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Theoretical Perspectives on Curriculum Essay

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022

There are various perspectives on curriculum with different views on the educational landscape. These perspectives look at various issues including how learning is facilitated; how the worthwhile objectives of education are expressed; and how the important content should be organized for instruction, among others. The curriculum artefact that this paper will look at is the traditional perspective (Hirsch, 1988).


The question addressed by the traditional perspective is “what are the most important aspects of our cultural heritage that should be preserved” (Hirsch, 1988)? Traditional education has its roots in the late nineteenth century when the United States faced the problem of universal schooling due to the rapidly changing urban society. Many philosophers in the late nineteenth century believed that education was supposed to emphasize the transmission of the Western civilization’s cultural heritage. The philosophers believed that education was a process that involved the “elevation of individuals into the species, and curriculum should focus on availing the accumulated wisdom of ‘the race’ to the children”. (Bennett, 1996) One way to avail this information to the students was by accumulating the facts in a textbook that could be accessible to students, to counteract the opinion-dominated newspapers.

Perspectives of the traditional curriculum

There has been a need to transform the educational methods in the traditional curriculum to improve the efficiency of the system. The traditional curriculum is progressive, such that students can proceed from one level to a higher level that is more challenging than the previous one. This allows the students to enhance their skills with each new level attained. The presentation of knowledge to the students in the traditional curriculum is done in units.

Another attribute of the traditional curriculum that is also its shortcoming is deterring of discussions among the students. The traditional system discourages exchange between both students and teachers as well as among the students, which is a big inhibitor to the development of critical thinking skills in the children. A few changes in the traditional system have allowed for the accommodation of discussions and group work in the curriculum.

Accomplishment and progress in the traditional curriculum are evaluated by administering tests. This standard-based curriculum has faced a lot of challenges since it is believed to encourage education systems aimed at passing the tests as opposed to building their knowledge base. The traditional curriculum is gradually transforming with the view to making the learning process more effective.

Shortcomings of the traditional perspective

The traditional system of education involves the use of books to pass down information, which should be remembered by the students. The education system, therefore, trains children on recall, as opposed to other essential skills such as classifying, hypothesizing and valuing. The requirements of the traditional system are also time-consuming, which prevents the children from engaging in other activities of interest. Bright students are pushed into pursuing subjects like science and mathematics due to the public’s faith in the growth of the technological sector. “These bright students are pushed into particular fields without sufficient exposure to other dimensions of life, including the moral and ethical issues raised by developments in technical fields and the potentially devastating impact on society” (Hirsch, 1988).

The fragmentation of the school units into various disciplines, subjects, and courses prevents the students from exploring the relationship between the various fields, as common knowledge. This can be overcome by educating the students on ways to use a framework of ideas that relates everything they know logically. “Humankind’s survival is dependent on the ability to construct knowledge” (Hirsch, 1988). “This makes it impossible to exaggerate the societal costs of a curriculum which fails to provide students with the basic intellectual tool by means of which knowledge is created” (Hirsch, 1988).


According to Bosner (1995), “The traditional perspective has been observed to be resilient over the years, with schools teaching basic literacy and computational skills, as well as basic facts and terminologies that all educated people are required to know, with the view to establishing a set of common values that constitute good citizenship”.

This curriculum focuses on teaching students’ content and process separately, though merging the two helps students prepare for encounters in the real world that involve comparisons, evaluation, decision making and problem-solving. Students are taught from the thought process of scientists, mathematicians, or historians, who base their ideas and arguments on content. The traditional approach to curriculum requires students to master knowledge, but their knowledge base can be greatly improved by performing tasks that demand higher-order thinking while still in school, instead of piling up knowledge for use after school. This would allow students to engage in thinking and acquisition of knowledge as they plan, evaluate, and solve problems (Hirsch, 1988). The content acquired in these processes helps in building creativity and promoting the student’s ability to construct and critique arguments, a key feature in enhancing the productivity of the children.


  1. Bennett, W. J. (1996). The Book of Virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  2. Hirsch, E. D. (1988). Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. New York: Vintage Books.
  3. Posner, G. (1995). Analyzing the curriculum. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
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