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Sociological Institutionalism and Education Scholarship  

Callie Cleckner and Tim Hallett

Research on schools has long been central to the development of institutional theory. Scholars from the tradition now labeled “old institutionalism” used historical case studies of educational institutions to examine how organizations pursue social values and how those values and the organization change in the process. The subsequent shift to new institutionalism entailed a more macro-level approach, as scholars began to view schools as organizations nested within a broader field or environment. Instead of analyzing how organizations pursue values, new institutionalists examine how organizations conform to macro cultural “myths” or “logics” to maintain legitimacy in their respective fields. For instance, national and global education reforms compel schools to adopt remarkably similar organizational forms, despite the diverse needs of schools and their divergent practices. Inhabited institutionalism, which explores the recursive relationships among institutions, organizations, and social interactions, provides a consolidated approach and incorporates a symbolic interactionist lens to examine the meaning and implications of institutions at a more local level. Educational settings have been important sites of empirical investigation in the development of inhabited institutionalism, specifically by showing how schools incorporate cultural mythologies such as “accountability” in context-specific ways.


Freedom and Education Revisited  

Pedro Tabensky

There is an influential and highly diverse tradition of philosophers and philosophically inclined educational theorists who argue that education should aim at freedom, indeed that education, properly understood, is the practice of freedom. On the one hand, there is the movement that neither commences nor ends with John Dewey (active during the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century), but of which Dewey’s philosophy of education is the neuralgic point. On the other hand, there is the movement, inspired to some extent by Dewey but quite distinct from it, launched by Paulo Freire in the second half of the 20th century—known as critical pedagogy. Freire and his followers—bell hooks and Henry Giroux, among them—explicitly claim that education is the practice of freedom and think of this practice as emancipatory in its aims. Dewey never explicitly describes education as the practice of freedom, but Richard Rorty, one of Dewey’s most influential followers, does so, and he correctly attributes the view to Dewey.


Slow Violence and Schooling  

Leanne Higham

The concept of slow violence has broadened understandings of violence in ways that capture its spatial and temporal complexity, and that draw attention to its often-hidden operation. Since the 1960s and 1970s scholars of schooling and education have asked questions about power relations, inequalities, and injustices in schools, and in the early 21st century have turned their attention to affect and materiality. Although its conceptual predecessor, structural violence, has informed past education research, slow violence has not been widely taken up. This article explores the concept of slow violence, considering its relevance and use for education scholars concerned with the various mundane forms of violence enacted in schools, sometimes unintentionally, and often unnoticed. While the concept of slow violence is useful for thinking about everyday violence in this way, its real strength as a concept is lifted to view when considered in relation with affect in schooling and education.


Critical Race Theory and STEM Education  

Terrell R. Morton

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that attends to the prevalence, permanence, and impact of racism embedded within and manifested through the policies, practices, norms, and expectations of U.S. social institutions and how those concepts have differentially impacted the lived experiences of Black and Brown individuals. CRT bore out of the legal studies—complemented by philosophical and sociological fields—and has since been applied to a multitude of disciplines including education. Composed of several tenets or principles, CRT approaches to research, scholarship, and praxis take a structural, systematic, or systemic perspective rather than an individual or isolated perspective. CRT provides scholars and practitioners the ability to acknowledge and challenge structural racism and intersectional forms of oppression as foundational to the perceived and experienced inequities outlined by various constituents. In providing such a perspective, CRT facilitates the opportunity for future ideologies that promote radical and transformative change to systems and structures that perpetuate racial and intersectional-based oppression. STEM education—representing the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from inter- and intradisciplinary perspectives—constitutes the norms, ideologies, beliefs, and practices hallmarked by and within these fields, examined both separately as individual disciplines (e.g., science) and collectively (i.e., STEM). These concepts comprise what is noted as the culture of STEM. Scholarship on STEM education, broadly conceived, discusses the influence and impact of STEM culture across P–20+ education on access, engagement, teaching, and learning. These components are noted through examining student experiences; teachers’ (faculty) engagement, pedagogy, and practice; leadership and administration’s implementation of the aforementioned structures; and the creation and reinforcement of policies that regulate STEM culture. Critical race theoretical approaches to STEM education thus critique how the culture of STEM differentially addresses the needs and desires of various racially minoritized communities in and through STEM disciplines. These critiques are based on the fact that the power to disenfranchise individuals is facilitated by the culture of whiteness embedded within STEM culture, a perspective that is codified and protected by society to favor and privilege White people. CRT in STEM education research tackles the influence and impact of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals in and through STEM by revealing the manifestation and implications of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals’ STEM interactions. CRT in STEM also provides opportunities to reclaim and create space that more appropriately serves racially minoritized individuals through the use of counterstories that center the lived experience of said individuals at the crux of epistemological and ontological understandings, as well as the formation of policies, programs, and other actions. Such conceptions strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to alter their individual and collective beliefs and perspectives of how and why race is a contending factor for access, engagement, and learning in STEM. These conceptions also strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to reconfigure STEM structures to redress race-based inequity and oppression.


