Social change and the individual:
changing patterns of community and
the challenge for schooling
MARIE BRENN AND SUSAN E. NOFFKE
The pressures of the globalizing economy and its infrastructures significantly altered political, social and cultural patterns of advanced capitalist countries in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Yet this does not mean that everything has changed: older as well as emergent ways of organizing social life now exist side by side, interacting and interrupting one another (Luke 1996), offering a wide range of resources for individual and community identity formation. The schooling sector provides an excellent example of these contradictory and ambiguous tendencies at work. On several continents, school systems are required to provide more and more standardized accountability information, along lines familiar since the introduction of mass schooling. Simultaneously they are required, under devolutionary state policies, to take up more local responsibility. In this way, schools are part of a globalizing shift which pairs homogenization and local differentiation tendencies (Appadurai 1990). They are under increased pressure to change, while at the same time they are expected to provide a stable and relatively enduring institution around which identity and community can be formed.
Yet alongside, and perhaps because of, the glut of interventionist policies in the field of education (for example, the ‘standards’ and ‘charter schools’ movements in the USA), strident accusations are made by governments and communities and through the media that schools are too slow to change. Within the confines of increased surveillance and control mechanisms, the capacity to alter state schooling at the local level is severely circumscribed, more so than it has been in the past half century, we suggest. At the same time, many people in and around schools are continuing their longstanding and active concern with changing these institutions to become more socially just, future-oriented and responsive to the articulated needs of their communities. They are pushing