International Journal of Education & the Arts
Volume 4 Review 1
August 4, 2003
Edited by William E. Doll Jr. and Noel Gough (2002)
Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education, Vol. 151; General Editors Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
pp. xiii + 310
Review by Warren Sellers, Deakin University
Curriculum Visions is an unusual book. Curriculum texts usually address the ways, means, and goals of education, and they often do so in a synoptic, or analytic, or didactic manner. Bill Doll and Noel Gough have enacted a visionary exploration of curriculum that travels well beyond the usual bounds of the field. As Gough puts it, quoting one of his favourite storytellers, “I had been to Madidinou many times, of course, but this time the town looked altogether different, since I was on a journey beyond it” (Le Guin, 1986, quoted in Doll & Gough, 2002, p. 18, my italics). The journey that Curriculum Visions takes its reader on is not only one that ventures beyond the common notions of curriculum’s boundaries, but the reader gets to share in the conversations that have been enacted as the journey happened. Let me explain: During the evolution of the book, Doll and Gough were conscious of the conversations that constitute such projects; in this instance, the editors’ initial ideas for their introductory essays, subsequent essays by authors responding to the editors’ essays, editorial responses to each author’s essay in the form of an introductory Problematic, and then a Perspective on each essay, written by an invited reader. Thus each chapter comprises an editorial Problematic, followed by the author’s essay, which is reviewed by a reader’s Perspective. The result is a textual gathering that embodies what Gough calls “emerging global theaters of academic practices” (p. 10) and Doll prefers to mark as “a period of ‘post’ thought” (p. 54) or, as I have come to envision it, a synthesis of Gough’s chaotics and Doll’s complexities. As a further indication of the unbounded eclecticism of this book, readers looking for a structural clue to its overall arrangement will only find an alphabetical answer, and, upon close inspection of the index, an entry under the letter S: “sous rature (under erasure), 1-303” (p. 310).
Having sketched the editorial context for this work, I would now like to interweave my own perceptions. I am a picture thinker, and I take reading–words and pictures–to be a generative process that helps me to envision meaning from the many paths my learning takes me along. Therefore, Curriculum Visions (CV’s) is, for me, more like a guidebook than a textbook. And, to explain how I interpret my reading journey, I need to show you my sketchbook that records some of my picturings of what I read, which are hyperlinked from this document (when the boldface links are clicked, the pictures will appear in a new browser window). Although some readers may find this a little frustrating, I ask for their patience and trust that my unusual reviewing might prove insightful in considering the complex significances of the book.
One of my reflective sketchnotes reads, “CV’s has touched me in ways that are similar to, and reflect the fractal-like feelings I experienced when I first read of Pinar’s (1994) Currere ‘method’ and Grumet’s (1988) Bitter milk –sweet-sour, heady-brisk, sensuous-sensitive, shades-tones.” Appended to this note is a quote from Gough, “you either ‘get it’ right away or you don’t” (p. 2). Gough’s quote, in turn, refers to Mary Elizabeth Moore’s use of ‘getting it’ in her essay “Curriculum: A journey through complexity, community, conversation, culmination,” and her re-visioning of Doll's “five C’s of curriculum…currere, complexity, cosmology, conversation, and community” (p. 42). My reading of ‘getting it’ understands the paradoxical complexity and simplicity(Note 1) of curriculum method reconceptualised as currere process, or as Moore puts it, her “passion for education that contributes to the repair of the world (tikkum olam [sic] in Hebrew)” (p. 227). What my sketchnoting illustrates is the interconnected complexity of these ideas for re-generatively affecting being-in-the-world. With this in mind, I also need to explain that my readings of CV’s are non-linear and non-hierarchical. They are readings that approach the book in a fashion that Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1988) wrote of as a rhizome(Note 2) interweaving through A Thousand Plateaus. Brian Massumi (1988), their translator, notes that Deleuze and Guattari recommended their book be read
as you would listen to a record…When you buy a record there are always cuts that leave you cold. You skip them. You don’t approach a record as a closed book that you have to take or leave. Other cuts you may listen to over and over again. They follow you. You find yourself humming them under your breath as you go about your daily business (pp. ix; xiii-xiv).
