Expertise versus Responsiveness in Children's Worlds: Politics in School, Home and Community Relationships

By Maureen McClure; Jane Clark Lindle | Go to book overview

POLITICS OF EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK, 1996, 1-3


Introduction and overview: Mapping shifting community relationships in children's worlds-expertise vs responsiveness

Jane Clark Lindle
University of Kentucky

The immediately preceding 1995 Yearbook of the Politics of Education Association focused on the new institutionalism (Crowson et al. 1996), which is a concept significantly linked to the theme of this, the 1996 Yearbook. The tensions between schools and families within their communities befuddle devotees of 'The American Dream', a dream of living well which honors the sanctity of both home and school as institutions and which, not surprisingly, is a broader global aspiration than the term implies. At the core of these tensions is a tattered social contract which embodies the challenges to institutionalism which were compellingly illustrated in the 1995 Yearbook of the Politics of Education Association (Crowson et al. 1996).

The current Yearbook is designed to explore more fully the confusions and demands of the pact between families, communities and schools. This volume is an exploration of the various obligations for schools as social institutions, but ultimately, our authors reveal the counter-culture nature of schooling in various international settings.

The social contract which legitimizes schooling is not merely bilateral. This multi-party bargain responds to both public and private interests in producing educated citizens or competent workers.

While families clearly represent private investment in schooling by surrendering their children to the institution, community and societal interests are not so clearly public interests. To the extent that economies are underwritten by private stakes, community interests are not necessarily vested in the greater good. To the extent that teachers are part of an entrepreneurial economic system, the social institution of schooling is run by privateers. Thus we have the conundrum of purpose in schooling.

We have a social institution contracted for societal continuity but responding to a culture sustained by private economies and nourished by individualistic values. As an institution, the school is at the nexus of social and cultural inconsistencies at the same time its contract specifies an obligation to provide both social and cultural constancy. Schools, merely by addressing their obligations, appear counter-culture to one or more of the parties to the institutional contract.

A current resurgence of political cachet in the USA for such rhetorical terms as 'family' and 'community' underscores the challenges for educators to respond to demands and social obligations in their immediate communities. Given a sustained era of educational reform, educators are reluctant to relinquish their hard-won professional discretion to respond to private and individualistic assertions by families and

0268-0939/97 $12 · 00 © 1997 Taylor & Francis Ltd.

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