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.
Dialogic education is a relatively new force in educational theory and practice. Despite the variety of approaches to dialogic education, it nonetheless offers a coherent theory of education with implications not only for how education should be practiced but also for the purposes of education. Dialogic education takes place through dialogue which means opening up dialogic spaces in which different perspectives can clash or play together and new learning can occur. But dialogic education is not only education through dialogue, it is also education for dialogue, meaning that as a result of dialogic education learners become better at learning together with others through dialogue. The intellectual background of dialogic education theory goes back at least as far as Socrates and includes thinkers as varied as Freire, who saw dialogic education as a means of liberation from oppression, and Oakeshott, who understood education to be a process of engaging learners in their cultural inheritance, described as “the conversation of mankind.” Bakhtin, an influential source for recent dialogic educational theory, argues that meaning requires the clash and interaction of multiple voices. There are a range of approaches to implementing dialogic education, varying in the extent to which they focus on teacher to student dialogue, small group dialogues, and whole class dialogues. All approaches include some idea of (1) a dialogic orientation toward the other, characterized by an openness to the possibility of learning, and (2) social norms that support productive dialogue. Published assessments of the impact of dialogic education in relation to general thinking skills, curriculum learning gains, and conceptual understanding have been positive. However, the assessment of dialogic education raises methodological issues, and new methodologies are being developed that align better with dialogic theory and with the idea of measuring increased dialogicity, or expanded “dialogic space.” Assuming that dialogic education works to promote educational goals, various hypotheses have been suggested as to how it works, including some that focus on the co-construction of new meaning through explicit language use, others that focus more on changes in the identity of students, and others on changes in the possibilities of engagement afforded by the culture of classrooms. There are many issues and controversies raised by dialogic education. One issue is the extent to which dialogue as a goal is compatible with a curriculum that pre-specifies certain learning outcomes. Another is the extent to which teaching a set of social norms and practices promoting dialogue might be a kind of cultural imperialism that fails to recognize and value the culture of the students. These and other challenges to dialogic education are part of a lively and constructive debate in the field, which values a multiplicity of voices within the broader context of convergence on the value of teaching through dialogue and teaching for dialogue.
Petra Munro Hendry
Within contemporary, conventional, interpretive, qualitative paradigms, narrative and curriculum theorizing have traditionally been understood as primary constructs through which educational researchers seek to explain, represent, and conduct inquiry about education. This article traces shifting understandings of Western constructs of narrative and curriculum theorizing from a modernist perspective, in which they were conceived primarily as methods central to the representation of knowledge, to postmodernist perspectives in which they are conceptualized not as epistemological constructs, but as ethical/ontological systems of becoming through/in relationships. Historically, the emergence of “curriculum” and “narrative” (as phenomena) within a modernist, technocratic paradigm, rooted in an epistemological worldview, were constructed as “technologies” whose purpose was to represent knowledge. Current critiques of narrative and curriculum theorizing from the perspective of postmodern, poststructural, feminist, and new materialist perspectives illuminate understandings of these constructs as ethical-ontological-epistemological phenomena. From this perspective, narrative and curriculum theorizing have shifted from being understood as grounded in epistemology in order to provide “better” understanding/knowledge of experience, and alternatively are understood as ethical obligations to “be” in a web of relationships/intra-actions.