny of my proposal, the
comments of skeptics and critics, and dialogue with those who might be
interested in establishing pilot programs for an integrated course of
study at the middleschool level and above. The title of the course as
I've designed it with activity-oriented, team-taught classes in mind.

I'm not yet looking for a massive response. For the coming year,
I merely want to find out if, in walking students step-by-step through
activities designed to help them make explicit their implicit models of
reality, teachers will themselves shift paradigms--will direct their
attentions and affections a little away from their disciplines toward the
reality those disciplines were originally meant to model, and find in that
larger reality the means for putting their disciplines in fresh
perspective. And I'll be looking for continuous, activity-by-activity
feedback from thoughtful, perceptive teachers interested in helping me
refine and rewrite what is admittedly an idiosyncratic course of study.

Thank you for your attention.

(Mr.) Marion Brady
4285 N. Indian River Drive
Cocoa, Florida 32927

Ph: 407/636-3448 Fax: 407/632-8327

gmbrady@aol.com mbrady@digital.net

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>