The terms child, curriculum and the society are everyday words used in our day to day activities. Biologically, a child (plural: children) is a human between the stages of birth and puberty. The legal definition of child generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. Child may also describe a relationship with a parent (such as sons and daughters of any age) or, metaphorically, an authority figure, or signify group membership in a clan, tribe, or religion; it can also signify being strongly affected by a specific time, place, or circumstance, as in “a child of nature” or “a child of the Sixties”. There are many social issues that affect children, such as childhood education, bullying, child poverty, dysfunctional families and in developing countries, hunger. Children can be raised by parents, in a foster care or similar supervised arrangement, guardians or partially raised in a day care center. The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. In dictionaries, curriculum is often defined as the courses offered by a school, but it is rarely used in such a general sense in schools. Depending on how broadly educators define or employ the term, curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning. An individual teacher’s curriculum, for example, would be the specific learning standards, lessons, assignments, and materials used to organize and teach a particular course. while A human society is a group of people involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent members. In the social sciences, a larger society often evinces stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.
In so far as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be possible on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap.
John Dewey recognized that “children’s development and learning were anything but rational and orderly, he and his followers advocated a child-centered and community-centered curriculum to give students experiences that make rigorous intellectual demands in the contexts of democratic social living” (Lipton & Oaks, 2007).
John Dewey’s book, The Child and The Curriculum, looks at the process of education from both perspectives – child and curriculum. Dewey leads the reader to view the curriculum, what the child must learn, from the child’s present state of mind. He also considers the teachers point of view as the vehicle that imparts and delivers the curriculum.
Dewey understood that the structure of a child’s mind is far different from that of an adult. A child does not have a framework in which to classify and place all the information he is receiving. The child is still developing both the context and the framework to process information about the world around him. The child’s interests lie in the world of persons and relationships as opposed to that of facts and laws.
Dewey identified three factors in the fundamental divergence between the child and the curriculum. The child’s experience is narrow and personal, but the world is vast extending both in space and time. He sees a unity, wholeheartedness, where the curriculum is specialized, and divided. The child’s life is practical and focused on emotional bonds; the curriculum is an abstract principal of logical classification. These factors are summarized in the following table:
Divergence Factors
Child Curriculum
World View Narrow, personal Extends in space and time
Perspective Unity, wholeness Specialized, divided, categorized
Focus Emotional bonds, practical skills Abstract principles, logical classification
The struggles the child faces when confronted with the curriculum he must learn become clear when considered from both perspectives. If a middle ground is not established, Dewey identifies the key negative impacts to learning that will result:
• There is no organic connection with what he has already experienced. Today this is called prior knowledge, or context. Without this connection there is nothing to link the knowledge to, it becomes a rule, only to be learned and recited. The child becomes accustomed to accumulating and reciting facts.
• The child has no internal motivation, no need or desire to learn the material. The interest and motivation are to avoid scolding or ridicule.
• There is no quality of experience when information is presented in this external ready-made fashion. Without the delight of discovery the connection is not locked in, the material becomes commonplace, flat, just stuff to be learned.
John Dewey with the assistance and support of his wife Alice developed and tested these ideas in the University of Chicago Laboratory School. John was the director and Alice the principal of the school. These philosophical educational doctrines that he concisely expressed in this book shaped the direction of American education.
Profound differences in theory of a child and that of the curriculum content are never gratuitous or invented. They grow out of conflicting elements in a genuine problem a problem which is genuine just because the elements, taken as they stand, are conflicting. Any significant problem involves conditions that for the moment contradict each other. Solution comes only by getting away from the meaning of terms that is already fixed upon and coming to see the conditions from another point of view, and hence in a fresh light. But this reconstruction means travail of thought. Easier than thinking with surrender of already formed ideas and detachment from facts already learned is just to stick by what is already said, looking about for something with which to buttress it against attack.

