Summaries nr 4 1999

Summaries nr 4 1999

Björn Skogar, 1999: Christian religious studies in the Swedish schools in the 20th century ­ Some theological perspectives/Kristendomsundervisningen i 1900-talets svenska skola ­ Några teologiska ansatser/. Pedagogisk Forskning i Sverige, Vol 4, No 4, pp 305­326. Stockholm ISSN 1401-6788.

The article is a part of a project, Didactic Perspectives on Religious Studies in School and University, made in cooperation with Edgar Almén at the University of Linköping. Its focus is the theological perspectives of the most important contributions to the subject during the century. Two fundamental changes of the curriculum have been made: In 1919 the Swedish compulsory schools got an, in principle, independent position in relation to the churches ­ including the Lutheran State church. The period before 1919 is characterized as cathechistic, after 1919 until 1962 as a period of a liberal, Christian teaching and the present period as secular. Now the teaching is intended to be neutral and the aim is an orientation in different religions and worldviews.

In the article George A. Lindbeck’s typology is used to characterize the different theological perspectives. His models (from The Nature of Doctrine 1984) are called propositional, experimental-expressive and cultural- linguistic. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a vital movement among liberal theologians (they were very few) and the schoolteachers in supporting an experimental-expressive perspective in religious education. An important theologian in the background was the Göttingen professor Albrecht Ritschl and Swedish representatives of a similar perspective were Fredrik Fehr, Dean in Stockholm and Pehr Eklund, Dean and professor in Lund. In the next generation the most important and prominent profiles were Nathan Söderblom, one of the fathers of Phenomenology of Religion, and Einar Billing, an early representative of modern research in the theology of Martin Luther. Söderblom and Billing were both professors at the university of Uppsala and ended their lives as bishops of the Swedish, Lutheran church. It is evident that the main contributions to the subject of Christian teaching were made at the beginning of the century. After 1962 Religious education in school has become more descriptive, often combining propositional views and religious exotism.

The author of the article proposes a distinction between looking upon the Christian heritage as ideology and, on the other hand, as cultural fund of ideas and language. In the first case the Christian belief is defined by the authoroties of Christian churches or other groups, in the second the interpretation is primarily made by the individual. The little Cathechismus of Martin Luther was in the very centre of the debate of the first decades of the 20th century. Finally the author tries to illuminate some of its theological challenges for a modern or perhaps post modern reader.

Björn Skogar, Södertörn University College, PO Box 4101, SE-141 04 Huddinge, Sweden


pp 375-376

Boel Englund, 1999: Textbook knowledge, textbook control and student-influence/Lärobokskunskap, styrning och elevinflytande/. Pedagogisk Forskning i Sverige, Vol 4, No 4, pp 327­348. Stockholm ISSN 1401-6788.

The use of ready made teaching materials or textbooks has often been cast in a negative light in the Swedish school debate. It is seen to entail undesirable consequences in schools where pupil activity, pupils’ own ways of learning and their own constructions of knowledge are important. This article offers a critical survey of Swedish research on textbooks and textbook control over the last two decades, focussing mainly on empirical research. Conclusions are drawn concerning the functions of textbooks. The question of positive or negative control and the consequences of textbook control for pupils’ influence on the teaching process and their own learning are discussed.

Three main concepts, teaching materials, control and pupil influence, are discussed. It is pointed out that the question of control is not relevant if we use a wider concept of teaching materials, defined in Swedish curriculum documents as ”what teachers and pupils choose to use to reach intended goals”. The complexity of the concept of control is indicated. It is argued that the concept of control, governance or influence, when used in relation to textbooks, should be understood in terms of people’s conceptions. If textbooks ”control teaching”, they do this because they represent something to teachers, parents, pupils and others, on a conscious or unconscious level. The concept of pupil influence has becomea Swedish political-administrative notion, which should itself be scrutinized and analyzed from the point of view of the generic functions of schooling and the social and political context of the concept. In this article the term is used in a restricted sense, meaning pupils’ direct influence on teaching and learning. The complexity of the concept is stressed. The concept may involve either the direct or indirect influence of pupils; it may concern different dimensions of the teaching and learning process; and it could be understood as either a decision-making or a participatory influence. Further, the concept implies that pupils are seen as a collectivity; and it is by no means clear that the question of pupil influence on their own learning should be seen that way. Another, long-term aspect of pupil influence is caught up with notions of empowerment, thus making the concept still more complex.

