I wrote the other day about the new Head of Ofsted's first unsuccessful foray into curriculum, and in particular about the lack of mention of 'balance' in what she said. She preferred to focus on 'broad' rather than 'balanced' despite what section 78 of the 2002 Education Act says.
The perils of breadth without balance are obvious. Here's a broad curriculum:
- Society's debt to Surrealist art and fashion
- The writings of Shakespeare, Jonson, Rattigan and Pinter
- The genesis and genius of Bebop
- Moral dilemmas within genetic engineering
- Synchronised swimming (depths 1 to 4)
- Mandarin Chinese conversation
- Fortran programming, probability and the Taylor series
- The history and philosophy of science in the Enlightenment
- Cooking traditional English pastries, puddings, pasties and pies
- Flint snapping theory and practice
- The sexual preferences of the kings and queens of England (1066 to 1603)
- Contrasting Shia and Sunni approaches to the good life in the 20th Century CE
The above might be a broad curriculum — from flint knapping to Ben Jonson and Cornish pasties to Fortran — but is it balanced? A much more significant question, of course, is how could we tell? Balance is usually enshrined in educational aims and Robin Alexander has argued that it is deeply undemocratic only to think of aims once content (like the above) has been decided (usually by expert others). It is like thinking about nutrition only after a year's meals have been decided upon.