Theories of Tolerance in Education  

Ben Bindewald

Scholars in diverse democratic societies have theorized tolerance in various ways. Classical liberal tolerance can best be understood as non-interference with forms of behavior or expression one finds objectionable. It has been criticized for being too permissive of hate speech and not demanding enough as a theoretical guide to civic education. Alternatively, robust respect is characterized by open-mindedness and respect for diversity. Critics have suggested that it is too relativistic and overly ambitious as a guide to civic education. Discriminating (in)tolerance suggests that tolerance should only be extended to individuals and groups who support the advancement of egalitarian politics and the interests of historically marginalized groups. It has been criticized for being overly authoritarian and dogmatic. Mutuality emphasizes reciprocity and sustained engagement across difference. Critics argue that it is not revolutionary enough to address past injustices and persistent inequality.


A Multi-Level Model of Moral Functioning: Integrating Socio-Bio-evolutionary Science, Socio-Constructionism, and Constructivist-Developmental Theory  

Silvia Diazgranados Ferráns and Robert L. Selman

Tensions chronically exist in the research literature among bio-evolutionary scientists, constructivist-developmental psychologists, and socio-constructionist scholars about how to describe, understand, and predict our moral functioning. An analysis of the assumptions of each of these theoretical paradigms, the disciplinary fields that inform their conceptual models, and the empirical evidence they use to sustain their claims reveals the tensions that exist, as different communities of scholars assign different roles to nature and nurture, reason and intuition, and to the private minds of individuals and the social intelligibilities available to them in a given time and place of history. Using simple multilevel structures, it is possible to see that the divisions that exist within these scientific communities can be conceptualized in terms of their use of different levels of analysis, as they each focus on different populations and employ different underlying units of time and space. Bio-evolutionary scientists study humans as species, using slow-paced time units of analysis such as millennia, and their studies focus on the epigenetic dimensions of our moral sense, documenting inter-species variance in moral functioning. Socio-constructionists study humans as members of groups, using moderately paced time units of analysis such as decades and centuries, and their studies focus on cultural variations in what different groups of people consider to be good or bad, according to the social structures and intelligibilities that are available to them in a given time and place of history. Constructivist-developmental psychologists study humans as individuals, using fast-paced time units of analysis such as months and years, and their studies focus on the maturational dimension of our moral sense, documenting within- and between-individuals variation throughout their lifetime. Unfortunately, by focusing on different populations and time units, these communities of scholars produce research findings that highlight certain aspects of our moral functioning while downplaying others. Interestingly, complex multilevel structures can illustrate how different levels of analysis are nested within each other and can demonstrate how different scientific endeavors have been striving to account for different sources of variability in our moral functioning. The use of complex multilevel structures can also allow us to understand our moral functioning from a dynamic, complex, multilevel theoretical perspective, and as the product of (a) genetic variations that occur between and within species, (b) variations in the social structures, discourses, and intelligibilities that are available in the culture and regulate what social groups consider good and bad at different places and times of history, and (c) variations in the personal experiences and opportunities of interaction that individuals have in different environments throughout their lifetime. Researchers need to clarify the epigenetic, historical, and developmental rules of our moral functioning, and the ways in which different dimensions interact with each other.



