23 SES 17 D, Public Education at the Crossroads in Germany, the United States and Canada
This symposium focuses on the challenges for public education in nation states around the globe with examples from Germany, United States and Canada. The papers extend from a panel entitled Public Education at the Crossroads held at the German Center for Research and Innovation at the United Nations Plaza in New York in 2018. Despite growing pressures for privatization from neoliberal policies worldwide, public education remains the primary model for schools in many countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Germany (Klemm et al., 2018). Challenges to public education in the 21st century are many and vary from the capacity of the public systems to adapt to the demands of globalization or to accommodate to the multiple and often contradictory priorities voiced from different ideological, social and cultural perspectives (Gogolin, 2017; Koyama, 2015; Schulz et al., 2018). All of these challenges are not entirely new, but their global dimension and magnitude suggest that the notion of public education guaranteed for all is also contested even in democratic nation states. Indeed, we feel that it would be valuable to reflect upon common intellectual roots of education, its meaning, and its purposes (Bellmann & Su, 2016; Dewey, 1916).
Against this background, scholars from three nation states with federal systems — U.S., Germany, and Canada—will consider public education and its historical and intellectual roots as well as new evidence and potential answers to these challenges. In doing so, they will examine both complementary as well as competing factors that are framing public education in democratic systems, including particularly multilingualism. The papers will discuss what kind of measures are needed to better adapt schools to migration, multilingualism and further 21st century challenges, and how images of good citizenship and democracy have developed in the context of public education, respectively how they should be developed further.
The first introductory paper reminds about the historical foundation for the role of public education in building and sustaining decentralized nation-states with regards to common norms and values. In so doing, we examine the historical and contemporary complexity of public education at national and state or provincial levels. Additionally, this article describes the current conditions for public education, including for example, the relation to privatization and highlights challenges arising from increasing diversity and the changing role of citizenship, thus providing a frame for the topics further analyzed in the following articles. The next paper highlights multilingualism stemming from student’s migrant backgrounds and the choices public schools have to take to address the changing needs of the student population.
The final paper goes deeper into an historical discussion of Bildung as well as the purposes and meaning of education, drawing on Mollenhauer (edition from 2013) to argue that democratic and emancipatory priorities of education are not simply a matter of teachers and adults granting students autonomy, but also one of adults protecting themselves from their own “delusions” and from pressures to conform and comply.
This symposium, thus, invites a renewed intellectual exchange among Germany, the U.S. and Canada as well as other countries.
An internationally recognized discussant will provide a broader global perspective on these challenges for public education and education itself. Specifically, the discussant is the director of the Research Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy at Maynooth University in Ireland. This research centre was founded to produce research that can contribute with new ideas for a diverse and robust society to mobilize over difference.
Bellmann, J., & Su, H. (2016). Democracy and Bildung/Erziehung—Towards a Universal Theory of Education. Education Sciences, 7(1), 5. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press. Gogolin, Ingrid (2017). Sprachliche Bildung als Feld von sprachdidaktischer und erziehungswissenschaftlicher Forschung. In Michael Becker-Mrotzek & Hans-Joachim Roth (eds) Sprachliche Bildung – Grundlagen und Handlungsfelder, vol. 1. Münster: Waxmann, pp. 37–53. Klemm K et al. (2018). Privatschulen in Deutschland: Trends und Leistungsvergleiche. Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Koyama, J. (2015). The elusive and exclusive global citizen. New York, NY: United Nations Educational. Mollenhauer, K (edition from 2013). Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing, edited and translated by Norm Friesen, London: Routledge. Schulz W et al. (2018). Becoming Citizens in a Changing World. IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2016 International Report. Bern: Springer.
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