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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

6 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.32

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.240
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.819

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Volume 2007, Issue 164 (Apr 2007)


Education à la Silhouette: The need for semiotically-informed curriculum consciousness

James Anthony Whitson
  • Associate Professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.
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Published Online: 2007-04-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.028


The word ‘silhouette,’ we are told, ‘was satirically derived from the name of the parsimonious mid-eighteenth century French finance minister É tienne de Silhouette, whose hobby was the cutting of paper shadow portraits (the phrase à la Silhouette grew to mean ‘on the cheap’)’. Education à la Silhouette results from education practice and discourse that is not informed by semiotic understanding. Language and other resources that could be used as signs mediating access to the world for learning and participation become, instead, flat and opaque substitutes for knowledge, and occlusive obstacles to learning and understanding. Propositional and procedural ‘knowledge’ are presented and learned (whether by memorization, or by active construction) with the idea that such propositions and procedures are, in themselves, bits of positive knowledge, rather than being used as sign-elements for cognitive participation in the world through mediative semiosis. The fundamental difference between positive and semiosically mediative conceptions of meaning implicates profound consequences for education practice and policy.

Keywords: semiotics; positivism; education; curriculum; meaning; law

About the article

James Anthony Whitson

Tony Whitson (b. 1950). His research interest is curriculum studies. His major publications include Constitution and Curriculum: Hermeneutical Semiotics of Cases and Controversies in Education, Law, and Social Science (1991); and ‘Cognition as a semiosic process: From situated mediation to critical reflective transcendence’ (1997).

Published Online: 2007-04-16

Published in Print: 2007-04-19

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.028.

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