The article gives an account of a number of empirical studies, special attention being given to larger studies focussing directly on textbooks/ teaching materials and control. These studies convey an image of the role of textbooks similar to the one found in international research: textbooks do exert an influence on teaching, but the kind and strength of this influence varies. Factors influencing this variation include: who is teaching (primarily), nature of school subject, level of education, and assessment demands. The influence on methods appears negligible. It is pointed out that research on textbook control ought to distinguish between different kinds of texts; between textbooks and workbooks, grammars and literary anthologies etc.

Taking as a starting-point the concept of immanent pedagogy, and its counterpart surreptitious learning, a Swedish theoretical reflection on educational texts is presented. In this tradition, the textbook is seen not only as a source of knowledge but as a norm for knowledge, being in itself an instance of what counts as knowledge at school. The actual teaching process should, however, also be taken into account. In fact, the actual teaching is just as normative for what counts as school knowledge as texts. The question of textbook control thus becomes a question of the relation between the knowledge ideal of the textbook and the knowledge ideal expressed in teaching; a relation which is likely to be a dialectical rather than a one-way relation.

The survey of research gives rise to conclusions as to the reasons why the textbook, in the restricted sense of ”the pupil’s book”, is often regarded as having such a strong position in teaching, ”controlling” teaching. These conclusions are formulated in terms of functions of the textbook. The textbook has a knowledge-warranting, authorizing function; the textbook provides community and coherence, both cognitively/ideologically and in practical matters; it facilitates teachers’ assessment of the pupils and their achievements through the combination of the two functions first mentioned; it facilitates in other ways work and life above all for teachers (and probably for pupils as well), for instance, by providing a support for teachers who are not sure of their knowledge in a subject and by making it unnecessery for them to become producers of teaching materials themselves. Finally, it serves a disciplinary function, keeping the pupils occupied and helping to prevent chaos in the classroom, disciplining pupils to actual and future work and study.

The consequences of textbook use and textbook control for pupils’ ability to exert influence over teaching and learning are also discussed. The main phases of a teaching process, planning, implementation and evaluation of the school work, are used as point of departure for the discussion. It is concluded that if the contents and the texts of a textbook define, in the eyes of the teacher, a development desirable for all pupils as well as the results of this development, and if, in addition, the textbook serves as the basis of the assessment, then pupils’ influence over their own learning becomes very restricted indeed – and that this may still quite often be the case.

Remedies to this problem are proposed. Finally, textbook control and pupil influence are discussed in relation to the goals expressed in the National Compulsory School and Upper Secondary School curricula. It is pointed out that several of these goals may conflict with a powerful or decisive influence of the pupil on his or her own learning. The knowledge-warranting, authorizing function of textbooks is discussed in relation to the goal of democracy and its central value equality. Here, a case is made for the textbook which, despite all its negative sides, does provide a certain amount of common knowledge to all pupils and offers a socially authorized and probably requested knowledge of a kind which could be seen as empowering. A decisive pupil influence over the contents and qualities of their own learning might in fact work against this central goal, increasing differences between pupils instead of reducing them.

Boel Englund, Department of Education, Uppsala University, PO Box 2109, SE-750 02 Uppsala, Sweden


pp 376-378

Dennis Beach, 1999: On democracy, reproduction and renewal in todays upper-secondary school/ Om demokrati, reproduktion och förnyelse i dagens gymnasieskola/. Pedagogisk Forskning i Sverige, Vol 4, No 4, pp 349­365. Stockholm ISSN 1401-6788.

Policy ethnography is research about the processes of value dispute and material influence which underlie and invest the formation of policy discourses and which relate policy texts to practice. It does this by highlighting the processes of mediation or recontextualisation in policy making and the differences between intended policy and policy in use. The present paper has been written from a policy ethnographic study of upper-secondary school (gymnasium) mathematics education, the mundane activities of which have been shown in the paper to be relevant to key aspects of social reproduction.

