07 SES 05 A, Diversity and Communality Contested
In Australia, as in many European nations, there is a high correlation between high/low academic achievement and high/low socioeconomic status (Teese and Polesel 2003). While attempts to address this have been prevalent on the political agenda throughout the last 15 years, the policy efforts are largely aimed at the redistribution of resources from advantaged to disadvantaged schools. The Australian population is extremely multicultural with almost one quarter (24.6%) of the population born overseas (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013), yet there is a pervasive “fear of difference” (Ranson, Nixon & Lingard 2008:223) which can prevent “robust” multiculturalism within schools and the community at large.
This paper reports on data from an Australian Research Council project* examining teachers’ dispositions towards social justice in secondary schools at either end of the advantage spectrum. It focuses on social justice activities designed around “the care of others” and how school leaders and educators view them strategically as ways to combat “privileged irresponsibility” (Tronto 1993). Tronto describes privileged irresponsibility as “when those who are relatively privileged are granted by that privilege the opportunity simply to ignore forms of hardships that they do not face” (1993:121). In particular, the paper examines the approaches these different schools take to the ‘care of Others’ who are not Australian-born; for example, international students or students of refugee background.
Blending Bourdieu’s framework of field, disposition and capital with cultural-historic activity theory this paper analyses data from interviews with Head Teachers and reflective interviews with teachers using video of classroom social justice practice to explore their beliefs and actions and the ‘dispositions towards social justice’(Gale & Densmore 2000, Mills 2013) which are revealed. This paper will focus on the way these dispositions are enacted in multicultural settings.
The ways in which principals in advantaged and disadvantaged schools differently describe how they create or seek opportunities for social justice and “the care of Others” in their schools – as either something done to others, or done on students by others – reveal a range of views on the redistribution of social and cultural capital. In each, there is evidence that social justice is being addressed not just in the redistribution of social and cultural capital, but also in the recognition of addressing "privileged irresponsibility".
* Chief Investigators on the project are Trevor Gale, Russell Cross and Carmen Mills.
Bourdieu, P. (1990). Reproduction in education, society, and culture. London ; Newbury Park, Calif., Sage in association with Theory, Culture & Society, Dept. of Administrative and Social Studies, Teesside Polytechnic. Engeström, Y., Miettinen, R. & Punamäki R (1999) Perspectives on Activity Theory. Cambridge University Press. Gale, T., & Densmore, K. (2000). Just schooling : explorations in the cultural politics of teaching. Open University Press. Mills, C. C. (2013). A Bourdieuian analysis of teachers' changing dispositions towards social justice: The limitations of practicum placements in pre-service teacher education. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Teacher Education, 41(1), 41-54. doi:10.1080/1359866X.2012.753985 Ranson, S., Nixon, J., & Lingard, B. (2008). Transforming Learning in Schools and Communities : The Remaking of Education for a Cosmopolitan Society. New York: Continuum. Teese, R., & Polesel, J. (2003). Undemocratic schooling : equity and quality in mass secondary education in Australia / Richard Teese, John Polesel with the assistance of Merryn Davies, Margaret Charlton and Anne Walstab. Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne University Publishing, 2003. Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries : a political argument for an ethic of care / Joan C. Tronto. New York : Routledge, 1993.
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