Ralph W. Tyler was considered one of the most influential of US educators during the last century. The purpose of this paper is to present an interview granted by Tyler to the first author of this paper in 1990. Tyler’s interview is preceded by a brief analysis of his work, in the hope of shedding light on some misconceptions that Tyler’s work has suffered since early 70s. The present interviewmay have been the only one given to an Ibero-American academician, and one of the very few in which Tyler spoke openly about what he thought of the fierce criticism launched by reconceptualists against his curriculum rationale.
So as long as there is education, there has got to be a curriculum.
Ralph W. Tyler (1990)
Ralph Winfred Tyler was born inChicago on April 22, 1902. In 1921 he obtained his A.B. in science and mathematics from Doane College, and in 1922 he became a high school teacher in the city of Pierre, South Dakota. In 1923 he received his A.M. from the University of Nebraska, where he began to specialize in the use of statistics in achievement tests. In 1927 he got his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Chicago. Atthe invitation of Werret Chartes, his teacher during Tyler’s doctoral studies, Tyler moved to the Office of Educational Research of Ohio State University to direct the Department of Educational Evaluation.
His presence and his work became well-known in the area of education, beginning with the Eight-Year Study, the greatest curriculum research project ever undertaken. Tyler foundedseveral research centers. As a consultant to several Presidents of the United States, he worked on various national committees and councils. From 1939 to 1946 he was a member of the National Committee on Teacher Education, and belonged to the National Science Board from 1962 to 1968. For nearly 72 years he was constantly active as a teacher, researcher, consultant and official. Tyler’s most importantcontributions were in the fields of curriculum and evaluation. He died of cancer in February of 1994.
The Work of Ralph Tyler
Ralph W. Tyler is considered one of the greatest educators produced by the United States in the twentieth century.In the Ibero-American world, he is principally known for his Basic principles of curriculum (1949/1986),1 a work which may have had more influence onworld-wide curriculum design and practice than any other. However, his line of thought has often been distorted, and his contributions have sometimes gone unrecognized. For example, there are those who consider Tyler to be a behaviorist because of his emphasis on the use of behavioral objectives in curriculum construction and evaluation, in spite of the fact that Tyler never clung to behaviorism in hiscurriculum design. In that field, his thought was more closely linked with that of Dewey, although he was also influenced by his teacher Charles Judd, from whom he learned the importance of generalization in curriculum as well as the objectives. One of Tyler’s teachers, a woman who taught at the University of Nebraska, was a disciple of Thorndike. It was through her that Tyler came into contact withThorndike’s The psychology of arithmetic, which contained 3,000 objectives—with the result that Tyler thereafter considered the behavioral objectives to be too specific (Schubert & Lopez Schubert, 1986).
During the 30s, Tyler spoke of transcurriculum objectives, which he conceived of as very broad objectives which should accompany the united effort of the school or the community (Cronbach,1986). One example of these objectives was that of developing a philosophy of life in the students. This same idea was expressed by Tyler 40 years later at the full apogee of the use of behavioral objectives.
Tyler himself described the limitations of these objectives and stated that: “surely you can’t use just the objectives as the basis for comprehensive evaluation” (Ridings, 1981, p. 12). In…