Bourdieu for Educators: Policy and Practice
Publication Year: 2016
Educational change and reform on a larger scale Bourdieu for Educators: Policy and Practice brings the revolutionary research and thinking of Pierre Bourdieu (1930[en]2002) of France to public educational leaders in North America, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. This text brings Bourdieu’s work into the arena of elementary and secondary educational reform and change, and offers policy, research, and practice discussions. Authors Fenwick W. English and Cheryl L. Bolton use Bourdieu to challenge the standards movement in different countries, the current vision of effective management, and the open-market notion connecting pay to performance. The text shows that connecting pay to performance won’t improve education for the poorest group of school students in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K., regardless of how much money is spent ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
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This is a book for educational practitioners and policymakers who work anyplace in the world where there is a state-supported public educational system. Pierre Bourdieu produced an extensive range of works in many different fields, but a good number of them were focused on education. While he was a French philosopher–sociologist–researcher and public activist for popular and democratic causes in a particular time and culture, his insights, understandings, and humanity created a corpus of provocative books, articles, and commentaries that continue to strike chords of commonality across cultures and nations, keeping his ideas vibrant and relevant today.
Our purpose in writing this book is to bring Bourdieu’s principal educational ideas and insights to a wider audience of educators than those typically found in purely academic institutions of higher education. An excellent sample of books and anthologies about Bourdieu exists in sociology and other disciplines; however, this book has been specifically developed for the largest group of educators working in the schools of the world: those who lead for learning in the primary, elementary, and secondary institutions where the bulk of children attend.
While we did not assume that our readers were deeply read in sociology, philosophy, or any specific academic discipline, we did expect that Bourdieu’s name would at least be tangentially familiar to them, even if they had not read widely about him or his ideas. We also assumed that our readers were very familiar with the issues nearly all schools in the world face: how to educate children of all backgrounds effectively, how to confront socioeconomic disparity and poverty, and how to create more socially just societies.
Our exposition and explanation of Bourdieu’s writing represent the most important concepts of what he offered to the world of policy and practice, at least as we understand them as practitioners in those worlds. This was no easy task, as much of Bourdieu’s academic writing [Page xii]was directed to sociologists and researchers who would be intimately familiar with his references and concepts. Our presentation tries to avoid arcane and highly technical issues that would require such specialized knowledge.
A further element of complexity in accessing Bourdieu’s work is that he created his own vocabulary in which to locate his ideas. He did this because he believed that ordinary words from common use were too slippery to carry the special connotations and meanings he saw as necessary to attain any new insights or understandings about what and how schools actually work. This special vocabulary can be initially off-putting, but we have attempted to ease the reader into it gradually and to explain the various concepts with reference to current educational events. Our sequencing of his concepts is therefore a matter of our choice in bringing the reader into Bourdieu’s world.
We do not claim to have included all Bourdieu’s works or ideas—only those that we believed, based on our own experiences, would help those working in schools understand some of the larger social and political issues affecting them. Our criteria for deciding what to address in this book were therefore a rough kind of practical rubric for inclusion or exclusion. While we have provided examples of current situations to illustrate some possible applications of Bourdieu’s concepts, we have not set out to engage in speculation about what Bourdieu would do or think, beyond what he wrote and beyond informed scholarly opinion of his writings and researches.
Finally, we want to communicate to our readers that, as sociologist Richard Jenkins (2002) once wrote of Bourdieu, he was “enormously stimulating” and was “good to think with” (p. 176). Michael Grenfell (2004) called Bourdieu an “agent provocateur.” We are confident that as you take this journey of learning about him with us, you will also agree with their assessments. We think you will discover in Bourdieu a fascinating, complex, insightful philosopher–social scientist who once wrote, “My principle has always been to say what is hardest for my audience to swallow—the very opposite of demagogy” (Bourdieu, 2008, pp. 49–50).
If you care about education and children, equity, diversity, and social justice, you will find in Bourdieu a relentless critic of schooling everywhere. But equally present in his pursuit of piecing together the creation and use of social and economic power is a way toward equity, diversity, and social justice not previously perceived on a wide scale among educators or policy developers.
With patience and persistence, we believe that by using Bourdieu’s work we can arrive at a new vision or a metanoia about what it will [Page xiii]really take to reform schools so they become more successful with all students and, as a result, more socially just places for every society. That the educational reforms proffered by politicians in both our countries have thus far failed to deliver on their promises is not surprising. Bourdieu explains why, and for this reason alone we believe he is worth the effort to understand. We hope that this book for educational practitioners will start the journey toward such an understanding.[Page xiv]
About the Authors
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