The official policy in mathematics education is to do with broadening access and creating a more self-determined and reflective learning environment. However, shown by the investigation materials and analysis of the present paper, is the way in which the classification and framing of pedagogical communication in mathematics leads to quite a different outcome; regardless of whether it was intentionally designed for this outcome or not. This outcome is accomplished I argue, through the workings of hegemony in an education in which understandings of education production and its injunctions with society, ideology and cultural requirements for the perpetuations of the necessary fractals of capitalism are obscured and/or distorted.

The paper is substantively about the education made available in the upper- secondary school secondary mathematics course A (and to a lesser degree B), to ­ on the one hand ­ formally successful students (in a natural science programme/ Nv-programmet) and ­ on the other ­ formally unsuccessful ones (from a practical-vocational programme/ Handelsprogrammet). These educations are shown in the paper to differ quite substantially and in several different respects. This, despite the fact that they are described in identical terms in official policy and are said to offer the same educational opportunities to the students taking them.

The differences produced in the education are discussed in the paper at some length. In these discussions the differences are shown also to be grossly misunderstood as resting at the last instance on exactly and specifically what they are not; natural differences in ability, interests and motivation between students rather than (what they actually are) something culturally necessary to the reproduction and ideological justification of the capitalist social/ production relation.

The paper argues that the roots of education differentiation rest within the (cultural) creation and maintainence of differences between pupils/students, which respond to a culturally specfic requirement rather than being reflections of individual differences between learners of a conventional ability related ilk. It also shows however, that despite compelling evidence for this being available to (and even implicitely understood by) the agents in school, the reverse is still nevertheless generally accepted to be true; at least in mathematics education and in relation to student/pupil learning in that subject area. This is made possible according to the paper because of a relation of resonance between ideologically conditioned agency anticipations of education outcome and a highly ideological and arcane discourse of education success which has also been socially and materially wedged into place in education in this country over the past 50 years; the principle of meritocracy.

In the situation which is described in the paper then, education agents are said to be standing in the shadow of the past and recreating its dominant ideologies discursively behind and in front of present practices, as well as through them. In making this and other claims, the paper then also supports the idea of upper secondary school mathematics playing a major role in social reproduction. However, the arguments also refute the more mechanistic versions of reproduction theory, as reproduction is described as highly reliant on the availability (and specifically unreflected normative application) of an ideologically dominated discourse in the creation of education identities: viz. ”good” science students and ”poor” vocational ones. This is not the same thing as mechancially producing the dispositions and agents necessary for the different positions available in the capitalist apparatus of goods and service production. Reproduction is far more subtle than this.

The denial of the mechanistic version of reproduction theory and its replacement by a theory of reproduction influenced by a discursive availability and appropriation, is accomplished straightforwardly in the paper, by it showing firstly, that neither cultural nor social reproduction was what education agents foresaw, intended or described themselves as doing in their engagements in the curriculum. And secondly, and more importantly than this, that they were also able to make partial penetrations of reproduction which fell short of a full and radical critique of the capitalist education relation, because of the lack of availability of a radical discourse (or radical discourses) to attach these penetrations to and deepen them by. Quite the reverse, the only discourses available were local versions of the arcane ideological discourse of meritocracy and this inverted their understandings of the situations they met and worked in, rather than helping them deepen their genuine first hand knowledge of them.

This locates at least part of the blame for reproduction in education at the feet of researchers, rather than resting with education practitioners alone. Researchers have failed to deliver radical discourses and have failed to successfully and compellingly deconstruct the class-antagonistic discourse of derision of meritocracy. Indeed, they have usually; particularly in ideologically dominated forms of normative assessment based research practices; actually helped to continually reinstate it. This means that the paper also (if indirectly) indicates the need for new partnerships in education design, development and evaluation in the movement towards more democratic and honest education forms. This, in that in and through the paper, what is shown is that cultural and social reproduction are accomplished when rather than reflecting over the ways ideology is made real in education praxis and through education discourses, the agents most involved in education accept the physical, social and ideological symptoms and requirements of capitalist society ­ which we for the sake of clarity can call exploitable differences ­ as representing individual traits and naturally occuring distributions of interest and ability among successive cohorts of pupils in our schools.

Dennis Beach, Department of Education, Göteborg University, PO Box 300, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden


pp 378-380

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