Reading Curriculum Theory: The Development of a New Hermeneutic by William Reynolds
Phenomenology + Pedagogy
theory that may clarify what general education means in a time of intellectual crisis. In his last chapters, he deals not solely with Paulo Freire's "co-intention al dialogic" but what he calls the "conceptual dialogica" of the present reviewer, whose treatment of the disciplines as existential modes of sense-making he seems to approve. Indeed, he appears to be unusually generous when it comes to this reviewer's effort over the years to tap existential and phenomenolo gical sources for a
... t pedago', one that leaves teachers free to choose and does not thrust them into subjectivism . Vandenberg' s own words about what he calls the "elements" of the common general education he wishes to see hold great phenomenolo gical relevance and summon up the sound and feel of Vandenberg' s earliest book, the wonderful "Being and Education." Here he speaks again of the manipulable world, the play world, the natural world, the social world, the lived world, the world of books, the world of numbers; and he ends with a remarkably clear laying out of the "strands" of a humanizing curriculum. The problems this reviewer has with the books stem, in part, from her own social activism, her interest in literature and the other arts, and her unabashed postmodern relativism. The books might have been improved if they were more impassioned , and if they made more use of anecdote, concrete example, "story." Near the end of the second book, things come alive when the Abraham and Isaac section of Kierkegaard' s Fear and Trembling is used; and there might well be more such moments. This commentator cannot but regret the underestimat ion of the arts, for all the sympaethetic treatment of Gadamer's hermeneutics and the work done by Harry Broudy in opening up the world of arts to the young. Important and valuable though Vandenberg' s pages are on equal access and diverse human possibilities, there is a peculiar neglect of the structural factors that constrain and often distort the work of schools. Homelessnes s, poverty, violence, the disintegratio n of families, drug addiction, AIDS: all are eating away at the very roots of humanization , as social support systems continue to decay, and networks of concern are torn. It is clear that it is not the responsibility of schools, as Vandenberg reminds us, to change the social order; society has to be such as to sustain schools that foster human rights and allow for human agency (and even witnessing the truth). It might have been well to disclose some of the darkness even as a dream of possibility is permitted to unfold.