Introducing Essential Change for Learning

Heidi Hayes Jacobs (2010) is a strong voice for what has been deemed innovative curriculum in many US education circles ( See Jacobs Bio). Indeed, with Curriculum Integration, Jacobs delivers an accessible work for the public on the need for creating a 21st century curriculum. For instance, Jacobs states that “….our challenge is to match the needs of learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity” (p. 7), and that “Running schools and using curriculum on a constant replay button no longer works (p.8). Jacobs helps those in society with traditional and dominant dominant thought patterns around education start to imagine why what seems so natural may acctually be harmful to the one thing always professed as central, the learner. Jacobs goes on to give one of the best page and a half distillations of the history of of American Education I have read. I do have to admit that I loved reading and writing about (Baiylin (1960); Sizer (1964);Tyack (2000), Bowles and Gintis (1976); et al.) but the way Jacobs moves from Committee of Ten to Industrialization and beyond without creating any flashpoints for the ideology of curriculum in American society is laudable. With similar aptitude she wastes no time getting to the need for upgrading the curriculum and even tackles the structure of the school (pp.12-13). It is in this narrative that I become interested in Jacobs intentions for this book.

More import than filling in the public’s light historical knowledge of schooling in America is to relate the silent disaster our educational systems have become. Jacobs does this, again, without scare tactics or doom inspired rant. For instance, her 3 “myths that shape our operational visions of school” are simple and straightforward (pp. 14-16). In myth 1 Jacob’s explains that our insecurity in education comes from our lack of change when change is needed and not from implementing change. She weaves the story we all know well “we should not hurt our children with change” into an argument for more informed public involvement in education to “break the shackles that confine genuine progress” (p.15). She ends this section on myth 1 saying that some will want to hold on to 20th century modalities and all she asks is that they revise their mission statements to reflect this. “Be honest with the children” (p.15). In Myth 2 and three she tackles some huge issues in American education today. She deals with the present and growing divide in America around what it means to be educated. Stating that while American political ideology is polarizing with one group of Americans fiercely against “intellectuals” Jacobs, again gently calls the foundations of the US political system and its needs for educated, yet deliberative citizens into focus. This is important for the subaltern communities in the US as Jacobs again eases into statements like “we should be fearless about ideas and openly engage in discussion and debate about what should matter in the subject matter” (p.16). Jacobs edited work does not address the multicultural elements of this process until later in the book. Myth 3 is a Daniel Pink inspired address on learning spaces needing to cultivate collaboration and creativity for the 21st century.

Jacobs introduces many of the same well worn “softballs” that academicians, philosophers, and professionals have been tossing for many years in an accessible and almost folksy tone. This will prove important for those who want to start conversations on the communities on learning and systemic change in educational environments.

I will continue on Curriculum 21 in later posts.

Bailyn, B. (1960). Education in the forming of American society; needs and opportunities for study. Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Va., by the University of North Carolina Press.

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: educational reform and the contradictions of economic life. New York: Basic Books.

Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Sizer, T. R. (1964). The age of the academies. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Tyack, D. B. (2000). The one best system: a history of American urban education. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: Harvard Univ. Press.