The Purposes of History? Curriculum Studies, Invisible Objects and Twenty-first Century Societies

Bernadette M. Baker


A new intellectual epoch has generated new enterprises to suit changed beliefs and circumstances. A widespread sentiment in both formal historiography and curriculum studies reduces the “new” to the question of how knowledge is recognized as such, how it is gained, and how it is represented in narrative form. Whether the nature of history and conceptions of knowledge are, or ought to be, central considerations in curriculum studies and reducible to purposes or elevated as present orientated requires rethinking. This paper operates as an incitement to discourse that disrupts the protection and isolation of primary categories in the field whose troubling is overdue. In particular, the paper moves through several layers that highlight the lack of settlement regarding the endowment of objects for study with the status of the scientific. It traces how some “invisible” things have been included within the purview of curriculum history as objects of study and not others. The focus is the making of things deemed invisible into scientific objects (or not) and the specific site of analysis is the work of William James (1842-1910). James studied intensely both child mind and the ghost, the former of which becomes scientized and legitimated for further study, the latter abjected. This contrast opens key points for reconsideration regarding conditions of proof, validation criteria, and subject matters and points to opportunities to challenge some well-rehearsed foreclosures within progressive politics and education.

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is published by the Foundation for Curriculum Theory and is associated with the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held in the autumn of each year. JCT is indexed in The Education Index.

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ISSN: 1942-2563