Post #3 – Curriculum & Politics

Levin (2008) explains how curriculum finds its roots in policy and politics. Levin points out that, “[c]urriculum politics should be understood as part of the overall process of government and especially the influence of politics” (p. 9). In the political hierarchy, voters carry power and they provide an undeniable pressure on those who hold the authority position. Levin (2008) highlights that the government has no choice but to place importance on issues that the people/voters identify as issues. The article also addresses the fact that the voice of the people may not be “knowledgeable.” An example of this would be people asking for something like lower taxes but expecting better paved roads or more healthcare coverage. This clearly places the people who are in powerful political positions in a difficult spot. They must appease the voters and often their agenda to make knowledgeable change may be looked over. Levin (2008) also identifies that unanticipated events such as natural disaster, media influence, time, and publicity also play a role in political agendas. Levin (2008) points out that, “an important element of the politics around education is that everyone has gone to school, so just about everyone has a feeling of being knowledgeable and a personal response to educational issues” (p. 15). Levin (2008) goes on to explain this by explaining that everyone has had different experiences and as such have formed different perspectives of education. This is why curriculum politics often seem to be difficult to separate into content vs teaching practice (Levin, 2008).

Some new information that I was made aware of in this article (Levin, 2008) is that the development of curriculum has varying involvement from the school itself depending on the type of school being examined. Some schools have more input into what the curriculum itself consists of. Another interesting piece of information that Levin (2008) highlights is that the curriculum has a vague relationship to teaching and learning practices. The concept of political influence was a massive surprise to me. I had an idea that government had some say in curriculum development, however, I did not realize the extent of which the formation of these outlines is influenced by politics and the demands of the public and those in positions with seniority ranking. A concern that I do have, and was aware of before reading this article, is that developing a new curriculum takes so long. Having said this, I do not know if there is a way around this time barrier. However, by taking so long to adjust curriculum content, the ability for change to occur at the teaching/learning level gets pushed back. Education is constantly changing and if there were some way to make changing curriculum more efficient, I believe that this may provide more opportunity for time sensitive change. Ultimately, the influence that community voice has on political matters also finds itself present in the formation of curriculum.  Curriculum is clearly a politically developed set of teaching outcomes/guidelines, and the power members of the community have over what is taught in schools (as in the calculus example) is a major concern. This relates back to the political discussion above on how people may demand things from government in a way that is not knowledge based.

After reading Levin’s (2008) article on curriculum and politics, and reflecting on the Treaty Education document, it is clear that many opinions and influencing factors were involved in the creation of the document. This document indicates that a curriculum sub-committee was involved in its creation. I checked the acknowledgements section, and there are 11 names listed as members of the committee. The alarming part about this is that politics and world viewpoint on Treaty Education undoubtedly have had an impact on this curriculum document as well. Each member of this committee has had different experiences and therefore have different perspective on what is “important” to include in this document. Tensions between members of the committee may have been a factor however, an even greater tension most likely existed between political education leaders and this committee, and possibly even the leaders of certain schools who have more say in curriculum implementation as well. Everyone has a different perspective on what should be taught. If teachers within the schools had opposing views on what should or should not be included, this would have resulted in conflict between them as a faculty and the committee.

Educational curriculum is clearly a political topic that involves a multi-layered system that leaves much room for influence by individual members of the community. People clearly hold the power, and this provides ample evidence as to why curriculum is such a political and complex topic.

Articles Used:

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from:

Saskatchewan Treaty Education Document (pages 1-4).

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