Some thoughts about the introduction literature

The literature for the first session of the course S 1.3 ”Social justice and diversity in education” was of introductory nature. The first one, ”Social Justice, Education and Identity” (edited by Carol Vincent), and more precisely, chapter 1 and the first seven pages in the introduction, take us in the right direction and orient us to what would follow.  A few words first of the article by Alan Cribb and Sharon Gewirtz, ”Towards a sociology of just practices. An analysis of plural conceptions of justice”.

You really should have started your reading with this article, as it undeniably argues for a conception of social justice as plural. Cribb and Gewirtz strongly criticize what they call a ”failure” to engage adequately with different claims to social justice (p. 15) – whatever definition is given to that concept. This action-orientedness is a kind of cross-cutting theme in the whole of their article. It can be seen even in the very last sentence of the article, in which Cribb and Gewirtz urge sociologists – we suppose they include all who are engaged in research and studying and teaching educational sciences – not only ”embodying particular conceptions of justice, but also as having direct effects on the possibility of these conceptions being realised.” (p. 28).

So what are those conceptions? There is an interesting table (p. 16) of dimensions of pluralism, which  shows tensions between three aspects of justice: distributive, cultural and associonational. Distributive and cultural justice are more or less clear, but we think their definition of associational justice needs an addition, and that is a sort of process of accommodation into decision making. They vaguely refer to that, but personally we have met people of ”subordinated groups”, and they have been content with what they have, distributively and culturally. It can be only after they realize that they really are subordinated and that there really is a possibility of change and ”associational justice” is possible, that this dimension of justice is possible in their lives. Let us not be too hegemonic in our conceptions of ”justice”.

Cribb and Gewirtz also show concern to what is called ”critique from above”, to describe educational policies and practices from the point of view of an outsider. Their argument is that based on the plural nature of social justice, research must engage itself and help create more social just policies and practices. This distancing is something they refer even in their ”Conclusion” (p. 28), and we think they make a point there.

The second reading is an article concerning ”Language Diversity and Language Policy in Educational Access and Equity” by James W. Tollefson and Amy B.M. Tsui. It deals with ”the role of language policies in mediating access and equity in education.” (p. 189). They convincingly argue that migration, urbanization and changes in the nature of work – all three aspects of globalization can be experienced in Finland, too –  emphasize the importance of language policies in education. Their key concept is ”medium of instruction” (MOI). In 1990 UNESCO decided that there must be universal access and equity in primary education.

Tollefson and Tsui give examples of various countries in the world, especially where English is promoted as MOI. There seems to be a tension between currently dominating lingua franca, the English language, and national languages, even inside the United Kingdom (Wales). Their examples include Hong Kong and Asian countries, e.g. China, India, Malesia, and Japan. They refer to an interesting study that observes that Mandarin Chinese is today a ”must-have” language in Asia (p. 207), even if English still dominates the scene. The domination of English has sometimes created even absurd situations. Tollefson and Tsui mention German students studying German philosophy and literature in English (in Germany, we presume).

At the end of their article, they unexpectedly and very shortly refer to cases in New Zealand, Solomon Island, and Native America and formulate five generalizations about MOI policies in education. We think they are good and appropriate, but introducing these cases and the generalization right at the end makes us ask: why do they base these only in those three cases? Why introduce all those other interesting cases concerning MOI and not to refer to them in conclusion? Somehow this conclusion (”Conclusion: reducing inequality and improving access”) is good, but surprising for a reader.

Group H

50 thoughts on “Some thoughts about the introduction literature”

  1. Thank you, group H!

    I read this post already a week ago, but only now started commenting. You had chosen to reflect on the course literature of the first session. Thank you for that – most useful for the peer students of the course.

    Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts throughout the course.


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