For the second issue in a row, I sit down to the task of commenting on some very interesting scholarly work while trying to bracket the scope of the evil individuals can visit on our communities. I was preparing the Winter issue for publication in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook murders. This Spring issue is going to press shortly after the carnage at the Boston Marathon. How can an imperial and commercialized society that loves violence more than its children even begin to realize that violence and empire are educational questions that desperately need to be taken seriously?
As Nel Noddings, Vivian Paley, Jane Roland Martin, Deborah Meier and so many other educators and educational theorists remind us, education, whatever else it is, must be an act of hospitality from one generation to another. It must seek to develop and enhance the nobility in humanity. How do we do that when, whatever else is true of schooling in the United States today, it is implacably hostile to children and to childhood, with every indication that policy-makers intend to make it more and more rigidly so in the future.
In the midst of an "education reform" movement that seems designed to punish educators and dehumanize students, the inclusion of what are called the social and/or cultural foundations of education are more important than ever. The fact that serious discussion about the social and cultural purposes of education threatens the hijacking of educational institutions by corporate interests may explain their marginalization. Barbara Thayer-Bacon's open letter to her Dean and department heads puts forth an argument in support of the essential work that social and cultural foundations do and reminds us that being human means something more than producing and consuming. As institutions of higher education (especially public institutions of higher education) come more under the sway of their corporate sponsors, it will do us all well to remember that "A nation that does not have citizens who are knowledgeable about their past, understand their cultural roots, are able to analyze their social institutions, and able to make an argument for what should be on the grounds of justice, care, beauty, truth, and goodness is a nation that cannot hope to be a democracy someday." This is the job of the foundations disciplines, and they have perhaps never been more important.
To get some sense of how deep the conceptual hole we are in is, we need look no further than the next...