In education, politics, power, and hegemony pertain to the ways actors with competing values work to forward their perspectives on social policy related to schools and schooling. Central to politics is conflict over scarce resources and influence. Politics is endemic in the education system. In the United States and other federations, it is manifest at multiple levels of that education system; it operates at the international, national, state, district, and school levels. Adding to this complexity, a wide array of actors shape the politics of education. As a field of study, the politics of education draws from and contributes to theories that help unpack this complexity and answer questions about how governments work and policy decisions get made. In the context of educational administration and organizations, power is a broad concept with many definitions, but at the core is control. There are many sources of power in schools as organizations, including reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power. Scholars in education have also classified power as formal or informal, personal or professional. Regardless of its source, there are problems and pitfalls with the use of power by educational leaders, and an overreliance of one source of power can come at the expense of another. The overwhelming hold of power and domination of one group over another is the definition of social hegemony. Social hegemony in education has taken various forms, showing up in student-assignment and school-discipline policies, hiring norms and practices, and reforms that purport to broaden opportunity and expand civil rights. Scholarly approaches like critical race theory and feminist critical policy analysis have worked to expose hegemonic devices, procedures, and practices that help explain persistent inequities in educational systems around the world.
Politics, Power, and Social Hegemony
William Kyle Ingle and Lora Cohen-Vogel
Ethnography and Education
Alpesh Maisuria and Dennis Beach
As described in Beach and Dovemark’s 2007 book, Education and the Commodity Problem, critical researchers have identified two fundamental roles for modern-day schools within capitalist states. These are the ideological and material roles and function, where schools produce ideologically compliant workers and consumers for a corporatist economy on the one hand, this is partly through a teaching and a curriculum, which is often hidden and informal; and, on the other form part of a corporate business plan for the accumulation of private capital in the welfare sector through mass outsourcing of welfare-State education provision and the wholesale commodification of education as a public service. This article presents a research method for investigating education in these circumstances. It is a method with a philosophical foundation not only for understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism, but also for developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition toward a more just form of political economy and human existence. This research method draws from critical realism and its concept of explanatory critique as a way to forge a scientifically robust Marxist critical ethnography. In relation to this, the description of the method accompanies an overview of some of the basic principles and broadly accepted possibilities of and for ethnography and critical ethnography, followed by a presentation of what Marxist critical ethnography is and how Marxist critical ethnography functions as explanatory critique, respectively. This entails description of what explanatory critique is, and how it can be used to develop a philosophy of social science and an ontological base for ethnography. The aforementioned components together expand on a historical, theoretical, conceptual, and political development of ethnography as part of a Marxist approach to research and practice for social transformation.
Critical Participatory Action Research, Critical Discourse Analysis and Praxis
Nicolina Montesano Montessori
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) and participatory action research (PAR) reinforce each other as critical research approaches toward social transformation and social justice provided to humans, other species, and the ecosystem at large. Both disciplines are suitable to be embedded in a critical emancipatory research paradigm. Both CDA and PAR are problem-oriented, contextualized forms of social research. Both CDA and PAR are sensitive to the macro, meso, and micro dimensions of social life and the dynamics and relations between these levels. Both CDA and PAR envision social reality as a—respectively—discursive or social construct which, therefore, is—in part—a matter of choice. Both CDA and PAR include the potential of social or organizational change. CDA does so by displaying hidden ideological effects of texts and discourses so as to create awareness and may suggest alternatives; PAR by analyzing existing situations and investigating and implementing alternatives as part of its collective research efforts. Both include the notion of agency and the potential of change, whether in organizations, communities, or in society at large. Both consider the construction of knowledge as a social practice. Both CDA and PAR have iterative research methodologies. CDA reinforces PAR due to its robust theoretical basis, while PAR opens up new ways for CDA to enlarge its impact on the social world beyond academia through the participation of agents. Both CDA and PAR are forms of praxis in that they perform research in social and discursive practice in situated context. Both explicitly rely on theories of practice that include Aristotle, Paulo Freire, and Antonio Gramsci. They do so with the purpose of creating awareness, questioning routines and existing practices, and improving these in an emancipatory project to contribute to a better and a more socially just world. Integrating CDA and PAR and rooting these in a philosophy of praxis creates a solid, inclusive basis for problem-oriented research, considered of high relevance to questioning current hegemonic structures and opening up socially and ecologically just solutions to address the crucial problems of the early 21st century.
