23 SES 07 A, Curriculum Policy Reforms and Their Implications (Part 3)
Paper Session continued from 23 SES 06 A
As Benedict Anderson (2006) notes, nations are ‘imagined communities’. This means that they are held together by a shared belief in its existence. Yet this imaginary can never stabilized for good. Instead, it must be be constantly secured and renewed, especially in times of societal ruptures. Public schooling plays a significant part in the reproduction of national identities, and hence the construction of imagined communities. National curriculum texts express discourses of political identification in a seemingly neutral, universal and self-evident form. In this, they fabricate national unity, but also necessarily exclude and marginalize other forms of political identification. (Hofmann 2016; Tröhler 2016.)
In our paper, we analyze the discourses of ideal citizenship in Finnish curriculum texts. We focus especially on those parts of curriculum that delineate the general aims and values of schooling apart from specific subjects.
By using Laclauian discourse theory we ask: 1) How do national curriculum discourses articulate ideal forms of citizenship through mobilizing so-called empty signifiers that universalize particular meanings, while excluding others? 2) What kinds of traveling (mainly European) political discourses are articulated in three different eras of nation building in Finland?
We examine three different national curriculum texts in three different eras of the Finnish society from the early 20th century to early 21st century. Each of these is thought to reflect a profound turning point in the conditions of nation building and the imaginaries of ideal citizenship. First, we look at the Rural elementary school curriculum (Maalaiskansakoulun opetussuunnitelma) from 1925 (MOPS 1925). We read this in the context of a decisive rupture of Finland gaining her independence of Russia in 1917, which was followed by a bloody civil war in 1918. This left a traumatic division that mass schooling sought to suture together through imaginaries of a common national identity, values and history. These images are derived, on the one hand, from a German traditions of national romanticism and idealist philosophy. On the other hand, they these images reflect a combined manifestation of the values of Finnish speaking cultural elite and peasantry that gained cultural hegemony after the civil war.
The second curriculum text is the Comprehensive school curriculum of 1970 (Komiteamietintö 1970). This was an era when Finland was going through a swift and profound transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. Finnish school system was implementing a reform where the former dual model was replaced by a common school for all. Instead of nationalistic and Lutheran ideals, common denominators of citizenship were now articulated through discourses of scientific planning.
The third national curriculum is from 2014 (POPS2014, effective since 2016). This is situated in a contemporary Finnish education policy climate affected by global neoliberalist discourses of economic competition and excellence. At the same time, the old imagery of ethnically and culturally homogeneous citizenship is disintegrating with the acknowledgement of religious, ethnic and language minorities in the classroom.
In each of these curriculum texts, we find moments when the legitimation of power through democratic citizenship is at stake in Finland. In this context, curriculum texts seek to fabricate unity and stability to the imaginaries of citizenship through using signifiers that overcode differences in political identifications at odds with each other. In this, they obfuscate other significant sources of political identification.
Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso Books. Finlayson, A. & Valentine, J. (2002). Introduction. In A. Finlayson & J. Valentine (ed.) Politics and post-structuralism. An introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh university press, 1-20. Glynos, J. & Howarth, D. (2007). Logics of critical explanation in social and political theory. London: Routledge. Hofmann, A. (2016). Nation, Nationalism, Curriculum, and the Making of Citizens. In Peters, M. A. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer. pp 1-6. Howarth, D. (2000). Discourse. Buckingham: Open university press. Howarth, D. (2010). Power, discourse, and policy: articulating a hegemony approach to critical policy studies. Critical Policy Studies 3 (3–4), 309-335. Howarth, D. & Stavrakakis, Y. (2000). Introducing discourse theory and political analysis. In D. Howarth, A. Norval & Y. Stavrakakis (ed.) Discourse theory and political analysis. Identities, hegemonies and social change. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1–23. Laclau, E. (1994). Introduction. In E. Laclau (ed.) The making of political identities. London: Verso, 1–8. Laclau, E. (2005). On populist reason. London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2007). Emancipation(s). London: Verso. Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (2014). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso. Marchart, O. (2007). Post-foundational political thought. Political difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou and Laclau. Edinburgh: University press. Mura, A. (2016). National Finitude and the Paranoid Style of the One. Contemporary Political Theory 15 (1), 58–79. Simola, H. (2005). The Finnish miracle of PISA: Historical and sociological remarks on teaching and teacher education. Comparative education, 41(4), 455-470. Tröhler, D. (2016). Curriculum history or the educational construction of Europe in the long nineteenth century. European Educational Research Journal 15(3), 279–297.
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