This term gets used too much. Whenever you are exiled to a curriculum committee run as fast as if you were asked to serve on a tax-cutting committee run by Democrats. Curriculum committees are run by people who were always told they were smart and therefore are equipped to tell others what to learn. In fact, they all fail, precisely because smart folks get together and spin tales out of never-never-land. By the time big egos and glib tongues get finished, the curriculum represents nothing that a given school’s faculty can teach, and nothing that its students can learn.

The Trivium and the Quadrivium have been remarkably ill-used over the centuries, and the conceptions of “Great Books” smart people have come up with have been, well, interesting. The only real curriculum “reform” is what is clearly, specifically, historically, morally suited to the institution that is trying to accomplish it. Most schools either do a politically correct non-curriculum or one that the committee pulls out of the air or one that some ideologue thinks can be imposed by money or power. My College did a pretty good job, because the people who did it knew what we could do.

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John Paul Willson has been a teacher for 48 years, most of them at Hillsdale College. He retired in 2005 (after around 12,500 students, 78,000 papers and exams, and 4000 meetings) but can't seem to get retirement right. He has been the second oldest in a five-generation picture. He still coaches punters and placekickers and plays a lot of golf. One wife, Helen; three daughters and ten grandchildren. Happy Catholic.

1 COMMENT

  1. “The only real curriculum “reform” is what is clearly, specifically, historically, morally suited to the institution that is trying to accomplish it.”

    In my third year of teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools, I am convinced that your observation is true on every level of education. Where does that leave “school systems”? I wistfully wish them away.

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