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HEATHER MURRAY From Canon to Curriculum CURRICULUM AND CHANGE The death of George Grant is mourned by many, and for many reasons. His demand that ethical issues be kept in the foreground of national life, his sustained attention to the most difficult moral and political questions, and his refusal to relinquish a distinctly Canadian social vision even as the hope of its realization dims - all these are aspects of George Grant's life and work which are inspirational even to those in disagreement with him. The loss of an indigenous educational theorist is particularly critical if it will cause us to rely more'than we already do on issues and theories formulated in a United States context. Grant's 'The University Curriculum' appeared twenty years ago in the collection Technology and Empire. On Grant's analysis, curriculum is the 'essence' of any university and determines its character. But despite individual variances of specialization and subject area, despite innovations and anachronisms, all university curricula in Canada serve the 'primary purpose' of Canadian culture: the need to 'keep technology dynamic within the context of the state capitalist structure' (113). Curriculum does this by facilitating the production of the personnel such a society requires. Here Grant's analysiS closely resembles the social reproduction theory of Pierre Bourdieu, for example, where what is 'reproduced' by the educational system is not only members of the citizenry but fundamental economic and political relations. (Grant sees a further form of reproduction at work as well, where an institutional response to seemingly 'North American' cultural change becomes a way of internalizing an American technological-imperial program.) As technolOgical 'means' become increasingly the educational 'ends,' a vacuum of values is created; and it is this vacuum which is Grant's primary area of concern. His essay on 'The University Curriculum' is structured by an unspoken play on the relationship between 'empiricism' and 'empire.' For the present purpose, however, I will focus on Grant's analysis of a further form of reproduction at work in educational systems: the tendency of the educational system and its component parts to reproduce themselves. (While Bourdieu, at least in the earlier work, views this sort of reproduction as inevitable, Grant, it would appear, does not. For UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 60, NUMBER 2, WINTER 199011 230 HEATHER MURRAY Grant, this is another consequence of the fit of educational aims to technological imperatives and is not intrinsic to the enterprise.) Grant pictures our situation as a 'tight circle' which inhibits both critique and change: . our present forms of existence have sapped the ability to think about standards of excellence and yet at the same time have imposed on us a standard in terms of which the human good is monolithically asserted, Thus, the university curriculum, by the very studies it incorporates, guarantees that there should be no serious criticism of itself or of the society it is shaped to serve. We are unable seriously to judge the university without judging its essence; but since we are educated in terms of that curriculum itis guaranteed that most of us will judge it good. (1}1) Grant is not deploring political paralysis, nor - given the date of this essay in the late 1960s - is he denying the existence of on-campus debate and confrontation. (He cites as exemplary the report of the University of Toronto review committee chaired by C.B. Macpherson.) Rather, what is described is a circle which is as much epistemological as it is political that is, the impossibility of rethinking educational projects on their own terms, of developing an academic self-reflexivity. For Grant, it is the reintroduction of the past and of memory that will break this 'tight circle of the modern fate': Grant's pedagogic project, then, is to reinstate a lost spirit of discovery, a search for the principles of a 'human excellence' which has yet to be achieved. In Grant's closing words, it cannot be appropriated by those who think of it as sustained simply in the human will, but only by those who have glimpsed that itis sustained by all that is. Although that sustainment cannot be adequately thought by us because of the fragmentation and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 229-243
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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