Nicholas C. Burbules

Meritocracy is a normative principle directing the distribution of opportunities and benefits based on ability, talent, or effort. It is a central issue in education, which seems centrally concerned with identifying, developing, and rewarding merit. But many have come to doubt the reality of meritocracy, apart from its worth as an ideal; and in a society in which opportunities and benefits (including educational opportunities and benefits) are in fact not distributed based on merit, the belief in meritocracy functions as a kind of legitimating myth. The essay concludes that meritocracy is an ambivalent principle, producing some things that we want and many things that we do not want.


The Philosophy and Ideals of Islamic Education  

Mujadad Zaman

The philosophy of Islamic education covers a wide range of ideas and practices drawn from Islamic scripture, metaphysics, philosophy, and common piety, all of which accumulate to inform discourses of learning, pedagogy, and ethics. This provides a definition of Islamic education and yet also of Islam more generally. In other words, since metaphysics and ontology are related to questions of learning and pedagogy, a compendious and indigenous definition of “education” offers an insight into a wider spectrum of Islamic thought, culture, and weltanschauung. As such, there is no singular historical or contemporary philosophy of Islamic education which avails all of this complexity but rather there exists a number of ideas and practices which inform how education plays a role in the embodiment of knowledge and the self-actualization of the individual self to ultimately come to know God. Such an exposition may come to stand as a superordinate vision of learning framing Islamic educational ideals. Questions of how these ideas are made manifest and practiced are partly answered through scripture as well as the historical, and continuing, importance of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; as paragon and moral exemplar in Islamic thought. Having said “I was sent as a teacher,” his life and manner (sunnah) offer a wide-ranging source of pedagogic and intellectual value for his community (ummah) who have regarded the emulation of his character as among the highest of human virtues. In this theocentric cosmology a tripart conception of education emerges, beginning with the sacred nature of knowledge (ʿilm), the imperative for its coupling with action (ʿamal), in reference to the Prophet, and finally, these foundations supporting the flourishing of an etiquette and comportment (adab) defined by an equanimous state of being and wisdom (ḥikma). In this sense, the reason for there being not one identifiable philosophy of Islamic education, whether premodern or in the modern context, is due to the concatenations of thoughts and practices gravitating around superordinate, metaphysical ideals. The absence of a historical discipline, named “philosophy of education” in Islamic history, infers that education, learning, and the nurturing of young minds is an enterprise anchored by a cosmology which serves the common dominators of divine laudation and piety. Education, therefore, whether evolving from within formal institutional arenas (madrasas) or the setting of the craft guilds (futuwwa), help to enunciate a communality and consilience of how human beings may come to know themselves, their world, and ultimately God.


Free Speech, Civility, and Censorship in Education  

Josh Corngold

Besides being protected by the First Amendment, the right of students and faculty to express different ideas and opinions—even discomfiting ideas and opinions—is central to the academic mission of schools, colleges, and universities. Two familiar arguments articulated by John Stuart Mill underscore this point: First, the dynamic clash of contrary ideas offers the best prospect we have of arriving at the “whole truth” about any complex subject. Second, unless it is subject to periodic questioning and critique, any established and received bit of wisdom “will be held in the manner of a prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.” These arguments notwithstanding, heated debates persist as to the proper bounds of free speech in educational institutions dedicated to open inquiry and the examination of multiple viewpoints. Two distinct positions provide us with a useful framework for analyzing many of these debates. The libertarian position rejects regulation of campus speech—except in extreme cases of speech that invade the rights of individuals or small specific groups of people—while instead championing a maximally free marketplace of ideas. The liberal democratic position, however, proposes that, in the interest of scholarly objectivity and rational autonomy, verbal interaction that denigrates or stigmatizes others on account of ascriptive characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation should be constrained in higher education. Adherents to the libertarian position oppose the implementation of campus hate speech codes on the grounds that such codes violate First Amendment principles and are not an effective bulwark against prejudice, discrimination, and inequality. Adherents to the liberal democratic position support narrowly tailored speech codes that formally sanction slurs, “fighting words,” and the like, but they generally believe that most of the work of regulating abusive speech should occur through the informal enforcement of new “norms of civility” on campus. Although these two positions constitute a major fault line in debates over campus speech, they do not capture the range of standpoints taken by participants in the debates. To cite one noteworthy example, some scholars, in the name of what they refer to as “an affirmative action pedagogy,” call for broader restrictions on speech (particularly classroom speech) than either the libertarian or liberal democratic positions endorse.


Moral Education and Technology  

Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland

Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.