Afro-pessimism is a lens that meditates heavily on the endless consequences the Black body experiences via its position as a nonbeing and slave—a position opposite of Humanity. The marker of Human is reserved for non-Blacks. Modernity is that which has birthed this hierarchy, this structure of the world, and this division of bodies. The slave and the Black are synonymous ontological markers that leave the Black body as an ever-vulnerable creature experiencing endless violence. The slave is a socially dead nonbeing. This reality creates conundrums for enacting methods of redress. And the violence that saturates the realm in which the slave resides is not that which is analogous to the oppression narratives impacting non-Black people of color. Many of the scholars of U.S. curriculum, and generations of scholars within and around the field of curriculum studies, have long sought to utilize U.S. curriculum to address social ills and to thwart any regimes aimed at hindering the nation’s imaginary thrust toward democratic ideals. From the onset, curriculum has been a battleground atop which ideological interests have guided its direction and shaped its composition. Curriculum has long been a social and cultural arcade of democratic deliberation and a site in which one meditates on Humanism’s ideals. In the 1970s, the field of curriculum studies was specifically marked by a reconceptualization that would institute a method for addressing the psychic and social ills plaguing U.S. society (with confident applicability abroad). The method, called currere, was engineered to awaken and deepen one’s engagement with oneself and to reinforce one’s connectivity with the inhabitants of one’s society and world. This includes a rescuing of the individual psyche from depersonalization and derealization—with the end being: An integrated self. This integrated self is then recast into the world with an awakened agency and an enlarged empathic register laced with moral and ethical commitments. This integrated self would be charged with engaging in transformative action within the larger society—aimed at salvaging the tears in the nation’s social fabric by building toward the tenets of democratic idealism. This method is believed to be universally applicable as it is designed to aid and transform the experiences of those who exist at all rungs of the social hierarchy. This method, and its evolved forms, is ultimately designed to challenge hegemonic interests. Afro-pessimism asserts that curriculum’s very composition simultaneously forgets and exploits the Black. Afro-pessimism asserts that curriculum’s antihegemonic weaponry and psychoanalytic instruments cannot spoil the plight of those who are beyond and outside of hegemony’s Human intervals and whose psyches are endlessly disrupted by an invasive Whiteness. Afro-pessimism asserts that the liberative mission of curriculum/currere/the field of curriculum studies is a Humanism that is designed for all who are not Black and perpetuates anti-Black violence.
Harriet Zilliacus and Lili-Ann Wolff
The climate crisis calls for changes in all areas of human life. One such area is the education sector, which needs to be the target of urgent reform to be able to support these crucial changes. International sustainability policies call for transformative changes in worldviews that may inspire new ways of thinking and acting. Worldview transformation means a major change in deep-rooted ways of viewing the world that results in long-lasting changes in individuals’ sense of self, their perception of their relationship to the world, and even their entire way of being. Worldviews interface with perceptions of issues like climate change in ways that are frequently overlooked. The climate crisis demands a reorientation and transformation of worldviews, a change in which education can play a pivotal role. Therefore, the crisis also calls for rapid educational policy reforms. A central question is how to make worldview transformation related to sustainability visible in education policy. The general school education curricula in Finland (Grades 1–12) express sustainability as a core aim. However, it is debatable whether educational policy such as the Finnish curricula can promote worldview transformation. Contesting policy objectives and gaps between policy and practice can prevent education from dealing effectively with large worldview quandaries such as the climate crisis. In addition, unclear relationships between research and policy are fundamental obstacles during policy development. Finally, an overriding concern in policy is the lack of focus on urgent global dilemmas; consequently, it does not per se promote learning that could lead to radical change.
In the sphere of education, there is an ongoing conversation of world-making possibilities related to centering gender and its intersections in educational contexts. Central to this notion is a triangulation of family, school, and community. The world-making possibilities of this triangulation is bolstered by six characteristics: shared responsibility for student learning among school staff, families, and the larger community; seamless and continuous support for learning from birth to career; creation of pathways that honor the dynamic, multiple, and complementary ways that students learn; supportive culture for learning both in the classroom and throughout the community; opportunities and processes to foster advocacy for student learning; and quality education and learning opportunities for every child. Moving beyond this notion, a racialized and gendered dimension considers the influence of institutionalized racism and anti-Blackness in society on the academic success of children.
Decolonizing girlhood illuminates an attempt to refuse and recover the pathological representation of Indigenous refugee girls by going beyond the discourse of the Western construction of girlhood. It takes an anticolonial, critical race feminist approach to the understanding of girlhood that challenges the intersectional, racialized exclusion and the deficit representations of Indigenous refugee girls, which are often reinforced by humanitarian schemes of embodied vulnerability. The digital visual fiction stories created by Karen tribe refugee girls in a media arts summer workshop reposition their presence by creating spaces in which they can speak their own desires, share their imaginings, and portray their struggles. Through this experience, these girls challenge colonial social realities and the fantasies of democracy. Ultimately, their futuristic visual fiction acts as a form of counter-storytelling that illustrates an alternative curriculum space and flips the hegemonic script for empowerment.
