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Firmly Bolted into the Air: Wishful Rationalism as a Discursive Basis for Educational Reform

by Hannu Simola - 1998

The aim of this article is to promote a better understanding of the problematic rela tions between public reform discourse and the reality of schooling. The subject is the paradox of educational reforms: while superficially decisive, they seem, at the same time, to be deficient and insufficient. The article proposes that one explanation for this “vicious circle?of educational reform might be traced to the discursive dynamics of school reform rather than to the reforms themselves. The article is based on empirical findings and theoretical constructions developed in a Finnish study. Although the case is limited to a peripheral and small country, it may have more general implications. The analysis of changes in official Finnish school discourse since the late 1960’s identifies four characteristic features: individualization, “disciplinization,? goal rationalization, and decontextualization. These changes then constitute a curious intertwining of utopianism and rationalism, a “wishful rationalism,?as a tacit discursive principle of the authoritarian approach to school reform. Reading official school discourse with this specific logic in mind seems to reveal something about the inner dynamics and paradoxes of educational reform.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 4, 1998, p. 731-757
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10287, Date Accessed: 4/21/2021 4:19:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Hannu Simola
    Academy of Finland
    Hanna Simola is senior research fellow of the Academy of Finland and docent in the sociology of education, University of Helsinki. He is the co-author of "Didactic Closure: Professionalization and Pedagogic Knowledge in Finnish Teacher Education" (Teaching and Teacher Education, 1997).
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