ERG SES D 14, Sociologies of Education
In this research I focus on the ways by which different actors legitimize different educational claims while enforcing them into binding school curricula. Czech educational discourse after 1989 is gradually constructed by different type of knowledge than specifically pedagogical, and by different actors coming, to a greater extent, from external spheres (transnational, business, or non-government sphere…) as in other European countries affected with globalization and transnationalization. Legitimizing their own educational claims, actors simultaneously contest legitimacy of their rivals. These educational claims collide on numerous levels and their various justifications produce tensions and problematic conduct of the reforms. Although many contemporary critical approaches based on theories of domination and oppression call for a greater democratization of the educational reform debate, they fail to reflect the system’s chronic openness to various actors performing divergent justifications. Additionally, they neglect the contradictions between legitimizing practices and the particular meaning of categories as competence for critique, relevance of problems and solutions, reasonability of justification, and appropriate knowledge.
This research aims to answer following questions:
How are categories: competence, problems to solve, solutions of problems, and respected policy knowledge occupied and how are these categories interlinked through actors’ legitimizing and neutralizing practices and strategies?
How do particular strategies and practices legitimate or neutralize both the actor’s and the rival’s competence for critique or action, the relevance of their claims and the reasonability of their justifications?
How can different legitimizations and meaning making generate incommensurability of two necessary requirements: to be a participant in the reform debate and, simultaneously, to be sufficiently competent, furthermore, for what kind of action?
In my approach which is broadly based on the interpretive sociology, I employ the “pragmatic” current of the sociology of critique (late Lyotard, Boltanski, Popkewitz) which differs from the Marxist theory of unveiling. However, this approach is able to recognize and analyse a situation in which the voice remains inaudible, although the access to the debate is open. The competence to “participate” is paradoxically constraining possible action. I have developed an interconnection between Boltanski’s model of critical action and Lyotard’s ontology of event which enabled me to track the practices and strategies which can produce the legitimacy or neutralization of critical or justifying actions without textual reductionism.
The analysis of legitimizing strategies draws on data from the educational reform debate before Czech Parliament elections in fall 2017 and the ongoing debates before the appointment of a new minister of education. Since the main topic of these discussions was the issue of urgent need of reform of elementary school curricula, many actors (authorised and non-authorised) have tried to take part in these debates and to promote their own educational claims (inclusive education, education for national pride, financial competence education, technical education…). The data set spreading in the interval from January 2016 to January 2018 includes various sources, such as strategic documents, press releases, social media events, video stream debates, and audio records of the debates.
The subject of this analysis is the legitimizing embedded in practices of verbal statements, text production (strategic document, press releases), organizing social media events, political debates, self-defining as an expert, transferring of the “voice” to abstract entities as “society”, “our age”, “economy”, producing temporal or maintaining goal-centred strategic alliances with other actors and many other legitimizing strategies. I have analysed the data through non-essentialist categories of competence, relevance, reasonability, and audience, and I have traced the actor’s practices of occupying these categories, which has consequences in possibilities for their and their rivals’ action. These consequences can vary from legitimacy to neutralization.
For the purpose of analysis of legitimizing practices on different levels (texts, video stream debates, social media events), it is not appropriate to use classic textual discourse analysis, especially not the currents of unveiling the oppression influenced by Marxism (Balon 2014, Popkewitz 2013). I have employed the theory of “pragmatic” sociology of critique and elaborated a relationship among Lyotard’s ontology of event (1983, 1988) and Boltanski’s model of critical action (Boltanski, Thèvenot 2000), legitimate tests, tests of strength (Boltanski, Chiapello 2007), and reformist and radical critique (Boltanski 2011). I have used a particular kind of qualitative discourse analysis based on the Lyotard’s and Boltanski’s analytical concepts, which is not primarily concerned with texts but which primarily tracks the action (Wirthová 2017). More specifically, it tracks the social action which is embodied in legitimizing practices and strategies (Popkewitz 2017). The basic analytical unit in this type of analysis is a public expression (mostly statement) of an educational claim regardless of the type of actor, character of this expression, and channels of communication. The categories, such as types of actors, character of expressions and traditional or new channels, are parts of the subject of this analysis – they were not defined in advance. Data collecting: I have chosen such records which enabled tracing of various actions of enforcing educational claims. It is evident that most of educational claims and their most visible justifications can be observed in an unusual period of time; therefore, I have chosen those events of education debates which took part before the Parliament elections in 2017 and the appointment of a new minister of education. The time period of these debates begins in January 2016 and ends in January 2018. In this pre-election educational debates, the main topic of the public as well as the government was the issue of the urgent need of reform of elementary school curricula. Data set includes video and audio records of debates organized by non-governmental actors, video records of debate organized by the public service television, records from debates organized by the educational department of a public university. In these debates, a variety of guests were invited, including politicians, teachers, experts, alliances representatives and others. This type of records was followed by press releases of non-governmental actors and the ministry of education, strategic documents of non-governmental actors, profession unions, industrial actors, and the ministry of education. Data were processed via CAQA (MAXQDA 12)
The aim of this research is to display the ways of legitimizing the educational claims in the contemporary Czech society which is on many levels open, but this openness is rather problematic (Kascak 2017). The aim is to elucidate tensions, ambiguities and contradictions in conduct of educational reforms and to answer the question how these ambiguities perform constraints of action and how they undermine the change intended by these reforms. The findings of the Czech case might be effectively compared with a narrower area of Central Europe (Kascak 2017), furthermore, it might serve as a departure for consequent research focusing on the question how European society has become involved in contemporary changes in the simultaneous and ambiguous processes of transnationalization and particularization (Izquierdo, Mínguéz 2003). The aim of this conference paper is to present findings on selected actors (teachers, politicians, non-governmental representatives) who have strived to take part in the educational debates; and to push their educational claims into binding curriculum. The study of their legitimizing strategies has discovered ambiguous consequences to establishing their competence for critique or action, relevance of their claims and reasonability of their justifications. For example, teacher’s competence to participate in reform debates was built around semantics of the non-informed teacher, the non-active teacher and around the opposition between the teacher and the expert. Such competence simultaneously constrains limits of action. The competence of politicians was constrained by the meaning of inherent power-less political action. Problems of accelerated technological change in the contemporary society were addressed with solutions of meticulously planned projects, and the knowledge needed in planning reforms was proposed as “expert”, which was considered objective and true, neglecting its origin in transnational economic organizations. These examples show, how divergent legitimizations can produce tensions and ultimate neutralizations of critical competence, or competence for action.
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