Schooling for the public good: social roles and discursive strategies in schools catering to Muslim populations

Year: 2012

Author: Windle, Joel, Rasmussen, Mary Lou

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The focus of this paper is on the ways in which schools position themselves as agencies for the public good and as offering collective benefits to society. This paper examines the ways in which Muslim private and state schools make claims about how they contribute to the public good in relation to their role and actions, and analyses the effects these claims have in the context of marketization and privatisation in education. It pays particular attention to the self-positioning of private schools established to cater to Muslim populations, and which are positioned in media and political discourse as not belonging to, or as shunning, a national sphere of public life in Australia. Talal Asad argues that in the United States (US) "only religions that have accepted the assumptions of liberal discourse are being commended...tolerance is sought on the basis of a distinctive relation between law and morality" (Asad, 2003, p.183). For Asad, secular states like Australia and the US rely on particular formations of religion that accommodate secular imaginaries. Our focus is on how Islamic schools seek to negotiate this hostile terrain through discourses of Australian nationalism, charity, civic activism, and cultural pluralism. We will also consider how these discursive strategies vary between catholic, private and state schools that are seeking to play different social roles.  Our aim is to identify and expand contemporary understandings of how Catholic, private, and state schools imagine and enact the role of serving the public good in contemporary Australian society.