Tag Archives: Curriculum Theory

Teaching history as hermeneutics

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Teaching history as hermeneutics: Critically and pedagogically engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. Paper presented at the biennial conference of the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA), Melbourne, 8-10 July.

In recent years, a federal government dedicated to using curriculum as a vehicle of social cohesion and cultural reproduction, has questioned the apparently ‘postmodern’ and ‘relativist’ History curriculum reform efforts of the 1990s that occurred in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Arguing for a “root and branch renewal” of Australian history, the federal government has asserted that the nation’s past was rewritten, during the decades prior to the Howard government, “in the service of a partisan political cause” (Bishop, 2006). In polemic fashion, contemporary conservative politicians and social commentators regularly collapse important distinctions between multiculturalism, pluralism, political correctness, and postmodernism, preferring to read all forms of contemporary social theory and practice as confusing and ideologically-loaded, while their own grand narratives are proposed as ‘common-sense’. In this paper, drawing upon important recent work in historiography, I rethink the ‘problem’ of narrative diversity in the curriculum. Arguing that relativism is not the inevitable conclusion of teaching rival historical narratives, I propose a hermeneutic approach to the teaching of history that by providing a curricular space for ‘critical pluralism’ pedagogically engages narrative diversity.

A more developed version of the argument was published in 2009.

Parkes, R. J. (2009).Teaching History as historiography: Engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 8(2), 118-132.

Click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the more developed article.

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School History as post-colonial text

Parkes, R. J. (2006). School History as postcolonial text: The on-going struggle for histories in the New South Wales curriculum. Paper presented at the Second World Curriculum Studies Conference, Tampere, Finland, 21-24 May.

This paper is concerned with theorizing a curricular response to what has become known in Australia as the ‘history wars’ (Macintyre & Clark, 2003). The central debate in the history wars is over the representation of the colonization of Australia. What is at stake in these history wars is not only national identity (Halse & Harris, 2004), but also our conceivable future, because as Bennett (1995) has argued, “more than history is at stake in how the past is represented. The shape of the thinkable future depends on how the past is portrayed and on how its relations to the present are depicted” (p. 162). History curriculum, as “a disciplining technology that directs how the individual is to act, feel, talk, and ‘see’ the world and ‘self’” (Popkewitz, 2001, p. 153), serves a function in the history wars by operating as an apparatus for the social re/production of national identities, through linking “the development of the individual to the images and narratives of nationhood” (Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001). Consequently, the importance of school history as a battlefield in these ‘history wars’ should not be underestimated (Clark, 2003). This study reserves as a context for its deliberations and ruminations, history curriculum in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The NSW context does more than simply anchor the discussion; it works as a case through which deliberations, in terms of the problematic, are rendered meaningful, and purposeful. Its significance is in the global trends that it reflects, and its possibility to speak to those trends it terms of a reconceptualized History curriculum. I argue that what has remained uncontested in the struggle for histories, has been the representational practices of history itself, and that addressing this null curriculum has significance for school History as postcolonial text and critical pedagogic practice.

A more developed version of the argument can be found in a paper published in the journal “Curriculum Inquiry” in 2007.

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Reading History curriculum as postcolonial text: Towards a curricular response to the history wars in Australia and beyond. Curriculum Inquiry, 37(4), 383-400.

Please click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the published paper.

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Discipline and the dojo

Parkes, R. J. (2009). Discipline and the dojo. Paper presented in the ‘Complicating understandings of discipline’ symposium at the annual conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), Canberra (ACT),
November 29 – December 3.

