Exploring the problem of redistributing cultural capital in disprivileged schooling

Year: 2006

Author: Zipin, Lew, Brennan, Marie, Sellar, Sam

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this presentation we resume an argument made in our AARE presentations last year about how, in a ‘capitalist society’, the pursuit of social justice through schooling inevitably runs up against certain formidable contradictions: impossible to avoid, at the same time impossible to resolve; and yet we are ethically compelled – in responsibility towards ‘less powerful others’ – to pursue ‘resolutions’ as if they could be reached. Working to possibilise such impossibilities is, as Derrida puts it, a leap into a breach of ethically surcharged ‘madness’.

Last year we made this argument strictly at a theoretical level. This year we aim to make the argument through data. In narrating our ‘story’ of the data, we’ll build a vocabulary for theoretical argument which we’ll consummate at the end.

Our data is provided by Sam Sellar, whose doctoral work is attached to the

Redesigning Pedagogies in the North (RPiN) ARC linkage project (#LP0454869) in which we are among the Chief Investigators. Sam’s questions focus on (1) understanding the current historical ‘moment’; and (2) imagining ‘pedagogies’ that offer more ‘just’ possibilities within and leading beyond these conditions. One means of generating data to address his questions has been periodic reference groups that Sam convenes with small numbers of RPiN teachers. Sam initiates dialogue through ‘provocations’ that represent his thinking-in-progress, inviting teachers’ thoughts in response. The data we will narrate is excerpted from Sam’s second such conversation, with a group of five teachers. We aim to draw out how these teachers, chosen because of their commitments to education that benefits youth from one of Australia’s most ‘disadvantaged’ regions, are provoked to address difficult contradictions in working towards a ‘justice’ that, they recognise, never happens as they want.