Pragmatism and Curriculum:
Pragmatists do not believe in any fixed curriculum or a curriculum wherein there would be watertight compartmentalization of knowledge into different subjects nor do they support a Laissez-fare policy in curriculum organisation. To them that knowledge and those subjects are acceptable which solve the problems of life. Brubacher says, “The curriculum must not be drawn up in advance. It is what the child learns in action”. In other words, pragmatists do not wish to teach dead theories and dry facts. They wish that the nature of the child, his interests and multiple activities of life should be taken into consideration. “The curriculum is specifically concerned with the needs of children” according to Kilpatric. Each pupil learns what he likes and what he accepts. They prefer to give integrated knowledge around particular and significant problems of life rather than divide knowledge into various subjects of instruction. However, they have suggested the following principles to be kept in view while determining a curriculum.
(1) Principle of Utility- The curriculum should provide only that information which is beneficial to the pupils. The subject should impart practical knowledge and useful skills to the students. These skills should also prepare them for future life. Thus, the curriculum should include physical training, hygiene, language, history, geography, mathematics and sciences. For girls, domestic Sciences or Home Sciences and for boys, agricultural sciences are prescribed. This criterion supports the view of vocational training after a satisfactory and requisite general education. Different studies are preferred, but the nature of these studies must be problem-solving. Only the pursuit of knowledge is a fruitless effort on the part of the educands and such subjects which have no concern with the life dealings are useless.
(2) Child’s Natural Interests- The child’s own interests play an important part in the process of learning. So, it is necessary to construct a curriculum, keeping in view the stage of development and interests of the child as per that stage. According to John Dewey, these interests are of four varieties namely-
- Interest in conversation.
- Interest in investiagtion.
- Interest in construction.
- Interest in creative expression.
In order to shape the curriculum according to these interests, at the primary stage, the curriculum should include reading, writing, counting, handicraft, painting, natural sciences, etc.
(3) Child’s Occupation and Activities- This principle in regard to curriculum construction stresses the necessity of a child’s own experiences in the field of education, “Book-learning” like naturalists are not preferred by the Pragmatic School of Philosophy. In the curriculum, the activities must be purposeful. As observed by an eminent educationist, “If these activities take these character of the activities of the Community of which the School is an organ, they will develop moral virtues, result in attitudes of initiative and independence and will give training in citizenship and promote self-discipline”, Thus, this statement emphasises the activities of the children in the field of learning and assimilating facts.
(4) The Principle of Integration- The principle of integration is very important in curriculum construction. According to this, pragmatists believe in the unity of knowledge and skill, Subjectwise independent teaching will not suffice the purpose of bringing about integration. Pragmatist warns us against teaching subjects as “watertight compartments”. In the words of Descartes “All the true learning must be integral and the educators ought to abstain from dividing and parcelling out what nature has made one an indivisible”.
P0ragmatists, however, do not include cultural activities in the curriculum, as they do not provide any material advancement.