Mapping an Autobiography of Post-9/11 America: A New Paradigm for Policy-Making—Constituencies for a Curriculum of Possibility

  • JoVictoria Nicholson-Goodman


Greene’s (1971) articulation of a curriculum of possibility positions the intrusion of disorder and meaninglessness as features of being-in-the-world that stimulate learning to ‘restore order’ in ‘landscapes’ that have become ‘unfamiliar’ for the purpose of reconstituting meaning. Education policy trends have moved public schooling in the U.S. towards a serious distortion and deterioration of focus and aims, a situation exacerbated by our current cultural surround, which reflects both disorder and meaninglessness. This presents us with dangers, but also with opportunities. The danger of a lack of meaningfulness in schooling today may, among other effects, result in hindering genuine civic and human development sorely needed in a society aspiring to democracy. Opportunity also arises, however, as a result of the human instinct to ‘make sense once again’; the learning that is stimulated by disorder may serve as an avenue of hope for keeping such aspirations alive. The outcome is bound to have repercussions for our society.

I attend here, then, to how it is that our present cultural surround comes to reflect such disorder and meaninglessness, and how education policy leads to constraints on the focus and aims of schooling today in such a way as to retard progress towards greater understanding of what ‘order’ requires from an aspiring democracy. Both the danger and the opportunity play into the emergence (or not) of a curriculum of possibility. I work with the cultural surround, this post-9/11 America, acknowledging that there are difficulties in this landscape resulting from our multiple ways of seeing and being-in-the-world as Americans, difficulties magnified by the events of September 11th, 2001, and by how we as a nation responded to those events. Further, I use the national scene, rather than state or local foci, because of the new role of federal intervention in education policy, which I take some pains to elaborate below.