Critical Voices in School Reform: Students Living through Change

Critical Voices in School Reform: Students Living through Change

Critical Voices in School Reform: Students Living through Change

Critical Voices in School Reform: Students Living through Change

Synopsis

School reform of one kind or another is a priority for education systems the world over. Yet the voices of students - those most affected by, and most pivotal to, the success or failure of any program of school reform - are rarely heard on this topic. This is the first book to look at school reform from the perspective of the students. Such a youth-centred approach to studying school reform provides valuable insight into how students experience changes in school structure and classroom instruction. The studies included in this collection focus on reform initiatives aimed at overcoming persistent patterns of racial, class and gender inequality. The authors combine the theoretical aspects of research with its practical applications, making this an invaluable resource for teacher educators, classroom practitioners, researchers and policymakers. Critical Voices in School Reform: Students Living Through Change is divided into two parts. Part one describes and analyses programs of reform that turned out contrary to the intentions of adult reformers, illustrating the - often unspoken - tension between adult and student perspectives on school change. Part two looks at reform initiatives that were able to harness student energies and thereby improve pupils' engagement with school life. These reforms, which are finely attuned to the needs and interests of students, offer clear, valuable guidance to those trying to create more equitable school experiences. A concluding chapter draws together the themes and insights gained from looking at school reform through a student-centred lens and offers suggestions for more relevant and lasting reform.

Excerpt

In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of powerful critical ethnographies were produced which opened the black box of schooling. Books by Rist (1972), Willis (1981), Eckert (1984), Metz (1978), Peshkin (1978) and Fine (1991) exposed the world of schools in powerful ways and provided new insights into how they worked and operated. Social theorists like Rousseau and Durkheim had made the case long ago that schools play a central role in reproducing the social order, but it was not until the doors of schools were opened through critical qualitative research that we were able to understand how this occurred. Through powerful up close and personal accounts of the lives and experiences of the central actors within schools - teachers and students - new insights into the workings of these important social organizations were generated and revealed.

This volume builds upon this important scholarly tradition and extends it with an investigation of the experiences of students, a group both understudied and pivotal to any understanding of life in schools. It does so with new research carried out by a diverse group of scholars who have spent a great deal of time in schools and who know and understand how they work from the inside out. The insights generated from first-hand knowledge and from excavating the perspectives and voices of students in particular, provide a unique standpoint from which to understand the social processes that occur within schools. The attention to the social complexities of schooling presented in this book is important because it serves as the most effective means to combat common sense explanations of the way schools work and function in American society.

What we take for common sense is a significant obstacle in understanding and changing how schools work. Having gone to school, there is a tendency for policy makers and the general public to assume we know how schools function and to take for granted much of what happens there. Without much reservation, too often we assume that the way schools determine winners and losers in the larger society is fair because it is based upon merit, talent and ability. . .

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