Renewed educative constitutions of future conditions

The five papers in this section take us in an unusual direction–unless one pays close attention to Cremin’s own practice in his historical investigations. If education is as much about teaching as about learning, and about setting up conditions as well as finding out about them, then we must also pay attention to the processes through which those responsible for the legitimate constitutions of institutions deliberately shape those whom they recruit, change their practices, and even reconstitute their very organization.

Ann Lorimer, Linda Lin, and James Mullooly report on the efforts of three institutions to reconstitute themselves as those with fuller authority to set its policies and programs face challenges both staff and clients. In the process all three institutions, an NGO providing racism-awareness programs to schools, a Catholic school for Mexican immigrants, and a technology museum, change their local practices.

Lorimer brings together the attempts of museum curators to design an “educational” exhibit that would satisfy both the most progressive of pedagogies and the realities of the artifact, the building housing it, and its earlier experiences with its audiences. In the process, Lorimer illustrates, the curators built something that is wide open to multiple interpretations, some of which are very much not what the curators envisioned, and many more altogether unexpected.

Lin tells us about the consequences of attempting to raise the racial understanding of the staff of an NGO. These staff members were then expected to work with teachers raising their own understanding. Lin illustrates not only the difficulty of using racialized discourses in a work place designed for racialized discourses, but also the reconstitution of the most common ways of dealing with racism: making it only available for private conversation where it appears for personal accusations and justifications. In many ways this is a case when education fails to accomplish what we, as well as those who backed the NGO, might wish it did.

Something similar is taking place in the school Mullooly reports upon. This is a school known as a “success” in helping immigrants' children. But this identification is fragile and must be continually reconstituted as children (mis-)behave and teachers comment about their exasperation with the children. And yet the opportunities that the school does provide these children depends as much on these children remaining “known-as-successful” as it is on academic training. In this context it is not surprising that the administrators would work hard at making it clear that “lose lips sink ships”–whatever disciplinary problems may arise, they must not be talked about if there is a risk that the talk could change public identifications.

Alison Stratton and Ilana Gershon then move us to more encompassing arenas that involve educative transformations that directly implicate modern national states as they evolve.

Stratton takes us to Sweden and illustrates the complex mutually educative encounters between a very deliberately planned welfare state, the people in its various bureaucracies, and Dora, the lady with, many agree, some hearing loss. Dora is both the object of the State’s attention through its many agents, as well as its puzzle: what are those in authority to do with recalcitrant people?

Gershon asks the same question in the context of new immigrants to a newly reconstituted national state that now presents itself as “bi-cultural.” What used to be known to the world as “New Zealand,” is now “New Zealand/Aotearoa” to symbolize publicly Maori participation in its institutions. But what are new immigrants from places like Samoa to do? The deliberate change in the constitution of the State has led to new questions for all. Gershon shows that the Samoans are not simply resisting. They are also proposing solutions to the State and to themselves. They are “learning” their conditions, and they are participating in their deliberate reconstitutions.