Tools of Conviviality: Art in the Postcolonial Imagination
Key arguments regarding the relationship between postcolonial art and aesthetics and the emancipatory imagination have implications for pedagogical and curriculum reform in the era of globalization. Postcolonial art, aesthetics, and postcolonial imagination are, and invoke paths through and exceeding, dominant traditions of thought in critical thinking on the status of art. These dominant critical traditions have led us to what Cameron McCarthy calls the “forked road” of cultural Marxism and neo-Marxism: the antipopulism of the Frankfurt School and Habermas and their contemporary affiliates versus the populism of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies and those insisting on the nearly virtuous engagement of the First World working classes with contemporary consumer culture. These approaches have tended, McCarthy maintains, to generate critical apparati that silence the historically specific work of the colonized inhabitants of the Third World and the periphery of the First. In beckoning curriculum and pedagogical actors in a different direction, toward postcolonial art and aesthetics, McCarthy argues that the work of the postcolonial imagination dynamically engages with systems of domination, authority over knowledge, and representation, destabilizing received traditions of identity, association, and feeling, and offering, in turn, new starting points for affiliation and community that draw on the wellspring of humanity, indigenous and commodified. Key motifs of postcolonial art (literature, performance art, sculpture, and painting) illuminate organizing categories or new aesthetic genres: counter-hegemonic representation, double or triple coding, and utopic and emancipatory visions. These ethically informed dimensions of postcolonial art and aesthetics constitute critical starting points, or tools of conviviality, for a conversation over curriculum change in the tumult of globalization and the reassertion in some quarters of a feral nationalism.
Educational Leaders Without Borders
Rosemary Papa and Fenwick W. English
Educational leaders in many countries have come to realize that (a) many of their problems are similar to those in other nations; (b) some of those problems fall outside the boundaries of the nation-state and involve many countries; (c) not only does the problem of social, material, and political inequalities fall outside the purview of the school to resolve, but beyond basic literacy and numeracy skills, schools tend to reproduce such inequalities; and (d) an awareness of educational issues when shared and dissected can present new opportunities for the local leader. Educational Leader without Borders (ELWB) is a group of international scholars and researchers who have joined together to study and discuss their potential solutions outside the politics of the local nation-state. An urgent situation has developed as mass migrations have erupted from climate change and war (leading to failed states) and from neoliberal attacks on promoting solutions for schools, thus further eroding schools’ efficacy for children of the poor and disenfranchised. The most difficult problems are those resulting from long-standing cultural practices which are deeply embedded in the public mindset and past traditions. Misogyny is one such tradition. It begins with denying young girls access to formal schooling in many parts of the world, excluding them when menstruation begins, and following the cultural traditions that support limiting rural boys in their education. Neoliberal pursuits have erupted and expanded the chasm between those-who-have and those-who-have-not. Western education is bashed and seen as polluted by these neoliberal norms. As ELWB scholars, we wrestle with the research done on others by others as the field of education is a context-bound integration of the society within which it is embedded. The context is shaped by the history, culture, and political policies of the specific nation state which are heavily influenced especially by economic and military considerations. Global awareness of issues, we believe as educational leaders, raise the possibilities of greater local understanding and ultimately on-the-ground actions by those immediately affected: school leadership, staffs, students, families, and communities. The counternarrative for this is the one-size-fits-all educational neoliberal approach found in the growing tentacles of artificial intelligence and all of its media supports. ELWB seeks new knowledge that is enhanced by all that technology offers but is not bound by it. We believe that human interactions are steeped in promising practices, with localized actions and the belief that education offers happiness in life while supporting the planet earth. This is the goal of the ELWB.