The Comparative Education Review at 60: Still Pondering "Which Way Is Up?"

The Comparative Education Review at 60: Still Pondering

June of this calendar year will mark the 60th anniversary of the Comparative Education Review, which was first published in June of 1957. Two months earlier, on April 25th of that year, William Brickman (the first president of CIES) together with George Bereday (the first editor of CER) and others gathered a few months after the first annual meeting of the Comparative Education Society to discuss the journal and the upcoming first issue (Swing 2008). Many of the first articles of the journal were devoted to defining what exactly the terms “comparative education” should mean, and to discussing what should be the underlying principles or guidelines of the field. This debate was to become an ongoing characteristic of the journal. In this issue on the cusp of the journal’s 60th anniversary, we continue this introspective task of seeking to better understand and analyze ourselves, to deal with our past, and to use it as a springboard for the future as we move forward. In support of this analytic effort, we launched in February 2015 a call for papers on the theme “Rethinking Knowledge Production and Circulation in Comparative and International Education: Southern Theory, Postcolonial Perspectives, and Alternative Epistemologies” (Takayama et al. 2015, v).

The papers emerging from that call are presented as a supplement to the regular issue, under the title “Contesting Coloniality: Rethinking Knowledge Production and Circulation in Comparative and International Education.” To guest edit the special issue, we sought a person with a long history of challenging the fundamental principles of what is taken as conventional wisdom and decided to approach Raewyn Connell. In the preface to her book Which Way Is Up? (1984, vii), she underlined that “the business of theory is to help us think clearly, and see what is difficult to see. In social analysis, the forces and relationships we are trying to understand themselves create systematic obstacles to understanding.” In a more recent work, Southern Theory (2007, vii–viii), she “examines how modern social science embeds the viewpoints, perspectives and problems of metropolitan society, while presenting itself as universal.” We wanted to examine these trends in “our” field of comparative education and sought her guidance in setting up a team to lead this quest. She brought Keita Takayama and Arathi Sriprakash on board to help move the project forward. Neither is known to be afraid of posing uncomfortable questions. For example, Keita Takayama was the winner of the Bereday Award in 2010 for his assessment of how Finnish test results influenced Japanese educational reform (Takayama 2010), and Arathi Sriprakash (2009, 634) questioned “joyful learning” in India, where “the ‘invisible pedagogy’ of learner freedom is embedded in a strong regulative structure in which the rules of learning are explicit and controlling.” In different ways, our three guest editors all were questioning discourses dominating the field of international and comparative education and theories of development, and are continuing this in their introduction to the special issue.

Paul Feyerabend, in “Against Method” ([1993] 2011, 281), provocatively said that from a modernist viewpoint, “It doesn’t matter who you are or when or where you are working; good science is good science and good science gives us good reason to believe in its results because its methods are the most rational.” The special issue challenges the notion of “good science” and explores how colonial epistemologies pose ethical dilemmas for education and development theories that are “exported” to the rest of the world. Importantly, the special issue helps us “demystify the ways in which Western science and the modern academy have been part of the colonial apparatus” (Denzin and Lincoln 2008, 2).

The authors of the special issue are looking at alternatives, including critical and indigenous inquiry, reassessing “which way is up” in present discourses of international and comparative education and development. They ask, in a larger sense, who is empowered by knowledge production in our field, who remains marginalized, and what ethical challenges are produced? These are questions we wish to promote in debates and reflection in future issues of the Comparative Education Review. In our “normal” issue, we also return to the topic of knowledge production, since Peter Easton is “closing the shop” and giving a final overview of 60 years of CER bibliographies. In cataloging the field since 1957, our bibliography lists have “grown from 26 entries to no fewer than 4,330,” making it impractical to continue (Easton 2017, in this issue). So, we’re closing the shop in terms of logging knowledge production but inviting further investigation into analyzing the roots of our field, and at the same time looking forward to exploring the possibilities and limits of “Southern theory” in reassessing and challenging what is “good science”—while continuing other debates and analysis of the manifold themes of our field.

Happy 60th anniversary, Comparative Education Review!


More: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/691164

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