Schiro: Curriculum Theory. Part 4. Social Reconstruction Ideology

Here you go, the fourth post on my study notes on Michael Stephen Schiro’s book Curriculum Theory – conflicting visions and enduring concerns (Sage, 2013). I intend to add a 5th post where I’ll post my notes on the final chapter of the book where Schiro compares these four ideologies. My previous posts on the book: Scholar Academic Ideology, Social Efficiency Ideology and Learner Centered Ideology.

Social Reconstruction Ideology

Curriculum is viewed from social perspective. It is assumed that our society is unhealthy and its survival is threatened, because the traditional mechanisms developed by said society to contend with social problems are incapable of doing their job.  Social Reconstrucion Ideology assumes that something can be done to keep society from destroying itself. Education is a means to solve societys problems.

–       educate the masses of society, make them analyze themselves in relation to society, see and understand the problems of society, develope a vision of a better world based on social justice and actualize that vision.

–       Problems that threaten the survival of society (for example):

  • racism
  • war
  • sexism
  • poverty
  • pollution
  • worker exploitation
  • climate change
  • corporate exploitation
  • crime
  • political corruption
  • population explosion
  • energy shortage
  • illiteracy
  • inadequate health care
  • unemployment

–       The reason to many of these problems lie under deep social structures – many based in Eurocentric conceptions of knowledge, culture and values and through school’s hidden curriculum they continue to shape behaviour and beliefs in a destructive way that contributes to the continuation and worsening of these problems.

–       To save our society we must develop a vision of a better society and try to reconstruct our society.

–       Education has the power to educate people to understand and analyze social problems, envision a world where problems don’t exist and ast so as to bring that vision into life.


Highlander Folk School (an example)

–       founded in 1932 in Tennessee

–       was founded to stop an impending social crisis: rich industrialists and landowners were economically exploiting and oppressing poor factory, farm and mine workers to such an extent that democracy was threatened.

–       the school’s purpose: ”educate for a revolution that would basically alter economic political power relationships to the advantage of the poor and powerless”.

–       the founder, Myles Horton, invited potential labor organizers to Highlander, helped them understand the nature of oppression, inspired them with a vision of a better society and sent them back to their factories, farms and mines to organize the masses of oppressed workers to strike for better living and working conditions -> new social order.

–       The curriculum consisted of labor workshops that lasted for 6 weeks.

  • Three loosely stuctured but carefully guided group discussions. Participants stated and analyzed the problems and imagined a place where problems didn’t exist.
  • sharing personal experiences with strangers, understanding the social crisis.
  • shared hope -> visions of an ideal society
  • discussions of alternate strategies to eradicate society’s problems and bring into existence an improved society.
  • encourages united social actions (instead of individual social action)
  • communicating with the participants rather than lecture at them about them.
  • ”men must solve their problems in the contect in which they arise”.
  • heavy use of social media, such as group discussions, singing, storytelling and drama

Sixth-Grade mathematics (an example)

Students worked on numerous projects. The goal was to teach mathematics in a way that allowed students (many of them poor or from minority groups) to use mathematics to help them notice social injustices in the world. Projects included:

  • School Overcrowding (measure school size and population and compare the results with the size and pop. of other schools and state recommendations)
  • World Wealth Distribution
  • Random Traffic Stops (racial profiling, police reports)

–       All the projects involved mathematics presented in the school curriculum: calculation with integers, deciamls and percents, graphs, algebra etc…

–       examples:

  • A 14-year-old girl buys 12 candy bars. Each cost 43 cents. How much does she spend.
  • versus
  • A 14—year-old factory worker in Central America makes children’s clothing for Wal-Mart. She earns 43 cents an hour and works 12 hours each day. How much money dos she make in one day?

–       no teaching is ever neutral.


Social Perspective

–       the world is viewed from a social perpective.

–       human experience, education, truth and knowledge are socially defined.

–       The is no good (human, education) apart from some conception of the nature of the good society.


Reconstruction and Vision

–       Social Reconstructionist do not accept current societal conditions as unalterable ”givens”.

–       vision of the possibilities that lie ahead.

–       the vision does not prescribe a specific program of action that dictates  how it is to be achieved.

–       future good is created in response to existing social conditions.

–       its power lies in its ability both to offer people salvation from an intolerable reality, and to offer them a vision of life as it should be.

–       social rather than individual vision

–       it is not a vision that allowes certain individuals to achieve the good life and escape their problems at the expense of others.

–       The Social Reconstruction vision of the future good society helps people reconstruct soviety in several ways:

  • the vision allows people to rise above their particular circumstances to see social crises as a whole. Allows them to share a common vision of a better life, and act together to meet common needs and better themselves and improve society.
  • offers people an alternative and a possibility of escape through ”a positive languagie of human empowerment”. Without a language that allows them to speak about overcoming their oppression, people wouldn’t be able to wage the struggle to reconstruct society.
  • enables people to see their problems solvable rather than simply accept them as innate characterists of the world.
  • offers hope of something better. Freire: ”Without a vision for tomorrow, hope is impossible”.
  • clear long-range goals that offer direction to their thinking so they don’t become distracted by their daily life.
  • defines the nature of the good individual, good education and worthwile thruth and knowledge.


