There are many ways that curriculum has been theorized from the “Tyler Rationale” to Hirsch’s “cultural literacy” to Anyon’s “hidden curriculum.” All of these theories have merits but none seems to capture the whole of what teachers provide to children. Instead, each curriculum theory seems to describe a habit of teaching relation. This relation does not lie exclusively in the teacher mind, nor in the world of objects and events either. Instead, curriculum is in the relation with teachers, students, and the world. This research examines the way a teacher’s understanding of curriculum shifts across time and circumstance, long term and moment to moment. These changes in understanding are framed, not as a feature of a teacher’s improving knowledge of curriculum, but as evidence of the agential nature of curriculum itself. For this study I will concentrate my focus on the way the curricula of racism/antiracism, evolve, shift, and change in ways that merit being called agential. My secondary focus is on naturalistically describing how teachers think about the protean aspects of the curricula of racism/anti-racism.
My dissertation is the product of my experiences as a classroom teacher, as the instructor of college courses, and of my study of the new innovations in qualitative research methods and methodology. Drawing on resources from posthuman theory, classical pragmatism, the recently developed posthuman empiricism, as well as theories of narrative inquiry, critical race theory, and antiBlackness theory I develop the idea that elements of curricula are a kind of active agent. Many teachers I have spoken with have experienced aspects of a curriculum seeming to move and adapt to their teaching even as they enact it in their classrooms. Sometimes this movement can open up new avenues of instruction and learning, and at other times it blocks or mitigates the effects of a lesson. My research focuses on antiBlack racism as the curricular agent that actively asserts itself, even as teachers attempt to eliminate it by making room for the agency of an antiracist curriculum. My unit of analysis is the experiential data collected from classroom teachers as theorized in narrative inquiry and counternarrative analysis as developed in critical race theory. My theory of agency itself is derived from the posthuman theory of Karen Barad, Charles Sanders Peirce’s pragmaticism, and finds many intersections with Indigenous philosophies of agency particularly those of Vine Deloria, Jr. Through interviews with teachers who identify themselves as antiracist I discuss the protean nature of both racist and antiracist ideas in the curricular space as they are experienced by the teacher in moments of tension through their interaction. As a result of my study the understanding of what is required to prepare teachers to provide antiracist curriculum will be expanded. I illustrate the way effective antiracist teachers understand racism as a moving target and further illustrate the way no one conceptual framework is adequate to capture this movement. The alternative proposed is that teachers be encouraged to appreciate racism as an evolving agential phenomenon that they need to constantly adapt to and creatively resist. Teacher education, then, in addition to teaching sophisticated conceptual analyses of racism in schools, also needs to help students cultivate explicit antiracist purposes.