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The Denial of Change in Educational Change: Systems of Ideas in the Construction of National Policy and Evaluation

Thomas S. Popkewitz
Educational Researcher
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 2000), pp. 17-29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1176587
Page Count: 13
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The Denial of Change in Educational Change: Systems of Ideas in the Construction of National Policy and Evaluation
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Abstract

Our conventional assumptions about school policy and evaluation are that schools are known and stable entities, and that the objectives and purposes of evaluation are relatively straight-forward. Drawing initially on a Norwegian evaluation of Norway's educational system, this essay views the problems of policy studies and evaluation as related to social and cultural changes that produce ambiguity and uncertainty in the practices of education. Further, the object of inquiry in this essay is the structuring of educational knowledge. Central to this examination are the sociology of knowledge and postmodern political theories, asking about the categories, distinctions, and differentiations of schooling that govern problem-solving efforts to improve education. My concern is with a method of inquiry that examines the historical circumstances through which "reason" and "reasonable people" of schooling are constructed. I proceed in this manner to frame the study of policy research and evaluation in a problematic that does not take for granted its knowledge conditions. The focus on the systems of knowledge also enables a consideration of the patterns of social inclusion and exclusion produced in school practice. I argue that one of the major difficulties of contemporary policy studies is its nonreflexivity toward the ways in which its systems of knowledge change in historical circumstances. This lack of reflexivity about "reason" denies change and obscures the issues of power embedded in school practices.

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