Thus sects arise: schools of opinion. Each selects that set of conditions that appeals to it; and then erects them into a complete and independent truth, instead of treating them as a factor in a problem, needing adjustment. The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature, undeveloped being; and certain social aims, meanings, values incarnate in the matured experience of the adult. The educative process is the due interaction of these forces. Such a conception of each in relation to the other as facilitates completest and freest interaction is the essence of educational theory. But here comes the effort of thought. It is easier to see the conditions in their separateness, to insist upon one at the expense of the other, to make antagonists of them, than to discover a reality to which each belongs. The easy thing is to seize upon something in the nature of the child, or upon something in the developed consciousness of the adult, and insist upon that as the key to the whole problem. When this happens a really serious
Practical problem that of interaction is transformed into an unreal, and hence insoluble, theoretic problem. Instead of seeing the educative steadily and as a whole, we see conflicting terms.
We get the case of the child vs. the curriculum; of the individual nature vs. social culture. Below all other divisions in pedagogic opinion lies this opposition. The child lives in a somewhat narrow world of personal contacts. Things hardly come within his experience unless they touch, intimately and obviously, his own well-being, or that of his family and friends. His world is a world of persons with their personal interests, rather than a realm of facts and laws. Not truth, in the sense of conformity to external fact, but affection and sympathy, is its keynote. As against this, the course of study met in the school presents material stretching back indefinitely in time, and extending outward indefinitely into space. The child is taken out of his familiar physical environment, hardly more than a square mile or so in area, into the wide world yes, and even to the bounds of the solar system. His little span of personal memory and tradition is overlaid with the long centuries of the history of all peoples.
Again, the child’s life is an integral, a total one. He passes quickly and readily from one topic to another, as from one spot to another, but is not conscious of transition or break. There is no conscious isolation, hardly conscious distinction. The things that occupy him are held together by the unity of the personal and social interests which his life carries along. Whatever is uppermost in his mind constitutes to him, for the time being, the whole universe. That universe is fluid and fluent; its contents dissolve and re-form with amazing rapidity. But, after all, it is the child’s own world. It has the unity and completeness of his own life. He goes to school, and various studies divide and fractionize the world for him. Geography selects, it abstracts and analyzes one set of facts, and from one particular point of view. Arithmetic is another division, grammar another department, and so on indefinitely.
Again, in school each of these subjects is classified. Facts are
Torn away from their original place in experience and rearranged with reference to some general principle. Classification is not a matter of child experience; things do not come to the individual pigeonholed. The vital ties of affection, the connecting bonds of activity, hold together the variety of his personal experiences. The adult mind is so familiar with the notion of logically ordered facts that it does not recognize it cannot realize the amount of separating and reformulating which the facts of direct experience have to undergo before they can appear as a “study,” or branch of learning. A principle, for the intellect, has had to be distinguished and defined; facts have had to be interpreted in relation to this principle, not as they are in themselves. They have had to be regathered about a new center which is wholly abstract and ideal. All this means a development of a special intellectual interest. It means ability to view facts impartially and objectively; that is, without reference to their place and meaning in one’s own experience. It means capacity to analyze and to synthesize. It means highly matured intellectual habits and the command of a definite technique and apparatus of scientific inquiry.
The studies as classified are the product, in a word, of the science
of the ages, not of the experience of the child. These apparent deviations and differences between child and curriculum might be almost indefinitely widened. But we have here sufficiently fundamental divergences: first, the narrow but personal world of the child against the impersonal but infinitely extended world of space and time; second, the unity, the single wholeheartedness of the child’s life, and the specializations and divisions of the curriculum; third, an abstract principle of logical classification and arrangement, and the practical and emotional bonds of child life.

From these elements of conflict grow up different educational sects. One school fixes its attention upon the importance of the subject-matter of the curriculum as compared with the contents of the child’s own experience.

Consider the cultural diversity of today’s society. The ideas identified by Dewey a century ago form the rationale and requirement for a multicultural curriculum. Look at your curriculum through the eyes of your students.
John Dewey knew from both the personal experience, and active research, that the curriculum and the child must meet on the child’s terms. This study explains how and why the child, curriculum and the society must provide the opportunity to explore, experience, and connect information, so the child truly understands and internalizes the abstract principles, the logical classifications, the space and time, constructing the worldview that is specified by the curriculum.

Carmichael, L., & Dewey, J. (1971). The Child and the Curriculum
and The School and Society. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press.
Lipton, M., & Oaks, J. (2007). Philosophy and Politics. Teaching to
Change the World (p. 86). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill.
Peterson, P. E. (2010), John Dewey and the Progressives, Saving
Schools From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning (pp 37 – 50). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Postone, Moishe. Time, Labour, and Social Domination:( 1993). A
Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press,


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