School Effectiveness for Whom? Challenges to the School Effectiveness and School Improvement Movements

By Roger Slee; Gaby Weiner et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Educational Studies, Policy Entrepreneurship and Social Theory 1

Stephen J. Ball

In this chapter I intend to reflect upon my practice as an educational researcher and theorist and, in more general terms, consider the current state of educational studies. In doing so I shall allow myself to be playful and perhaps at times outrageous. I am not attempting to be definitive. What I offer here is coming close to an approximation of something I might hope to say more clearly in the future. The spirit of what I am attempting, and some of the substance I wish to argue, are conveyed rather effectively in the following quotation from Michel Foucault:

I wouldn't want what I may have said or written to be seen as laying any claims to totality. I don't try to universalize what I say; conversely what I don't say isn't meant to be thereby disqualified as being of no importance. My work takes place between unfinished abutments and anticipatory strings of dots. I like to open out a space of research, try it out, then if it doesn't work try again somewhere else. On many points…I am still working and don't yet know whether I am going to get anywhere. What I say ought to be taken as 'propositions', 'game openings' where those who may be interested are invited to join in; they are not meant as dogmatic assertions that have to be taken or left en bloc…(1991, pp. 90-1)

My proposition, then, my 'game opening' here, is that educational studies is in a sorry state and in danger of becoming sorrier. That is to say, the weak grammars of educational studies, those concepts, relations and procedures upon which it rests, are becoming weaker (Bernstein, 1996). In Bernsteinian terms, the serial segmented structures, those differentiating rituals which distinguish us from each other and from other fields of knowledge, are becoming more detached and insulated from one another. As Basil Bernstein might put it, the invisible light that shines wanly within the knowledge structures of educational studies is in danger of being snuffed out entirely.

It is hardly novel to suggest that the discourses and knowledge structures of educational studies are shifting in response to the political and ideological repositioning of the academy and of scholarship. It is important to make it clear that the state of affairs I am addressing here is, at least in part, symptomatic of a more wholesale reworking of the relationship between higher education and research and the state. However, the resultant changes in the practices of scholarship seem particularly

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