Through the theory of social construction of knowledge and learning, how can we understand the ways in which power and social control influence the structure, content, and development of curriculum?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Social constructionism is the belief that meaning is constructed by both the individual and society. When new information is received, both the individual and society interpret that information based on experiences and give that information meaning. Hence, both knowledge and truth become relative to the individual's and society's interpretation of knowledge and truth; absolutes do not exist.

Since society shapes the individual, social constructionism cannot be understood separately from society. We must also remember that there are different types of societies, all of which will interpret their own version of reality. There are also different tiers within society. Those with authority positions within society will more greatly affect the interpretation of knowledge than those who are subordinates.

It can also be said that curriculum is both complex and malleable. Curriculum is not simply an agenda that tells educators what to do. There exists both a social curriculum and a school curriculum, and those two can be melded into one. The social curriculum includes anything learned from one's environment, one's family, and from society. Social curriculum also includes the methods of teaching and learning that vary per person and per culture. School curriculum includes anything thought and learned in schools by educators and students alike. School curriculum provides a method for educators to evaluate learning achievements and methods. Since social curriculum and school curriculum can be melded together, curriculum should be seen as something that can be influenced by history, societies, and even politics. Hence, if we live in a society in which subordinates yield to authorities, then those authority figures, those in power will inadvertently shape curriculum through the social curriculum. An example can be seen in the fact that a large percentage of the world's schools are English-speaking schools that teach a curriculum based on Western, white Anglo-Saxon culture. Since curriculum is so severely shaped by society, especially the most powerful and dominant aspects of society, educators today argue for the need to shape a more balanced curriculum, one that is objective, diverse, multicultural, embraces children's experiences in learning, and interdisciplinary.