Just Schooling : Explorations in the Cultural Politics of Teaching

Just Schooling : Explorations in the Cultural Politics of Teaching

Just Schooling : Explorations in the Cultural Politics of Teaching

Just Schooling : Explorations in the Cultural Politics of Teaching


"For readers concerned not just with schooling but with just schooling, Trevor Gale and Kathleen Densmore have provided a practical, yet theoretically framed, exploration of how we might move towards its achievement. This is a book that should be read by the educational policy community, including teachers, administrators, policy makers, parents, community activists and politicians." - Bob Lingard, University of Queensland, Australia

"....richly textured and finely nuanced...strikingly original and powerfully rendered... Just Schooling is, above all, a triumph of commonsense, accumulated and collaborative wisdom, and elegantly measured and sober research. The book makes a major contribution to a field marred repeatedly by thoughtless academic invasions and premature pronouncements. It will force teacher educators to reappraise the taken for granted in pedagogical practices in the new millennium in an educational field in which contemporary scholars search around desperately for new signposts of change."- Cameron McCarthy,University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,USA

"This will be an important and influential book in furthering democratic practices in and through education. It is clearly written, introducing complex issues and ideas to teachers in deceptively simple language. At the same time, it gives a voice to teachers themselves, but not in an uncritical manner. The book's sensitive exploration of the relations between individuals, groups and social structures constitutes an impressive illustration of the 'sociological imagination' at work". - Geoff Whitty, Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education and Dean of Research, Institute of Education, University of London
• Why do some students 'succeed' and others 'fail' at school?• How are classroom relations influenced by the language that teachers use and the stories they tell about their students?Just Schooling is an exercise in the cultural politics of teaching. It invites teachers and interested others to rethink what they know about social justice and to rework how they engage in the practices of teaching (what they say and do), particularly in relation to how these influence the lives of students. Informed by a recognitive view of social justice, Just Schooling analyses the various discourses and ideologies mobilized in classrooms that implicitly and explicitly determine what is understood by (i) the nature and centrality of language, (ii) the purposes and meaning of education, and (iii) the diversity of students, particularly with respect to their gender, race and social class but also their learning dis/abilities. Throughout, the authors argue for a democratization of classroom relations, beginning with students' and teachers' personal lives and connecting these with wider contexts, as a way of addressing the advantages and disadvantages traditionally reproduced by schooling.


This book’s title is a play on words asking three questions: about whether and how schooling still matters, about whether and how it can be made more just, and about whether and how schooling is still political in new conditions.

The first question: Just Schooling asks whether schooling is a diminished force in contemporary societies and cultures, whether it has become ‘merely schooling’. This is not just a rhetorical question but one that the teachers who worked with Trevor Gale and Kathleen Densmore confront everyday. The connectedness of what is done in classrooms to new worlds of work and technology, new cultures and identities likely is the key dilemma facing teachers, schools and governments – especially and particularly for those who are not aware that such a dilemma exists. It is worth noting that even the cinematic accounts of teaching that Gale and Densmore discuss here are rooted in very traditional assumptions about the knowledge and value, discourse and practice that schools might dispense.

A legacy from the last century of educational theory and policy has been to treat schooling as if it were the principal source of children’s and adolescents’ life knowledge, as if it were both the main archive and pedagogical place for learning. In schools one was supposed to encounter all one needed to know about everything from Egyptian history to the biosphere. In schools one was supposed to learn how to ‘be’ and appear a literate and aesthetic, rational and civilized person. Schooling must now find its place – perhaps a new and different place – in worlds where space and time are compressed and redefined continuously, where community geographies and school demographies shift semester by semester, where information, discourses and images – spurious, redundant, critical, canonical, marginal, dominant – rupture, blend and expand exponentially beyond government, corporation, community or school control.

The second question: Just Schooling asks whether it is possible to have a ‘socially just’ educational system. If so, Gale and Densmore ask, upon which philosophic principles should such a system be based? How might these principles inform teachers’ work and common sense, and how we shape students’ lives and literacies?

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