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Volume 110, Number 13 (2008)

 
by Gary D. Fenstermacher
These are challenging times for education, as well as for educators. Just as I was reviewing the last of the manuscripts for this volume, Garrison Keillor’s weekly column appeared in our local paper. Keillor, as anyone who listens to National Public Radio in the United States knows, is the master of ceremonies for the very popular program A Prairie Home Companion. Usually writing with a decided bias toward the Democratic Party and liberal causes, this particular column is a defense of educational policies emanating more from the right side of the political spectrum.
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by David Coulter & John R. Wiens
Why do we educate? has preoccupied us for much of our careers as educators working in schools and universities over the last forty years. Long ago we accepted the privilege—and the accompanying responsibility—of contributing to the lives of other people, but have consistently grappled with understanding the nature and assessing the goodness of that contribution. We have benefited enormously by reading the work of scholars in various disciplines who have thought carefully about what it means to educate (and have included some of the most articulate contemporary thinkers in this volume), but we have also talked with a wide range of people in diverse settings over a number of years about what counts as education.
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by Ken Osborne
In the hope of facilitating the kind of educational conversation that Redfield and Oakeshott describe, we provide a brief introduction to each chapter, attempting to link its contribution to our ongoing dialogue.
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by Diane Ravitch
Schools in democratic nations have multiple purposes, some of which conflict with one another. Moreover, not all purposes serve democratic ends equally well. In this chapter, noted historian Diane Ravitch looks at the historical evolution of educational aims in the United States. Ravitch contrasts educational aims that are primarily social in content and character with those that are primarily individual. In the case of the former, schools are viewed as places to ready the young for productive contributions to the society they will inherit, whether this be as laborers, managers, or professionals. In the latter case, the activities of school are designed to equip individual students to seek a life that advances their welfare (in some instances), the welfare of others (in some instances), or the nation’s or world’s welfare (in some instances).
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by Harry Brighouse
One of the more striking features of Western schooling in the last fifty years is the increasing focus of schools on preparing people to contribute to the national economy, often reducing the attention given to other educational aims. Many educational thinkers demonize the former as “training” and valorize the latter as “education.” In this chapter Harry Brighouse takes a different tack. Although he expresses concern for the increasing attention to the economic ends of schooling, he does not voice outright opposition to the connection between economics and schooling. Acknowledging that people do need to earn a living and that economic stability is a worthy national goal, he goes on to ask whether these are sufficient ends for schooling.
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by Eamonn Callan
In this chapter Eamonn Callan updates the conversation about American civic education begun by Diane Ravitch in chapter three. Ravitch described the centuries-old struggle for civic education between those who wished to educate youth for their appropriate role in a democratic state (e.g., Webster) and those who aimed to foster a citizenry that could exercise their civic freedom and decide their own individual and collective futures (e.g., Jefferson). Drawing on recent empirical research, Callan describes a contemporary voting public bereft of fundamental political knowledge—and lacking in motivation to remedy their ignorance. Indeed, many people seem to believe that the “common good” is so obvious to all that the public arena is simply a space where private interests compete for the spoils of power. The resulting political vacuum is consequently vulnerable to being filled by a political elite, deciding for a deferential citizenry whose role is reduced to “ensuring through elections an orderly transfer of power among rival groups among the elite."
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by Kwame Anthony Appiah
In this chapter Kwame Anthony Appiah moves the discussion of civic education from a national to a global context. He demonstrates that the idea of global citizenship is older than written history—and certainly not uniquely a Western idea—and challenges some recent methods of fostering “citizens of the world.” Global civic education takes on a particular urgency in today’s world in which “each of us can realistically imagine contacting any other of our seven billion fellow humans and send that person something worth having,” or conversely “things that will cause harm.” His response is to advocate education to foster a cosmopolitan spirit.
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by Seyla Benhabib
Our conversation about democratic civic education in the twenty-first century continues with Seyla Benhabib’s case study exploring the special challenges and opportunities afforded for citizenship education by increasing globalization in democratic societies. She analyzes the Scarf Affair, which began in France in 1989 and continues into the current century, tracing the events initiated by three Muslim high school students whose insistence on wearing headscarves to school put them into conflict first with their school and eventually the French state and judiciary. Wearing the scarves was seen as a direct challenge to the French educational system’s fundamental principle of laïcité, that is, a kind of institutional neutrality.
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by Lars Løvlie
In this chapter Lars Løvlie develops a view of the kind of public conversations that Callan and Benhabib lament as missing from existing democracies in the United States and France. Løvlie contends that civic education requires that we pay more attention to teaching people how they might talk with one another and to deciding what to talk about.
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by Sonia Nieto
By this point in the volume, the need for dialogue in public spaces may seem obvious. But having this conversation occur in shared, respectful, and productive ways is not easy in diverse, pluralistic settings. It may be even more difficult in those settings where differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, and language are awarded pride of place or position. In this chapter Sonia Nieto advances the conversation about the educational implications of some of the ideas we grappled with in Part Two: if democracy involves people creating common and uncommon worlds in order to define themselves and live together, what are some of the horizons of significance available for this kind of education? Nieto captures the challenge as how to live together and thrive amidst what seems inevitable interracial misunderstanding and conflict explained by differences in ethnicity, color, language—often referred to as cultural differences.
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by Martha Nussbaum
If democratic citizenship involves learning to live with and alongside other people, then an appropriate civic education must foster the capacity to understand people who may act from very different understandings, motives, and capacities. In this chapter, Martha Nussbaum makes an argument for the vital role of the arts, and particularly literature, in cultivating the powers of the imagination which, in turn, contribute to the kind of judgment and sensitivity needed by responsible citizens.
