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Tagore’s Perspective on Decolonizing Education  

Mousumi Mukherjee

Decolonization is a historic process that picked up momentum in the second half of the 20th century, whereby several countries of the Global South in Asia, Africa, and Latin America successively gained independence from European colonial rule and became sovereign modern nation-states. However, territorial independence from an external ruling power alone could not bring an end to all the social, political, and economic problems ushered in by hundreds of years of imperialism. This fact was realized long before independence from colonial rule by Rabindranath Tagore within the context of British colonial India. Hence, even before territorial and political decolonization, Tagore sought to decolonize the minds of people through education reform by first setting up his own school in 1901 and then establishing Visva-Bharati University in 1921. In fact, Tagore, who is the author of the national anthems of two independent modern South Asian nation-states, never saw independent India. He died in 1941 as a British colonial subject, six years before the independence of India from colonial rule in 1947. While many indigenous intellectuals of his era adopted violent and nonviolent methods to fight against British imperialism, Tagore devoted much of his adult life to the pursuit of freedom through pedagogic reforms. Tagore’s philosophy and practice of pedagogic reform sought to “decolonize education” in British colonial India. Tagore’s own writings on education beginning in 1892 reveal that his philosophy and practice to “decolonize education” was based on the memory and critical reflections on his own experiences as a student in mainstream schools during the British colonial era in India. Tagore’s philosophy of education, institutionalized through his decolonizing pedagogic reform work in his school and university at Bolepur, Shantiniketan, were concrete responses of a highly creative and critical-thinking indigenous intellectual to the problems of the mainstream education system during his time. Hence, studying Tagore’s perspective on “decolonizing education” can provide us with a deeper understanding of the educational problems posed by British imperialism in India, as well as the evolution of these problems in the colonial metropole, which became global in nature through the process of colonialism, as has been argued by a number of academics, including modern British historian Michael Collins and postcolonial Indian academic Sanjukta Dasgupta.

Article

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.

Article

Catholic Theology and Philosophy of Education  

Jānis T. Ozoliņš

It has been said that little or no Catholic philosophy of education has been articulated since about 1980, suggesting that it has been subsumed under more general philosophical conceptions of education. This implies that there is nothing particularly distinctive about a Catholic conception of education that would enable us to distinguish it from a nonreligious conception of education. There is no doubt that a philosophy of Catholic education shares many of the features of liberal education. The roots of a Catholic philosophy of education are grounded in Catholic theology. That is, the great Mediaeval Christian commentators articulate their conceptions of education and its purposes informed by a Christian theological understanding of the nature of human beings, their relationship to God, and to their common, final end. Without theology to articulate how human knowledge, purpose, and fulfillment are connected, education is incomplete and reduces to training and the gaining of skills for the workforce. It is theology that enables us to understand how training and gaining of skills is connected to the final end of human beings, which is God. A philosophy of education that is Christian cannot be separated from theology.

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Diaspora Literacy, Heritage Knowledge, and Revolutionary African-Centered Pedagogy in Black Studies Curriculum Theorizing and Praxis  

Joyce E. King

The original mission of Black Studies is producing consciousness transforming knowledge, and teaching for social change in close connection with Black communities, not mimicking other disciplines in producing esoteric knowledge for establishment legitimacy in the academy. Two principal pillars for Black Studies curriculum theorizing and praxis have been: (a) knowledge making as (and for) consciousness transformation and (b) social change for (and as) Diaspora literacy knowledge making also refers to the ability to “read” various cultural signs as continuities in African-descended people’s experience. As a foundation for collective cultural agency, Heritage knowledge or group memory, refers to a repository or heritable legacy that makes a feeling of belonging, peoplehood, and communal solidarity as an outcome of education possible. Vèvè A. Clark, scholar of African and Caribbean literature, African American dance histories, and African diaspora theatre, coined the concept of Diaspora literacy in a 1984 paper analyzing allegory in Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé’s novel, Hérémakhonon, which situated an Afro-Caribbean women’s identity quest in postcolonial West Africa. Clark later revised and expanded the concept to denote a narrator’s or reader’s ability to understand and/or interpret the multilayered meanings of stories, words, and other folk sayings within any given African diaspora community. Heritage knowledge takes the unjust system out of the center and puts the Africanity of group memory, the Black perspective, which is the cultural foundation that generates people’s collective cultural agency, at the center. While Heritage knowledge is a cultural birthright of every human being, the experience of Blackness as “ontological lack” obstructs and denies African people’s humanity and agency. These conceptual tools and revolutionary African-centered pedagogy provide opportunities for consciousness transforming education for Black liberation. Such theoretical concepts and praxis in Black Studies are neglected in curriculum theorizing discourse and praxis. This is so even though curriculum is viewed as racial text and reconceptualists focus on autobiography, subjectivity, identity, transformation, and more to define curriculum as a process (currere) not an object of study. Likewise, curriculum theorizing has yet to become an identifiable subfield within the transdiscipline of Black or Africana Studies, notwithstanding decades of institutionalizing curricula in higher education since the 1980s, including a National Council of Black Studies curriculum framework. Because African-descended people’s continent of origin and history, as well as Black children, their families, and teachers have been maligned in society, the radical introduction of African content in Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogy is needed to change the quality of education and to create new understanding of the racial politics of knowledge for all students and teachers. Revolutionary African-centered pedagogy aims to undo “twisted thinking” about Africa; challenge the oppressive educational system’s vision; defend students from self-hatred, and support agency for those who have been marginalized by hegemonic concepts, themes, and curricular ideas. The aim of examining relevant theoretical, epistemological, curriculum, and pedagogical developments in Black Studies and Black education scholarship is to clarify the meaning, significance, and implications of (a) African diaspora/s as a concept in education, political discourse, and method in Black Studies; (b) what deciphering Africanity in Diaspora literacy consciousness and Heritage knowledge reveals about the importance of the Black (Studies) perspective; and (c) revolutionary African-centered pedagogy as a philosophy and method of teaching for consciousness transformation.