“You must be very disciplined?” is a question I’ve been asked many times, almost the instant after I’ve revealed my twenty years of involvement in the martial arts. It rehearses a popular perception of the martial arts, and is frequently the motivation of many a parent who has brought their child to a dojo in order to “become more disciplined”. This paper is concerned with the productive nature of discipline. That is, with what discipline produces. I use the martial arts as a case study to explore theoretically and empirically Foucault’s (1977; 1982/1994) claim regarding the productive nature of power and discipline, particularly because it so frequently is depicted as a site of ‘serious’ discipline. Informed by the later Foucault, I explore both the constraining and enabling effects of discipline as it manifests in and through the martial arts; and consequently I investigate the way discipline is central to the act of becoming in the dojo. This is not performed in some celebration of martial arts. Rather, I am interested in using the martial arts as a case study to understand the complex ways in which discipline, desire, and power circulate and interact to produce particular kinds of subjects. That is to say, I will argue that there is not one set of ‘disciplinary’ practices (Foucault, 1977) that is constraining, and another set that is enabling. Instead, I hope to make the case that all disciplinary constraints are precisely enabling forces that operate on and through the individual martial artist as a means of self-formation; and that participation in a disciplinary regime or process results in the ‘production’ of a particular kind of person, individual, or martial artist.


The above conference paper was an abridged version of the argument published in the edited collection below:

Parkes, R. J. (2010). Discipline and the dojo. In Z. Millei, T. G. Griffiths, and R. J. Parkes (Eds.), Re-theorizing discipline in education: Problems, politics and possibilities (pp. 76-90). New York: Peter Lang.

Click on the book cover image to locate a copy of the chapter.

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Bringing theory to doctoral research


Gulson, K. N., & Parkes, R. J. (2010). Bringing theory to doctoral research. In P. Thomson & M. Walker (Eds.), The Routledge doctoral student’s companion: Getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences (pp. 76-84). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

This chapter takes the proposed title as an invitation to explore the role of theory in educational research, and presents a particular understanding of ways to bring theory into doctoral research. The authors are convinced of the need for, and subsequent enactment of, theoretically informed doctoral undertakings; that is the ways in which doctoral students can, and should, be cognisant of the pleasures and perils of using theory in educational doctoral work, and that theory is in fact a necessity in order to become a scholar. Thus, in this short chapter we consider what theory is in educational research, in albeit a limited way, and then reflect on our own doctoral experiences to look at how theory provides a means of finding one’s own voice in the field. Gulson explores the work of spatial theory that he brought to his doctoral study in critical policy studies; while Parkes examines the use of post-colonial and poststructural theory in his doctoral exploration of History curriculum after postmodernism. The authors conclude by suggesting that theory operates as a form of permission that constitutes the scholar, and that theory is necessary for crafting a scholarly trajectory of one’s own.

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On the Mistreatment of Management


Gore, J. M., & Parkes, R. J. (2008). On the Mistreatment of Management. In A. Phelan & J. Sumsion (Eds.), Critical Readings in Teacher Education: Provoking Absences (pp. 45-60). Rotterdam, Sense Publishers.

This chapter addresses the odd place that classroom management occupies in the structure and conduct of teacher education programs and in discourse on teaching and teacher education. As evident within the curricula of teacher education programs, and recently produced policy documents describing teacher standards, the idea of “management” has come to occupy a privileged place in discourse on teaching. It is our argument that “management” is mistreated in discourses of teaching and teacher education, and that this mistreatment derives in part from a misunderstanding of pedagogy. However, our argument extends beyond this simple critique, a position that has advocates throughout the field already. Rather, we seek to make what we consider a more significant point. Adopting a theoretical lens provided by the work of Michel Foucault to examine the absence of critical engagement with “management” discourse in the context of teacher education, we argue that this discourse operates as a “regime of truth” that constructs a particular conception of “the good teacher” as “classroom manager” and, through the operation of this regime on and through the individual student teacher, produces a situation in which teachers are likely to desire classroom order over the construction of an intellectually engaging learning environment. In reading management discourse as a regime of truth, we seek to challenge what has become part of the “common-sense” of teaching and teacher education, not to reject it outright, but to explore its productive effects in the constitution of particular kinds of teachers, with very specific desires, practices, and goals.

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