ERG SES G 08, Sociologies of Education
The paper shows questions, methods and main findings of my PhD-Thesis. I examined the discourse on a new general principle of education which lies beneath current reforms of the Austrian school systems within the last ten years. Based on these findings in this paper I aim to reconstruct under which preconditions certain practices in schools, as materialization of discourses, can be described as ideologies and in which forms schools participate on the reproduction and distribution of ideologies in society.
Using the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (Keller 2005) as method, the paper follows the assumption that tendencies and discourses in society shape current forms of learning in pedagogic institutions. As Keller (2005, p. 14) notes, discourses propose “positions for actors engaging in knowledge production and circulation as well as opportunity structures for using symbols to say things or to create the dispositional prerequisites for power effects”. This means, dominant agents can form a dispositif in order to influence ways of praxis in schools, on the one hand in enacting laws and on the other hand, in production and positioning of knowledge. In order to analyze the current general principle of education, the research in the first step analyses official documents like acts on school reforms, curricula, decrees, directives, circular letters and other forms derived from the learning-apparatus, the ministries or subordinated public authorities. In the second step, the dominant interpretative scheme (Deutungsmuster) found in these documents are linked to a broader and historical discursive field, in order to analyze where certain elements of the interpretative scheme come from, how they became dominant in the dispositif and what processes of modification and regulations can be identified. Analyzing the rules of discourses can answer the question of power structures in the learning apparatus and so an interpretation can be made as to what interests the reform process in schools serves.
Within the last ten years, the main fields of the discourse on a new general principle of education can be classified in three particular topics, which are analyzed further: First, the question of individualization in education and equal opportunities; second, the demand for making learning fun; third, the focusing on the term competence in schools curricula and centralized school leaving examinations. Within these particular lines of discourses both the aspect of knowledge production and concrete legislative procedures can be described. Therefore we intend to find common elements and interpretations of how a general principle of education and learning are formed up in the analyzed documents by the learning apparatus.
Based on this findings, the paper elaborates four assumptions on the effectiveness of ideologies in schools, regarding the problems of an economic functionalism in modes of learning, the question of the social in processes of subjectivation and the dialectics in the distribution process of ideology. The findings of this analyzes are presented after a discussion of the term ideology. Ideology is thereby understood as being distributed by practices, in schools this means mainly by learning processes. Those practices structure modes of perception and interpretation and guide processes of subjectivation.
The Methodology of the study combines approaches to discourse from Laclau/Mouffe and the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse. The latter links arguments from the social constructionist tradition, following Berger and Luckmann, with assumptions based in symbolic interactionism, hermeneutic sociology of knowledge, and the concepts of Michel Foucault. It argues thereby for a consistent theoretical and methodological grounding of a genuine social sciences perspective on discourse interested in the social production, circulation and transformation of knowledge, that is in social relations and politics of knowledge in the so-called ‘knowledge societies’. The data corpus of the analysis consists primary of documents by officials (acts on school reforms, curricula, decrees, directives, circular letter); it is focused here on recent documents, from a period since 2007 to now. In the second step of the analysis, the focus switches to a broader field of discourses in society, therefore data corpus includes programs of associations, parties, teacher unions, contributions to media debates, press releases, and others. For discussion of the term ideology and the interpretation of the findings, the paper follows an understanding of the concept given by Althusser (2001), Laclau/Mouffe (2001) and Žižek (1989).
The intend of this paper is to show the constitutional processes of a new general principle of education in schools by analyzing current reforms in the educational system; an understanding of the term Ideology and its function to describe, how to draw criticism on it if these general principle does not serve pedagogic interests, while on the other hand the mediate forms of subjectivity that serve dominant (neoliberal) interests.
Althusser, L. (2001). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus (Notes Towards an Investigation). Lenin and Philosophy and other essays, Monthly Review Press, New York, 85-126. Brandmayr, M. (2018): Dispositive des Lernens. Eine Analyse der Formierung schulischer Lernprozesse unter ideologiekritischen Aspekten. Wiesbaden: Springer. Foucault, M.: "The order of discourse," translated by Ian McLeod in R. Young (ed.) (1981): Untying the Text : a Poststructuralist Reader. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 48-78. Foucault, M. (1972). The archeology of knowledge. London: Routledge [first published in French 1969]. Keller, R. (2011): The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD). Human Studies, 34(1), 43–65. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41478455. Date accessed: 14 Jan. 2016 Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics. Verso. Keller, R: Analysing Discourse. An Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 6, No. 3/2005. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/19/41. Date accessed: 14 Jan. 2016 Žižek, S. (1989). The sublime object of ideology. Verso.
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