Article

Hidden, Null, Lived, Material, and Transgressive Curricula  

Wade Tillett and Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Alternative dimensions of curricula fall outside explicit and official curriculum. There is much more to teaching and learning than the formal, planned curriculum claimed by many teachers, administrators, and organizations. Beyond and within the textbooks, lesson plans, tests, and standards exist hidden, null (or absented), lived, material, and transgressive dimensions of curricula (to name only a few). Hidden curricula are messages that are sent implicitly, for example, giving students numerical scores on a quiz and using those scores to assess students as successes and failures functions as a form of micro-tracking, ranking students’ success and achievement in relation to one another in a hierarchical range. This scoring and ranking system implies that students are in competition with one another, that self-worth is evaluated with a score. The action of scoring and ranking itself teaches the lesson and is woven into the fabric of schooling, though it is neither explicitly stated nor explicitly taught (i.e., hidden) that success in learning requires winners and losers at learning. Null (or absented) curricula are topics that are specifically not taken up in the official curriculum. For example, although Protestant Christianity shapes a hidden curriculum of many U.S. schools, religion is largely excluded as an explicit topic of study in most state schools. This fulfills a claim of separation of church and state and religion’s obvious absence reveals a null curriculum. Lived curricula are the lived experience of the learner. For example, a student might experience being bullied, and this would comprise part of their lived curriculum, teaching lessons that are learned, retained, and tapped into over time, long after the specific encounters have passed. Material curricula (a term the authors coin in this article) are the material effects that curricula have on the learner, and more broadly, the world. For example, the grades and scores that students receive in school have direct effects on the future opportunities available to them as people. This is a material curriculum of sorting students into social roles and positionings, with accompanying material outcomes (e.g., a student is denied entry into college and further denied a class of jobs and their corresponding material aspects, such as salary and—in the United States—health benefits). Transgressive curricula are defined through the prism of teaching and learning in resistance to something, in the refusal of something, in defiance of something, or in disregard of something. These alternative dimensions of curricula exist anyplace learning occurs, not just in schools.

Article

John Dewey and Curriculum Studies  

Craig A. Cunningham

John Dewey (1859–1952) has been (and remains) the most influential person in the United States—and possibly in the entire world—on the development of the field of curriculum studies. His theoretical works on education, spanning more than 50 years, have been widely read by theorists and practitioners, who have used Dewey’s ideas as a kind of North Star for American educational theory. Of particular importance for the study of curriculum, Dewey strove to overcome traditional dualistic conceptions of the relation of the child to the curriculum, seeing them as two points on the same line, to be connected through the child’s experiences. Dewey offered general guidance for determining whether particular experiences are likely to lead to growth. Contemporary curriculum scholars who look at the many rich resources that Dewey offers in his works that are not explicitly about education may be richly rewarded. Books and articles about the arts and aesthetics, politics and democracy, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and psychology have yet to be fully incorporated into curriculum studies. In addition to his theoretical work, Dewey was the founder (in 1896) and director of the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife Alice Chipman Dewey conducted pedagogical experiments with elementary schoolchildren, demonstrating how a set of well-framed social activities could lead students to face and solve problems, thus gaining knowledge and skills from the subject-matter disciplines. Dewey also spent a lifetime demonstrating commitments to democracy and the public good. While Dewey offers many opportunities for criticism, overall, his expansive influence has resulted in better theory across educational fields including curriculum studies.

Article

Play as Curriculum  

Drew Chappell

Play as an academic field comprises multiple disciplines, definitions, and objectives and acknowledges a link between play and learning. Historically and in contemporary societies, play has been used as a teaching methodology; this occurs in formal classroom pedagogy as well as outside the classroom as part of informal and improvisational curriculum. Because play generally includes a component of pleasure, as a methodology it compels entry into learning in a way other practices do not. Yet this playful learning can be problematic, depending on outcomes and structures that define the play/learning experience through narrative and power dynamics. Scholars may analyze various aspects of curricular play, including but not limited to narratives provided, students’ lived experiences within those narratives, actions allowable, objectives and advancement, and sources developing the narratives.