Following this suggestion, I review CV’s by interlinking the textual and pictorial responses of my personal reading experiences. If this concept is unclear, an example of my picturing of vision and mind may be helpful.
To help orient the reader to my approach I open with Niki Konstantinou’s cover illustration for CV’s, titled “ Eyeland 2” . Here we see a chevron shape suggestive of an open book, over which stride Dorothy and her –supposedly dysfunctional– friends on their –hopefully remedial– journey to meet the Wizard of Oz, while beyond the horizon of the spread pages a ‘land’ of multiple eyes gazes back towards the viewer. My reading of this image sees a metaphor for the complex interactive conversations about remedial curriculum concepts available to the reader. Conversations between the editors, and with their author /reader friends – wending rhizomously through and over a thousand plateaus; between the dimensional perspectives of the unseen viewer/reader and the refracting multiplicities of future visions.
In their respective introductory essays, Gough and Doll present visions that reflect the characterisations of chaos and complexity that I refer to earlier. As my sketchnote shows, Gough’s “Voicing curriculum visions,” and Doll’s “Ghosts in the curriculum” generate visual interpretations, which, respectively, chaotically ‘oralicise’ texts and complexly ‘spectralise’ visions. My vision of the two became further complexified in an image that reminded me of M. C. Escher’s (1975) “Rippled surface”, because of the visual-aural interrelationships that Escher’s graphic evokes. In short, Gough’s essay speaks to the chaotics of re-interpreting curriculum visions, and Doll’s essay re-envisions images of curriculum in conversational complexities, and both echo and reflect each other.
A further reflection of the editors’ visionary interests is the ecological thread weaving through CV’s. Sometimes the thread is radically overt, like C. A. Bowers “Toward a cultural and ecological understanding of curriculum,” and sometimes it is allegorically covert, like Peter Cole and Patricia O’Riley’s “Much rezadieux about (Dewey’s) goats in the curriculum: Looking back on tomorrow yesterday.” At other times, and in other places, the thread peeks through the texture of essays concerning the world’s curriculum, to remind us of the manifold visions ecology embodies.
In Bowers’ essay, for example, there is an explorative move toward contextualising cultural and ecological understandings. I initially see this as a spectrum with ‘humanity’ emitting phosphorescent interference between the atmospheric/geographic layers, to represent what I read as the confused intercourse between the mindedness of logicality and the embodiedness of generativity. Following Bowers’ arguments, I go on to re-read the spectrum ‘chaoplexly’ in a more fractal-like fashion to think about as-yet unimagined dimensions of ecology. However, reading (backward to) the editors’ problematic ‘Metaphor matters,’ which introduces both the chapter and the significance of how metaphors matter for understanding “in the literal sense that they have material effects” (p. 73), I draw another image that registers the increasingly tenuous balance between the culture of technology and ecology of life. Then, reading (forward to) Ellen Wickersham’s “Perspective on Bowers,” which –critically – reviews the essay, another view emerges. Wickersham’s re-view invites me to re-consider Bowers’ cultural and ecological metaphors in the context of a technological world potentially inhabited by a ‘demiperson’, and a society questioning “whether the computer is becoming an appendage of us or whether we are merging with the computer” (p. 88). The curriculum matter for Wickersham is how to make meaning in a world that challenges “our very concept of identity-making” (p. 88).
Cole and O’Riley also find identity-making and curriculum, or “krklm: a neo-retro-paramorphopoeic radical originating in the future” (p. 134), a matter of concern. The editors’ introductory problematic to this chapter is titled “A question of genre” and they stimulate me to think about “wordless representations of curriculum.” They also observe that Cole and O’Riley use words, although “Their chapter is and is not prose. That’s what we like about poets. We can’t make up their minds” (p. 130).
I like to think of Cole and O’Riley’s words as ‘proemial,’ a word the Concise Oxford Dictionary describes as referring to “ a preface or preamble to a book or speech,” and deriving from the Greek pro ‘before’ and oime ‘song’. Proemial suits the sonorous textones of Cole and O’Riley’s generatively chaotic and complex word-plays
what about hearing colour or feeling its subtle shades feeling timbre
And, here is my imagining of their suggestive word-land.
