Creating a coherent curriculum is all the rage now. I mean, everyone's doing it: youngsters are jiving coherently in the music halls, German monks are writing coherently in the vernacular, and I hear in Rome there's a coherent coronation of a new emperor. Facetiousness aside, I can understand why, for some, the new clothes do indeed bear a striking resemblance to the emperor's birthday suit. But I do also see, whether in schools or through the social meedz, a heck of a lot of noise and incoherence, at least in my own, battered subject.
In ever more ridiculous attempts to make subjects more relevant, engaging, fun or, seemingly, bearable, coherent curriculums are thrown overboard, with the tiger remaining hidden beneath the tarpaulin. Little do the captains of these now rudderless ships realise how unnavigable their seas become: the North Star is lost and to Bermuda they unwittingly drift. Episodic incoherence is like an austerity of common sense and direction.
There are a number of sometimes striking, sometimes subtle, reasons for this incoherence. My own bête noir is the frankly imbecilic notion of lesson planning and detailed schemes of work. I've written about this previously, but I'll make it clear once more: the idea that we should plan an hour's work is literally based on the temporal structure of our day, not on what is the best way of approaching a topic, and thus any single lesson plan, or series of lessons with specific structures to follow, demonstrates as little regard for one's own domain as it does the ignorance of the author.
A curriculum is an unfolding story, not some topics which might be interesting or previously resourced. It's simply not good enough to teach a text because somebody likes it – if it doesn't fit into a greater whole then it's at best a divergence, a tourist route that reaches a dead end. Any history curriculum, for example, which does not at it's heart have central questions, themes and interleaving spirals of rich meaning has no heart, let alone coherence. In fact, without coherence there's no curriculum, just scattergun skills-based something-or-other or, as critics are so keen to point out, 'stuffing them with knowledge'.
Neither of these approaches has any strategy, unless by strategy you mean 'zero strategy'. The curriculum is the fundamental thing in itself of schooling, but few schools have a curriculum lead, and few schools actually question what they teach and why they teach it. But these sorts of decisions are privileges to make, they are what make us professionals. That so few of us have these discussions is a damning indictment of an education system that has, perhaps understandably though also bemusingly, prioritised outcomes over the input, strangely believing that an intervention culture in Y11 would do the job of five years of an intelligently designed curriculum.
We need to be better. We need to read more; we need to get rid of the noise; we need to focus on the richness of our own subjects and all their idiosyncrasies, thus building trust in the dignity of education for the sake of itself.