Helen Cahill, Babak Dadvand, and Annie Gowing
The well-being challenges of the 21st century are deeply ethical in nature and require activation of collective as well as individual responsibility for the ways in which others are treated. For this reason, school reform initiatives need to equip young people with a wide range of capacities to engage with the challenges of advancing both the wellness of humanity and that of the planet. There is a robust body of theory and research available to inform school reform efforts that aim to accomplish improved individual and collective well-being. This knowledge base emanates from different paradigms and disciplinary traditions. Brought together, these knowledge sources highlight the importance of ensuring that schools invest efforts toward developing ethical, critical, personal, social, and creative capabilities that enable young people to enact care for self, others, society, and the planet. A transdisciplinary approach that expounds on research and theory from diverse disciplines, including well-being education, critical, feminist, and postmodern traditions, and scholarship on youth voice and participation can help efforts toward well-being-centric school reform. Evidence suggests that research-informed well-being education programs can have positive impacts in terms of improved mental, social, and relational health, contributions to learning, and fostering critical thinking skills. These are the skills that are needed by young people to navigate and respond to ethnical challenges with care, compassion, and a sense of responsibility as a relational ethos. Taken together, these advances in thinking and knowledge, derived from different traditions of scholarship, can be harnessed to inform a “well-being-centric” approach to schooling reform that is responsive to the past, present, and future lives of persons, peoples, and the planet. A well-being-centric approach to school reform should harness developments in education knowledge and thinking generated across diverse disciplines within the past 50 years, since the 1970s. This, in turn, requires disrupting the ways in which the disciplinary structures and assessment regimes of secondary schools work as impediments to the transformative change needed to advance student well-being and learning in these changed and challenging times.
The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have all based their school systems on a vision of inclusive and comprehensive schools with no streaming and easy transition between the levels. In Sweden, “A school for all” was the concept and vision for school reforms during the postwar period from the 1950s to the 1980s. This vision originated in egalitarian philosophy and the development of the welfare state. The implementation and reforms have gone through three phases: (a) implementing and supporting enactment of the comprehensive school reforms from 1950 to 1980 approximately; (b) decentralizing and implementing new public management and local accountability from 1980 to 2010 approximately; and (c) evaluating, correcting, and considering new measures from 2010 onward approximately. Political and economic premises have changed the prospects of implementing “school for all.” There are diverse developments in Nordic societies and schools, which, however, are not as dramatic as those in some other countries currently in 2021. Nevertheless, the question of equity in the school system and its importance for a democratic society needs to be raised.
Robert E. Slavin
One of the most important problems in improving educational practice and outcomes is the very limited role that evidence plays in decisions about adopting books, software, professional development, and other materials and services. Instead, these are sold using relationship marketing in which sales reps work to build friendships with key decision makers. Word of mouth among educators with similar jobs also has a powerful influence. Why should evidence of effectiveness be a major criterion in the selection of educational products and services? The most important answer is that programs with a strong evidence base that are implemented as they were in the validating research are likely to produce better outcomes for children. Further, making evidence a basis for program adoption would put education into a virtuous cycle of innovation, evaluation, and progressive improvement like that which has transformed fields such as medicine, agriculture, and technology.
Cheryl E. Matias and Shoshanna Bitz
Conceptualized as early as 2006 via ideas of the motherscholar, the concept of Critical Race Parenting (otherwise ParentCrit) was first identified in 2016 in an open access online journal to discuss pedagogical ways parents and children can coconstruct understanding about race, racism, whiteness, and white supremacy. Since then Critical Race Parenting/ParentCrit has become more popularized in academic circles, from peer-reviewed conference presentations to special issues by journals. The rationale behind ParentCrit definitions, theoretical roots, parallels to education, implications to education, scholarship and literature, and controversies are explicated to describe what ParentCrit is and where it came from. To effectively articulate its epistemological roots in the idea of the motherscholar to its relation to Critical Race Theory, one must delve into the purposes, evolution, and implications of ParentCrit in education.
Tiina Soini, Kirsi Pyhältö, and Janne Pietarinen
Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.
Gunn Elisabeth Søreide, Hanne Riese, and Line Torbjørnsen Hilt
Twenty-first-century skills are a global network of corporate and governmental influences that promote competences suited to fit the future knowledge economy. The competences described as 21st-century skills vary across frameworks and initiatives, but the emphasis is predominantly on metacognitive, social, and emotional skills. Some of the most prevalent capabilities are learning to learn, self-regulation, in-depth learning, creativity, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, ethical and emotional awareness, communication, and collaboration. Research tends to portray 21st-century skills initiatives either as evidence-based knowledge based on the latest research or as part of an economization of the learner to the interests of the market economy in line with neoliberal ideology. The ideas associated with the 21st-century skills movement have nevertheless become part of educational reforms worldwide and are currently also translated into a Nordic education policy context. When global ideas such as 21st-century skills are taken up and used, they are colored by national concerns and consequently change as they travel across contexts. The Norwegian LK-20 reform for compulsory and upper secondary school is an example of how policymakers include global educational ideas in the national curriculum and educational policy, by balancing core 21st-century skills elements with national cultural sentiments about assessment, childhood, educational purposes, and schools’ responsibilities. The balancing of global and national educational ideas can be done by promoting 21st-century skills as a solution to specific national challenges and thus urgent for pupils’ and the nation’s future. A more sophisticated technique is when policymakers frame 21st-century skills by familiar concepts and language associated with existing traditional national educational values, thus seemingly promoting change and continuation simultaneously. In such an intersection between global educational ideas and national educational sentiments, both core elements of the 21st-century skills as well as the more traditional educational concepts and values can be adjusted and altered.