Article

Public-Oriented Alternatives to Dominating Control of Schooling Exemplified by Raden Adjeng Kartini and Ki Hadjar’s Taman Siswa Schools in Indonesia  

Dinny Risri Aletheiani

School curriculum in most countries is dominated by the interests of the corporate states that govern the world. Educational alternatives have emerged in many countries that represent a public that is disenfranchised with them. In Indonesia, the work of Raden Adjeng Kartini and Ki Hadjar Dewantara provides poignant illustrations of educators who developed writings and practices that offer alternatives to the corporate states or imperialist and colonial precursors to them. These two prominent Indonesian curriculum theorists/educators, Raden Adjeng Kartini (1879–1904) and Ki Hadjar Dewantara (1889–1959), their lives, their works regarding the education of indigenous Indonesians, and their influences upon Indonesian education illustrate such alternatives. Raden Adjeng Kartini’s contribution in education revolves around four main concerns, namely the conditions and the rights of girls and women in Indonesian society, specifically in Java; the influences of tradition and customs; modernity and educating Indonesians; and the mechanism of colonialization. Her letters between 1898 and 1904 are unique sources to better understand her curriculum craft on the importance of education for all. Ki Hadjar’s contributions in education are similar to those of Raden Adjeng Kartini. Ki Hadjar’s contribution can be studied through the work of Taman Siswa school. The important characteristics of Taman Siswa include its conceptual and physical establishment as perguruan or paguron, sense of family as an institutional and educational principle and approach, and the Among System.

Article

Adolescent Literacies  

Donna E. Alvermann and William Terrell Wright

Naming is a curious practice. It entails rudiments, now mostly taken for granted, that serve to categorize everyday literacy practices across fields as diverse as cultural anthropology and the management of multiple Git profiles. As a term unto itself, adolescent literacies is not immune to the vagaries of naming. In fact, it serves as an excellent example of how commonly named concepts in education embed the field’s histories, debates, pedagogies, and policies writ large. Conceptualizing literacy in its plural form raised eyebrows among academics, researchers, practitioners, publishers, and indexers concerned with the noun–verb agreement in phrases such as “adolescent literacies is a subfield” of adolescence. For some, the very notion of literacy extending beyond reading and writing is still debatable. With each passing day, however, it becomes noticeably more evident that multimodal forms of communication—images, sounds, bodily performances, to name but a few ways of expressing oneself—are competing quite well in the marketplace of ideas that flow globally with or without a linguistic component attached to them. Aside from the naming process and its attendant political overtones, the practice of treating youth between roughly the ages of 12 and 17 as a monolithic group has been common in the United States. Largely traceable to a time in which developmental psychology dominated the field of literacy instruction (in the early to late 20th century), designating youth as adolescents equated to viewing them as some a normative group devoid of racial, class, gender, and any number of other identity markers. Even with the sociocultural turn in early 21st century and its abundance of studies reifying the socially constructed nature of adolescents, the term persists. Its adhesive-like attraction to literacies, however, may be weakening in light of research that points to youth who are agentic and dynamic game changers when it comes to participating in a world grown more attuned to the need for collaboration based not on hierarchical standing but instead on working through commonplace tensions too complex for any one solution.

Article

Antiblackness and the Adultification of Black Children in a U.S. Prison Nation  

Amir A. Gilmore and Pamela J. Bettis

Discourses in the early 21st century surrounding the presumption of childhood innocence were undergirded by antiblackness. The theorization of antiblackness within the context of race, gender, and education has been beneficial to understanding how the mistreatment of Black children and the illegitimacy of Black childhoods within the white American racial imaginary is seemingly justified. Foundational to the United States, antiblackness is a race-based paradigm of racial othering and subjugation through a litany of organized structural violence against Black people. Structured outside the realms of humanity and civil society, Black life, through this paradigm, is regarded as other than human. Arguably, antiblackness shapes all racialized, gendered, sexualized conditions and experiences of all Black people, including the age compression of Black children. Antiblackness scholarship posits that there is an institutional unwillingness to see Black youth as children. Discourses on what it means to be a child, who can occupy that position, and when a particular stage of a child’s development is reached, are all structured against Black youth. Pathologized as deviant, adult-like problems, Black children occupy life in a liminal space, where they are denied childhood status but carry adult-like culpability. As adultified Black youth, they lack autonomy and are not granted leniency to learn from their mistakes like their white peers. With their actions and intentions perceived as deviant, ill-willed, or hypersexual, Black children are susceptible a wide range of violence from school punishment, the criminal justice system, sexual abuse and exploitation, and excessive police force.