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by Ian Winchester
Perhaps the most distinctive achievement of Western civilization is its advancement of and reliance on the disciplines of natural science, allowing humans an unprecedented understanding—and influence—over their environment. This capacity to organize certain kinds of experience has succeeded spectacularly, sometimes beyond human control and sometimes to the exclusion of other ways of understanding. Here Ian Winchester contrasts science’s focus on regularities with history’s concerns with understanding the individual events, thoughts, and actions of particular people (including scientists). He explores how current scientific thinking came to be so dominant by tracing its development over three key historical periods.
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by Deborah Loewenberg Ball & Hyman Bass
Mathematics enables us to fly to the moon, track our genetic codes, create beautiful music, design our cars, build our houses, and contact others around the world almost instantaneously. However, mathematics, that abstract language which helps us to access the relationships in our physical universe(s), is rarely invoked in the service of preparing young people for democratic participation. Deborah Ball and Hyman Bass take on the challenge of situating the highly revered, somewhat mystical discipline of mathematics as a key contributor to concepts of democracy.
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by Nel Noddings
Given human fallibility and mortality, it is striking how Western society generally deals with issues of spirituality and religion: The Scarf Affair described in Chapter Seven exemplifies the efforts of Western democracies to confine such matters to the private realm. Such a strategy, Nel Noddings writes, “reduces contention (and interest) in the classroom and protects schools from . . . complaints. . . . However, it also protects ignorance.” Education for a truly flourishing human life, she argues, must directly confront questions of meaning and worth, not deny them.
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by Randall Nielsen & Janice Rye Kinghorn
No discipline has had the impact on Western education in the last fifty years that economics has. Not only have the aims of education been narrowed to focus more on preparing people for their economic role, but the schooling system itself has been reorganized to reflect this way of thinking about the world. Economists Randall Nielsen and Janice Kinghorn here provide an immanent critique; that is, they challenge the above from within, more particularly from within the field of economic development. They explain that the assumptions of growth accounting that created earlier models of economic development (and current schooling) have generally failed on their own terms: their thin conceptualizations were inadequate to deal with exchange relationships in complex social and political environments.
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by Joannie Halas & Jeanne Adele Kentel
Many conversations that link education and the body make the argument that people have to be healthy in order to get on with the real learning of school or work or life in general. In contrast, Joannie Halas and Jeanne Adele Kentel argue that the physical is integral to a good and worthwhile life per se, and not as a means to achieve some other better end. In other words, they directly challenge the mind-body split so endemic to modern Western thought. Part of their argument is that we comprehend ourselves and the world through our body, and the neglect of the physical impoverishes our understanding in fundamental ways. The body, mind, heart, and spirit are never discrete.
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by Ray Barnhardt & Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
Up until now, the chapters in Part Three have advanced conversations among and within some of the horizons that are employed in Western cultures to make sense of human experience. Many competing traditions are omitted. Here we include one which reminds us how all traditions help us comprehend in certain ways—and miss other legitimate ways of understanding. Ray Barnhart and Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley challenge perhaps the most entrenched and powerful Western tradition, natural science, by showing how the focus on regularities often leads to the neglect of the meaning that can be discovered in the particular.
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by Ursula Martius Franklin
The previous chapters in Section Three dealt with the general patterns or traditions that humans employ to perceive and organize various facets of the human condition. In this chapter Ursula Franklin argues that all of these attempts are challenged by new computer-based technologies that influence the process of making generalities by changing our sense of time and space.
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by Joseph Dunne
This chapter grapples with “the obligation that the existence of children entails for every human society” (Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Education,” in Between Past and Future [New York: Penguin Books, 1968], 185.) Joseph Dunne begins by considering the dominant views of Western societies about the early years of childhood, the ideas which have shaped primary education practices. Those ideas, he claims, have been shaped by (1) the modern idea of “progress,” with its ultimate goal of “maturity,” and (2) postmodern social conditions which sometimes, for example, “enlist children as consumers,” transforming innocence into knowingness and cynicism.
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by Kieran Egan
The prolonged schooling of modern Western societies has posed special challenges for the education of adolescents, that is, those people who are neither children nor adults. Conventional approaches and structures (e.g., begin with the known, the local, the concrete) have been demonstrably unsuccessful, yet continue to be regularly employed. In this chapter Kieran Egan advocates dramatically different strategies based on examining what actually engages the imaginations of adolescents (e.g., electronic games, MTV videos, Archie comics) and adapting some of the same tactics in efforts to educate young people.
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by Gary D. Fenstermacher
Most approaches to education “begin with the end in mind,” that is, start with a conception of an educated adult (much as we do in the Educated Person Exercise) and then work backwards to determine how to achieve desired outcomes. In this chapter Gary Fenstermacher attempts a very different approach: he examines our attempts to educate young people and tries to determine our actual rather than avowed focus. He discovers an emphasis on academic achievement and educational equity (both laudable goals)—to the exclusion or assumption of other critical aspects of being a responsible adult, a democratic citizen, and an educated person.
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by John R. Wiens & David Coulter
In this chapter we use two sources to grapple with how to foster public discussion of education: our research on the role of public and private spaces in fostering dialogue, and our experience as teachers working in institutions that aim to foster education. Both sources help us to understand the depth of the challenge we must confront and how we might begin to use our freedom to act together.
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