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History of Education as "Active History"?: A Blog Response

Posted by Kate Zankowicz
15 February 2013 - 4:02pm

Jason Ellis' piece The History of Education as "Active History": A Cautionary Tale? was published on in September. Read a THEN-HiER member response from Rose Fine-Meyer below. Click on the Read More button to read the whole piece.

My dissertation research revealed the complexities of education systems and the ways in which educational policies represent only one aspect of what takes place in schools. Even curriculum policies are interpreted or reinterpreted to address individual schools needs. But most revealing in my research was the ways in which individual teachers, put policy into practice. Teachers, as members of multiple personal and professional organizations, choose in what ways to deliver curriculum, and this often reflects their own activism or position towards educational theories and policies.

Often teachers do not act alone and instead are part of grassroots organizations which gives them further support in the positions that they take. For example, many of the teachers in my research, were teaching at the beginning of the second wave women’s movement and as such were adding women’s narratives into their course curriculum, way before policies were in place, before materials were easily available, before the curriculum had advocated for women’s narratives and often against the beliefs and wishes of the departments and schools in which they worked.

Therefore, historians of education would do well to analyze multiple registers of educational change: on the policy level, curricular reform, as well as teacher practice. My own research has suggested that while the bureaucratization of the school system was a reality, it certainly did not necessarily shape what happened in schools or classrooms. Committed teachers, often with connections to educational reformers, found ways to insert their own narratives, particularly teachers who worked for equity education in schools.

What do you think?