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Article

Activism and Social Movement Building in Curriculum  

Julie Gorlewski and Isabel Nuñez

Curriculum, while often conceived as a static entity delivered as a neutral set of facts arranged in disciplinary categories, is, in reality, a pedagogical artifact—a product generated as a result of decisions made by a range of stakeholders who represent different cultural imperatives linked to contested perspectives about the purposes of school. Students’ and teachers’ experiences of school, then, are dialogic performances of a curriculum that promotes various levels of power and privilege, as well as understandings of equity and diversity. Therefore, whether or not it is recognized, the curriculum delivered in schools serves to either maintain or interrupt the status quo. Given the number of students who participate in public education, curriculum contributes a great deal to shaping the national narrative. Curriculum contributes to social movements, and the nature of the curriculum determines the direction of the movement. Since curriculum development and implementation involves myriad decisions, influence is wielded by those with decision-making power. Social status and cultural capital, both of which are historically linked with political power, largely determine who makes curricular decisions, as well as how decisions are made. These conditions pose challenges for those who have been historically marginalized within educational institutions. Despite obstacles related to systemic inequities, different forms of curriculum can and do contribute to the creation and perpetuation of social movements. Moreover, educators who understand how educational institutions function, how curricular changes occur, and how curriculum can be a source of and vehicle for change can create conditions for transformative activist curricular movements.

Article

Bildung-Centered General Didactics  

Ilmi Willbergh

Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.

Article

Education for Sustainable Development and the “Whole Person” Curriculum in Japan  

Ian Clark, Niculina Nae, and Masahiro Arimoto

Since the 1970s, Japanese society has endured rapid and confusing socio-economic transformation. These changes brought a sense of decentralization into Japanese life. It was a sense of loss and a sense of reality, as the stable dependencies that had characterized the Japanese way of life for centuries vanished. In the years leading up to the 21st century, this radical departure from tradition meant that the concept of continuity existed only to emphasize its absence. Society goes through a process of rapid change, posing challenges not everyone might be ready to tackle. The unintended, but inevitable, consequence is the social disaffection of Japanese youth, who may be losing their motivation (or focus) at a time of sudden and sustained adversity. The Japanese government is promoting the revitalizing energy of education for sustainable development (ESD), and even publicizes ESD’s potential for giving life a robust meaning. This is by no means an exclusively Japanese problem. In recent years, and with Japanese leadership, other UNESCO nations have integrated ESD into curricula. To fully understand the nature of the Japanese system for sustainable education, scholars need to draw from cultural philosophy, social neuroscience, historical analysis, and the ideas of socio-cognitive and constructivist theorists. Such a mix of methods provides an inter-disciplinary “geometry” of the often deeply inlaid shapes, patterns, and relationships that surround the uniquely cultural, yet highly exportable models for zenjin-education (“whole-person”).

Article

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.

Article

Learning in History  

Liliana Maggioni and Emily Fox

At first glance, learning in history might be characterized as committing to memory sanctioned stories about the past. Yet a deeper consideration of this process opens up several questions about the specific features that make the generation of shared knowledge about the past possible and meaningful. Some of these questions regard the very object of such learning: What makes specific aspects of the past historically significant? What relations among people, events, and phenomena are especially salient in fostering understanding of the past? Another set of questions regards the affective and cognitive traits and abilities that characterize a successful learner in history. Researchers from different countries have worked at the intersection between history, history education, and educational psychology, and have investigated how experts and novices address historical questions on the basis of sources provided to them, identifying certain differences in their strategy use, their ability to contextualize information gleaned from the sources, their use of prior knowledge, and their ideas about the nature of historical knowledge and historical evidence. Researchers have also studied the influence that learners’ epistemic beliefs, school curricula, pedagogical practices, testing, and classroom discourse may have on student learning in history. By their variety, these studies have illustrated the complex nature of learning in history and evidenced several tensions among educational goals and between these goals and educational practices in the 21st century.

Article

Postwar School Reforms in Norway  

Harald Thuen and Nina Volckmar

Comprehensive schooling has been a cornerstone in the development of the Norwegian welfare state since World War II. Over the years it has been extended, initially from 7 to 9 years and later to 10-year compulsory schooling, since the late 1990s including virtually all Norwegian children between the ages of 6 and 16. In education policy, the interests of the community versus the individual have played a key role, reflected in a line of conflict between the political left and right. During the first three to four decades after the war, through the Labor Party, the left wing was in power and developed education policy according to a social-democratic model. The ideal of equality and community in schools had precedence. The vision was to create a school for all that had a socially and culturally unifying effect on the nation and its people. Social background, gender, and geographical location should no longer create barriers between pupils. Ideally, school was to be understood as a “miniature democracy,” where pupils would be trained in solidarity and cooperation. Compulsory schooling was thus regarded as an instrument for social integration and for evening out social inequalities. But one challenge remained: How could a common school for all best take care of the individual needs of each pupil? The principle of individualized teaching within the framework of a common school was incorporated in the education policy of social democracy and was subjected to experimentation and research from an early stage. But with the political shift to the right toward the 2000s, a sharper polarization can be observed between the interests of the community versus the interests of the individual. The political right profiles education policy in opposition to the left-wing emphasis on the social purpose of the school system. In the early 21st century, the interests of knowledge, the classroom as a learning arena, and the performance of each pupil take precedence. Based on the model of New Public Management, a new organizational culture is taking shape in the school system. Where the political left formed its policy from the perspective of “equality” during the first postwar decades, the right is now forming it from the perspective of “freedom.” And this is taking place without significant opposition from the left. The terms “equality” and “equity” provide the framework for the analysis of the changing polarity between collective and individual considerations and between pupils’ freedom and social solidarity in postwar education.

Article

The “Crisis” in Teacher Education  

Michael Schapira

In 1954, Hannah Arendt wrote that talk of a crisis in education “has become a political problem of the first magnitude.” If one trusts the steady stream of books, articles, jeremiads, and statements from public officials lamenting the fallen status of our schools and calling for bold reforms, the 21st century has shown no abatement in crisis as an abiding theme in education discourse. But why does education occupy such a privileged space of attention and why is it so susceptible to the axiomatic evocation of “crisis?” Arendt provides a clue when she argues that “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token, save it from the ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable.” The crisis in education has come to signal a variety of issues for which the teacher is either a direct or indirect participant: declining student performance, inadequacy of teacher preparation, inequities of opportunity as well as outcome, or a curriculum ill-fitted to the shape of the modern world. However, at base is the issue of social reproduction that Arendt sees at the heart of education. Thus, the crisis in education serves as a forum for expressing, critiquing, and instantiating the values that are at play when considering “the coming of the new and the young.”

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.