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Wrongful Influence in Educational Contexts  

John Tillson

When and why are coercion, indoctrination, manipulation, deception, and bullshit morally wrongful modes of influence in the context of educating children? Answering this question requires identifying what valid claims different parties have against one another regarding how children are influenced. Most prominently among these, it requires discerning what claims children have regarding whether and how they and their peers are influenced, and against whom they have these claims. The claims they have are grounded in the weighty interests they each equally have in their wellbeing, prospective autonomy, and being regarded with equal concern and respect. Plausibly children have valid claims regarding the content and means of influence they themselves are subjected to. For instance, considerations of concern and respect for children confer duties on others enable them to know important information and develop important skills. Children also plausibly have valid claims to be free from certain means of influence, including indoctrination. This is because indoctrinatory practices threaten to diminish both their capacity to reason soundly, thereby constituting a wrongful harm, and their opportunities to form judgements and choices in response to relevant evidence and reasons, thereby constituting a wrong of disrespect.

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Youth Resisting the Popular Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality  

Ana Carolina Antunes

The concept of youth resistance has its roots in the field of sociology of education. Nevertheless, the concept has been taken up in fields such as economy, psychology, and anthropology and among other scholars who seek to understand education, schooling, and the ways in which young people experience everyday life. Although in its origins, resistance theory focused on oppositional behaviors of mostly white, cis, heterosexual young men, it has expanded to account for the ways in which minoritized communities (women, black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled, queer, and the multiple intersections of these identities) resist the oppression of mainstream society. In schools, the push and pull of youth resistance is constantly present. Schools have become a place for the maintenance and contestation of many societal expectations, including gendered and sexuality expectations. These societal expectations are taught and reinforced in schools through official or visible curriculum (i.e., the content that students learn in class) and through popular or invisible curriculum—everything else that is learned through interactions with peers, teachers, other adults on campus, and the cultural values they bring into the building with them. Educational spaces are very structured spaces, and youth who challenge norms and rules (even if they are unwritten) may face dire consequences. For that reason, the field scholars looking at LGBTQIA+ youth and resistance have argued that it is necessary to expand the field to look at not only youth culture but the ways in which this culture is performed in schools.

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The Zone of Proximal Development and Diversity  

Alex Kostogriz and Nikolay Veresov

The concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) emerged in the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky as a result of the broader quest for a new psychology and forms of education in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. The project of unprecedented socioeconomic transformations created a political demand for education that would build intellectual, physical, and moral capabilities of the new generation of young people. Cultural-historical psychology, at that point in time, emerged as a result of such a demand, investigating the development of psychological functions and the role of education and upbringing in mediating this process. This meant an advancement of the study of mental activity as embedded in social and cultural practices where any intellectual function appears, first, on the social plane and then on the psychological plane of the child. The concept of the ZPD was formed as a result of this genetic law of psychological development that laid a methodological foundation of the new psychology. In terms of developing this foundation, Vygotsky was among the first psychologists to apply the principles of dialectics, searching for a fundamentally new approach to the analysis and explanation of psychological phenomena, especially their causal-dynamic nature. The concept of the ZPD is illustrative of Vygotsky’s dialectical method insofar as it represents the development of the child as a unity of contradictory relations between her actual level of development and the potential level that the child can achieve in collaboration with others. Initially, Vygotsky introduced the ZPD as a diagnostic principle of defining the child’s abilities to collaborate with others in order to determine the area of evolving and future intellectual functions, rather than evaluating the outcomes of the child’s past development. By prioritizing the role of collaboration in the development of intellectual functions, Vygotsky’s ZPD bridged the world of psychological development and the world of education. The ZPD, from this perspective, opens up the internal relation between development and education, with the process of education leading the development of intellectual functions. Education creates opportunities for children to build their future capabilities, wakening up, as it were, those processes that could not be possible without their participation in intersubjective encounters or dialogical classroom events. The ZPD, in a pedagogical sense, is a social space of learning and communication in which children can build their consciousness, understandings, self-regulation, and agency. Yet, this is also a space where children’s differences and particularities are most visible. Depending on how diversity is recognized, the process of education can either stimulate or repress intellectual development.