Reconstruction through Education

–       Education takes place in many places (school, home, community)

–       Social Reconstructionists want to influence all these locations, whether ”school” is loceated in a school building, factory or park.

–       Education has the role of preparing people to transform society.

–       Schools will be the catalysts that stimulate the reconstruction of society.

–       First concern: education of the group. Second concern: education of the individual.


Do Educators have the right to attempt to change the social patterns of a culture without the permission of its members?

–       do educators have the right to teach children to live in a world that might be different from that of their parents and of which their parents might not approve?

–       What responsibility do educators have to the society they serve?

–       Are schools to uncritically serve and reproduce the existing society or challenge the social order to develop and advance its democatic imperatives?

–       Giroux 1992: ”I believe that schools should function to provide students with the knowledge, character, and moral vision that build civic courage” in a manner that leads to the reconstruction of society in accordance with the principles and practices of human dignity, liberty and social justice.

–       Educators have the responsibility to go beyond simply reflecting society’s wishes and do what is best for society.

–       Education must be a form of social action.

–       No curriculum  is ideologically or politically innocents: education is politics!

–       Social Reconstructionists don’t want to simply fill a learner’s mind with a collection of facts and concetps. Such an approach would prepare learner’s to deal with only the crises of the past, not of the future. Children should construct a specific social orientation and social perspective along with a set of social values and problem solving skills so they can confront, analyze, understand, react to and rectify whatever social problems might arise in the future.


The Child

–       children are not viewed primary as children. Children are products of society, social actors, potential contributing members of society who can aid its reconstruction.

–       Children are born helpless. At birth they are neither good or bad. Just a bundle of potential.

–       children are primaly members of a social group.



–       perspective of social constructivism.

–       active assimilation of new experiences into learners’ meaning structures -> accommodation of the new experiences.

–       Learning is based on what one already knows about the world, and it is meaningful only when it can be accommodated in one’s overall conception of reality.

–       Curricula should draw upon the cultural resources that students bring with them to school.

–       Learning is a social act rather than an individual one.

–       Learning takes place in both classrooms and communities.

–       Learning takes place through language and communication (includes group discussion, talking, singing, acting, sociodrama, sculpture, group processing, value clarification).

–       is not limited on firsthand experiences.

–       requires interaction of learners with the environment outside themselves.



–       intent of teaching is to reconstruct society.

–       intent of teaching is to stimulate students to reconstruct themselves so they can contribute to the reconstruction of society.

–       that means helping them construct a set of meanings, meaning structures, perceptive functions and interpretive functions so that when they encounter social problems they can analyze and understand them, formulate a vision of a better society where those problems do not exist and act in such a way as to eliminate those problems.


Discussion Method

–       Group discussion is a social means of educating a group of persons.

–       engaging a group of students in a conversation while the teacher elicits ”from students the meanings that they have already stored up so that they may subjectthose meanings to a testing, verifying, reordering, reclassifying, modifying and extending process”.

–       Participants share their social understanding so that the group can help them reconstruct their social knowledge in light of the knowledge of the group as whole.

–       Group discussion have three crucial components: thought, commitment and action.



–       knowledge is socially constructed, culturally mediated and historically situated. Dominant social discourses determine what counts as true, important, and relevant.

–       Knowledge and values are interconnected.

–       Knowldege is not an impartial quantity and knowing is not a neutral affair.

–       Knowledge is of worth because it contributes to the attainment of a future good society.

–       Worthwhile knowledge resides within the subjective reality of both individuals and society. It doesn’t reside outside of people in such things as books or magazines (words separate from people). It resides in the meaning people create for themselves.

–       Members of the society create the knowledge they possess.

–       Knowledge doesn’t come into existence by itself.

–       The process by which knowledge is created is when a person actively loads meaning and value onto sensory data.


–       Social Reconstructionists don’t usually use formal objective evaluation during curriculum development. They primarily use subjective evaluation.

–       testing is not just an attempt to monitor students, teachers and school, but rather control them. Social Reconstructionists want to give more control to teachers and students over their lives and society, rather than providing others with more control over them.


Concluding Perspective

The social Reconstruction ideology has done much to introduce knowledge of the social dimensions of education to our schools, helping us comprehend that education is a social process, that the hidden curriculum has enormous influence on learners, and that all knowledge carries with it social values.


Educators must take value stances and they must attend to the social, political and moral values of the children they teach. This ideology has laid the seeds for the ways of thinking, feeling and acting that help children deal with issues like civil rights, racial and gender bias, and environmental pollution.

The ideology’s influence on education formally began in 1932 when George Counts attacked the Learner Centered Ideology for not attending to our society’s problems and the injustices done to its members.


”Dare the school build a new social order?”


2 thoughts on “Schiro: Curriculum Theory. Part 4. Social Reconstruction Ideology

  1. adrianne says:

    Did you do the notes for the part 5? I am taking a class and I don’t have the book – your notes have been a real life saver.

    • Meira says:

      Hi, great that the notes are still helpful to people. I remember the frustration of not being able to get a hold of the course material in time. The fifth chapter of the book was written like a play where four people (who represented the four ideologies) had a conversation. Although it was a fun summary and helped clear the contrasting views, I felt summarizing it would have just been repeating the previous posts.

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