Lost contexts and the tyranny of products

2006-05-04T16:31:53Z (GMT) by Mike Martin Anne Riggs
While making products has always been an essential part of D&T, the motivation for doing so may have changed. Such change is illustrated in the National Curriculum (England and Wales) documents 1989 to 1999. In the Interim Report products are "developed in response to perceived needs or opportunities" and technology is identified as taking "place within a context". The current Order (DFE 1995) requires pupils to judge the quality of a product by assessing how the product meets a need and is fit for its purpose. This paper explores the view that the curriculum is increasingly centred on decontextualised products where pupils acquire skills and knowledge to make products which are then evaluated against criteria which have little relation to a realistic context. Product evaluation is undertaken in a similar manner and the subject may be seen as 'pure' technology. Combined with increasing consumerism, this loss of contexts will have a significant effect on the image of technology being promoted and an uncritical technicist view, in which people are passive recipients of technology, could be encouraged. The paper concludes by exploring new cross-curricular initiatives and raises important issues for all those involved in design and technology education.