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Schools & Social Justice

Schools & Social Justice

R.W. Connell
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Schools & Social Justice
    Book Description:

    Social justice, R.W. Connell contends, is an inextricable part of any educational system, and democratic societies should give priority to the educational needs of the disadvantaged. In this remarkable manifesto, one of education's most distinguished voices cautions that school systems dealing unjustly with their disadvantaged students degrade the quality of education for all.

    The book's compelling, well-reasoned arguments call for new social policies. Drawing on research experience in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia, Connell demonstrates the weakness in programs that attempt merely to establish equal opportunity. He observes that scholarships, compensatory education, desegregation, and affirmative action focus on distributive justice, rather than on the nature of the education.

    Curricular justice, Connell argues, is just as crucial as distributive justice. Considering race, class, and gender issues, he examines the relation between knowledge and its social content. He describes how curricular content, presentation, and means of student assessment can perpetuate social injustice. Tracing the elitist sources of various curricula,Schools and Social Justiceurges reconceptualizing the curriculum from the point of view of the disadvantaged and offers examples of successful efforts to do this.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0518-0
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-vi)
    Bob Connell
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)

    • Chapter One Social Justice In Education
      (pp. 11-19)

      To many people, questions about education and questions about social justice belong in separate baskets. Education concerns schools, colleges and universities, whose business is to pass knowledge on to the next generation. Social justice is about income, employment, pensions or physical assets like housing. Governments have separate departments for them, and so should our minds. The schools have no business getting mixed up with welfare; their job is to teach.

      It is easier to believe in this separation if you are yourself well-paid and well-educated. People who are poor and who have been ill-educated have been raising questions for a...

    • Chapter Two Poverty And Compensatory Education
      (pp. 20-29)

      Poverty takes three main forms across the world. What we might callPoverty 1,the widest spread, is the poverty of third-world rural communities, brought into the world capitalist economy but deprived of most of its benefits, who live on some combination of subsistence agriculture, cash-cropping, and irregular wage labour.¹ Educational questions here centre on adult literacy and on the impact of the elementary school as a social form.

      Poverty 2is the poverty of urban populations in low-wage economies, a situation that includes such massive agglomerations as Mexico and Calcutta. Educational questions here centre on the effects of explosive...

    • Chapter Three Knowledge, Objectivity And Hegemony
      (pp. 30-42)

      There is a very general principle behind the connection of distribution and content discussed in Chapter 1. Knowledge itself is social, it does not exist in some ethereal realm outside society. The organisation of knowledge that we are familiar with in school curricula was created by particular social processes, by particular people with particular points of view.

      This becomes obvious when we look at it across cultures. There is a fascinating anthropological literature about growing up and coming of age. I recommend to anyone who is interested in the shape of the curriculum as a whole, the experience of reading...

    • Chapter Four Curricular Justice
      (pp. 43-54)

      On what principles can we operate in trying to grasp hold of these processes and turn them in the direction of social justice? What are our design principles, so to speak, for a curriculum that will lead towards social justice?

      I suggest three principles, taken together, might constitute a workable model of curricular justice.

      (1)The interests of the least advantaged.One of the key concepts in the philosophers’ discussions of the nature of justice is caring for the worst-off first. John Rawls proposes that education must specifically serve the interests of the ‘least favoured’ groups in society. The principle...


    • Chapter Five Work For Teachers
      (pp. 57-73)

      In thinking about any serious educational reform, in the cause of social justice or for any other purpose, it is essential to consider what it means for teachers.

      This is not because teachers are an inherently suspicious or conservative bunch, naturally opposed to change, who have to be Got Around somehow. That is a view of teachers now being promoted by neo-conservatives; it helps to discredit teachers’ unions, and to promote managerial control of the school system. Ideas like ‘teacher-proof’ curricula (which I find an extraordinarily offensive idea: try ‘parent-proof’ childrearing, or ‘executive-proof’ businesses) go together with an economic interest...

    • Chapter Six Assessment
      (pp. 74-86)

      In this chapter I want to explore the ways assessment systems bear on the issue of social justice. There is a lot of confusion of terms about ‘measurement,’ ‘assessment’ and ‘evaluation.’¹ I will use the term ‘assessment’ to mean the appraisal of pupils and their learning, however that is done — via tests, examinations, teacher’s records, self-appraisal, or whatever. By ‘evaluation’ I mean the appraisal of programs or institutions.

      The starting-point for the analysis has to be the social character of education systems, and the production of inequality within them. Education systems, as I have been arguing, are large and powerful...

    • Chapter Seven Learning From Experience: The Disadvantaged Schools Program
      (pp. 87-108)

      One of the most enduring of the compensatory education programs discussed in Chapter 2 is the Disadvantaged Schools Program (DSP) in Australia. Little known outside Australia, this is one of the few compensatory education programs to operate on a national scale, and has now been running for eighteen years. It was launched in 1974 by a reforming federal government, and since then has survived several changes of national government, sharp differences at state level, and major changes in general education policy.

      By comparison with compensatory education in other countries, the DSP is markedly de centralised in decision-making and democratic in...

    • Chapter Eight Work For Researchers
      (pp. 109-124)

      Research is the process of producing knowledge, thus a kind of industry. There is a labour process: what researchers do. There is a workforce: who researchers are. There is a distribution and consumption process: how the knowledge is circulated, and how it gets used.

      The sociology of knowledge, a discipline more often honoured in the spirit than practised in the flesh, tells us that these processes are shaped by institutional and cultural structures. Knowledge is a social product not in a vague metaphysical sense, but in hard and intrusive detail. What is known, by whom, about whom, with what effects...

  6. Appendix: Examples Of Practice In Disadvantaged Schools
    (pp. 125-132)
  7. Notes
    (pp. 133-140)