Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

By David C. Paris | Go to book overview

2
The "Theoretical Mystique" and Thematic Analysis

In studying this subject we must be content if we attain as high a degree of certainty as the matter of it admits. . . .The question of the morally fine and the just--for this is what political science attempts to answer--admits of so much divergence and variation of opinion that it is widely believed that morality is convention and not part of the nature of things. We find a similar fluctuation of opinion about the character of the good. . . . Such being the nature of our subject and such our way of arguing in our discussions of it, we must be satisfied with a rough outline of the truth, and for the same reason we must be content with broad conclusions. Indeed, we must preserve this attitude when it comes to a more detailed statement of the views that are held. It is the mark of an educated man and a proof of his culture that in every subject he looks for only so much precision as its nature permits.

-- Aristotle

These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are. If we are told that these contradictions will be solved in some perfect world in which all good things can be harmonized in principle, then we must answer, to those that say this, that the meanings they attach to the names which for us denote the conflicting values are not ours. We must say that the world in which what we see as incompatible values are not in conflict is a world altogether beyond our ken; that principles which are harmonized in this other world are not the principles with which, in our daily lives, we are acquainted; if they are transformed, it is into conceptions not known to us on earth. But it is on earth that we live, and it is here that we must believe and act.

-- Isaiah Berlin

In the previous chapter, I discussed the movement for educational reform and some of the obstacles it faces. Competing and ambiguous ideas, conflicting interests, and problems of institutional implementation confront any proposed policy changes in a liberal democratic society. Education policy is no exception.

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