17 SES 08, Paper Session
This paper tracks some of the shifting policy logics and rationales of public school provision—in relation to the ‘publics’ served by expanding public school systems. It does this through an examination of three significant policy interventions in twentieth century Australia, a set of three key policy texts from the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s (Campbell & Proctor 2014).
The paper poses the questions: how were the ‘public’ and the ‘community’ represented in twentieth century education policy, and how were these representations connected to questions about the authority and competence of state bureaucracies to run the public school systems?
This policy history paper attends to some important historical shifts in the conceptualisation of how best to establish, develop, organise and administer public school systems in their specific national contexts. The empirical data has been chosen in order to illuminate a broad historical movement from early twentieth century repressive/ paternalistic traditions of public schooling through ‘progressive’ and democratic impulses in the 1970s (and subsequently on to a market-oriented, consumerist resolution in the twenty-first century).
The empirical reach of the paper is from the 1920s to the 1970s, but our questions and framing are influenced by contemporary debates about the erosion of faith in state authority over education, welfare and other domains of twentieth century state dominance or monopoly (eg see Campbell et al 2009; Gerrard et al 2017; Koinzer et al 2017; Meagher and Goodwin 2015; Newman and Clark 2009). In particular, the paper is informed by national and international policy agendas that propose radical challenges to nineteenth and twentieth century settlements regarding public education provision.
Our study focuses on Australia but claims an international perspective (which is relevant to European concerns and circumstances) in several ways, including its relevance to contemporary debates about public schooling. One of the important shifts we identify in this paper is how national policy was represented in documents from the middle decades of the twentieth century as invested in international contexts and alliances: notably British imperial whiteness, Cold War anxiety and the new cultural nationalism that underpinned plans for thoroughgoing institutional reform in the early 1970s.
In addition, the paper demonstrates the utility of applying poststructural policy analysis approaches in the interrogation of policy histories. The study employed Bacchi and Goodwin’s (2016) post-structuralist approach to problem representation in public policy, a form of textual discourse analysis described further below under ‘methodology’ (also Bacchi 2009). This is a Foucault–inspired approach to policy analysis, where policy documents are understood as ways of making reality. The benefit of this approach is that rather than seeking out how public schooling ‘really was’ at different points in time, such analyses can demonstrate what objects–social goals, ways of interacting, kinds of people—are presumed to be desired or valued at a particular historical moment. This approach therefore provides a method, or analytic strategy, for opening up these education policies in any context.
Having identified these three exemplary texts, selected for their usefulness in understanding significant themes in the history of education policy, we further focussed on smaller sections which most directly addressed the questions of publics, state, institutions and populations that we wished to address. Even though different in their relationships to policy implementation—one was a survey report (Brown 1927), one a polemic (Butts 1957), and one a classic policy plan commissioned by a Prime Minister (Karmel 1973) — each of these texts was authoritative in its day and the authors of each proposed transformative agendas for the whole of Australian schooling For each of the texts we posed the question: how were the proposals for educational reform made to make sense within the document (identifying conceptual logics)? How were the proposals linked with broader political rationalities (eg White Australia, the US Alliance, democratic socialist reform)? The idea is, as Bacchi and Goodwin (2016) argue, that what we propose to do about something reveals what we think needs to change and hence what we think the “problem” is. The approach involved analytic attention to the concepts, categories and dividing practices deployed in the texts, and the consideration of the kinds of knowledges, discourses and political rationalities with which these were associated. The purpose of this method is to focus on the internal logics of the texts, on the precision of what is said. The approach and methodology is thus distinct from approaches that focus on how people (e.g. policy workers) problematise issues, or on archival reconstruction of the histories of the production of documents (even though our reading was necessarily informed by a thorough study of historical context).
This kind of research offers insights into the ways in which policy experts make sense of the administration of schooling systems in relation to—and in reaction to—an imagined and theorised clientele, or collection of subjects (people). In this case of these significant Australian texts from the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s, the conceptual logics and political rationalities encompassed: a. Categorisations of educability, competence and worth, b. Calculations of dangers that populations or sections of populations (eg Roman Catholics) might present–and that those outside the bounds of citizenship might present, including non-white or hostile nations, c. Theories of historical change and post-colonial democratic development.
Bacchi, C. (2009). Analysing policy: what's the problem represented to be? Sydney, Pearson. Bacchi, C. & Goodwin, S. (2016). Poststructural policy analysis: a guide to practice. New York, Palgrave Pivot. Browne, G. S. (ed.) (1927). Education in Australia. London, Macmillan. Butts, R. F. (1957). Assumptions underlying Australian Education. Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research. Campbell, C. & Proctor, H. (2014). A History of Australian Schooling. Sydney, Allen & Unwin. Campbell, C., Proctor, H. & Sherington, G. (2009). School choice: How Parents Negotiate the New School Market in Australia. Sydney, Allen & Unwin. Gerrard, J., Savage G. C. & O’Connor, K. (2017). Searching for the public: school funding and shifting meanings of ‘the public’ in Australian education. Journal of Education Policy Vol. 32, Iss. 4. Karmel (Chair), P. (1973). Schools in Australia: Report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission, Canberra, Australian Government. Koinzer, T., Nikolai, R. & Waldow, F. (Eds.) (2017). Private schools and school choice in compulsory education: Global change and national challenge. Wiesbaden, Springer. Meagher, G. & Goodwin, S. (Eds.), (2015). Markets, Rights and Power in Australian Social Policy. Sydney University Press.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
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Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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