Although Cole and O’Riley play an allegorical (Otis) Dewey (Esquire) as a tragic metaphor in their curriculum/krklm, other contributors follow Doll’s revelatory portrayal of John Dewey as a benign spectre hauntingly urging us to “‘practicalize’ Dewey’s vision, to put in place the concept of curriculum he could not” (p. 23). Doll follows this sentence with a clarification that this concept involves more than “mere mechanical adjustment; it is a reconceptualization of the very nature of curriculum,” which returns us to the gnarly crux of contemporary curriculum concepts– the incommensurable dys-junction of structural progress and poststructural process. CV’s wholistically declares its rhizomous journey to be poststructurally processual, and Doll sketches a map of generative potentiality with his ‘ five C’s’ for interpreting curriculum (pp. 42-52), which I visualise and paraphrase thus:
Currere describing curriculum reconceptualized – turning the course of progressive education towards learning and teaching as coursing processes.
Complexity describing structure reconceptualized – embodying simplicity within complexity and complexity within simplicity, recursively.
Cosmology describing ontology reconceptualized – re-vising the study of a unique uni-verse towards studying pluri-verse ubiquity.
Conversation describing discourse reconceptualized – speaking to processes of learning for knowing by re-writing the method of structuring knowledge.
Community describing humanity reconceptualized – re-generating understandings of human experiences of being.
CV’s writings suggest to me a syn-lysis/ana-thesis–like Cohen and Stewart’s sim-plexity/com-plicity–revealing an ecosmic scale to curriculum journeys, which extends far beyond the economic track our present purposive prescriptions promote. Whether it is in Gough’s essay on Globalization’s effects on notions of otherness, or in Cleo Cherryholmes’ pragmatic concern for the artistic and aesthetic to help understand ‘what to do,’ or in Molly Quinn’s ‘Wholly vision-ing’ of currere symbolised through ‘the legacy of the chariot,’ or in Donna Trueit’s summoning of the Muses to partake in conversations for sensuous responses to ‘the other, ’ to mention but a few, everywhere there are rhizomous paths and upshoots of ideas about ‘getting’ these visionary journeys. The editors’ stimulating introductions and the thirteen responsively enactive chapters in Curriculum Visions are a substantial and important guide for everyone interested in such journeys.
1. Doll elaborates on this complexity/simplicity paradox by referring to Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart’s (1994) coining of the words ‘complicity’ and ‘simplexity’. Doll notes that: “Each is designed to show the embeddedness of simplicity within complexity and of complexity within simplicity. These two form a union, not a discrete difference” (p. 45).
2. As the image linked to this word shows, a rhizome is a complex plant root structure that manoeuvres in a markedly different way to the centrally structured arborescent model. Deleuze and Guattari (1988) introduced the rhizome as an organising metaphor for their writing (pp. 3-25).
ReferencesCohen, J., and Stewart, I. (1994). The collapse of chaos: Discovering simplicity in a complex world. Viking: New York.
Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Athlone Press.
Escher, M. C. (1975). The graphic work of M. C. Escher: Introduced and explained by the artist. London & Sydney: Pan Books.
Grumet, M. (1988). Bitter milk: Women and teaching. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Le Guin, U. K. (1986). Always coming home. London: Gollancz.
Massumi, B. (1988). Translator's foreword: Pleasure of philosophy. In A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (pp. ix-xix ). London: Athlone Press.
Pinar, W. F. (1994). The method of currere. In Autobiography, politics and sexuality: Essays in curriculum theory 1972-1992. (pp. 19-28). New York: Peter Lang.
About the AuthorWarren Sellers
Warren Sellers is a doctoral student in curriculum theory at Deakin University in Australia, who lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He is a Fine Arts graduate who worked in film, television, and other electronic media for twenty years before teaching. His present research is exploring visual narrative approaches to (de)conceptualising curriculum, especially through expanding notions of currere.