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Critical perspective on school

Published

Olof Franck works as a senior lecturer in philosophy of religion at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular
and Professional Studies. He is also the editor of a book titled Motbok. Kritiska perspektiv på styrdokument,
lärarutbildning och skola, in which he and 12 other teacher trainers from his department share critical and constructive perspectives on today’s
school.

Which need does the book respond to?
`The school debate attracts a lot of people, and that’s good, but sometimes it seems a bit repetitive and at least to some degree predictable. In this book, my colleagues and I want to point out concrete areas we see as fundamentally important to discuss. We don’t give any generalised, theoretical views on what might be ”good” or ”bad” about the Swedish school. We act responsibly by pointing to areas that require a critical discussion and a critical analysis of things that need improvement. These areas are not always those that draw headlines in the media debate. But our discussion is also professionally based – which means for example that we believe that out texts might be of interest in a research
perspective

A lot of people are voicing their opinions about the Swedish school today. In this case it’s 13 teacher trainers who are sharing their views. But why are this group and the schoolchildren relatively absent in the debate about the school?
`This is one main reason we decided to write the book. We are hard-working people,  fully occupied with the task of educating teachers in the best possible way, and we really want to give it all to make the teacher education programmes as good as possible. We also have a responsibility to participate in the discussion on school issues. The book is an attempt to take this responsibility.

In your chapter, you discuss how there’s a risk that the school system’s value base may convert schools to local societies of control. Can you develop this view?
‘Teachers and school leaders often have good intentions when
they try to translate the general formulations about values in the
policy documents to a language and practice that are perceived
as relevant to everybody, kids, adolescents and adults in the
school environment. But there are many problems in this, for
example that formalised rules risk closing the doors to personal
reflection, the dialogue where the depth and meaning of morality
are created.
I don’t oppose the idea that there are norms that need to be
applied in school. But we can’t let the critical ethical debate come
to a halt and reduce the discussion on values, norms and ethics
to a mere issue of more or less mechanically and unreflectively
judging on matters of right and wrong. It’s very unfortunate when
the concept of value base becomes a mantra repeated in an
authoritative – and maybe even authoritarian – manner, like some
kind of sentencing statement whose underlying base nobody
seems to understand or be interested in analysing critically and
constructively.
The essence of morality, the compassion and respect for
others, is more deeply rooted than that. It lives, and can only live,
in people’s hearts.’