Education and the reconstruction of culture : a critical study of twentieth century English and American theories
The reconstruotionist position may be expressed as an ideology which treats schools and teachers as major instrumentalities of directed cultural change. Other conceptions of education and culture emphasize the social force of cultural heritage, whereas reconstructionism treats the heritage as a resource for future social and individual growth. Reconstructionist thinking is conspicuous in those modern nationbuilding enterprises which seek to direct schooling by broad social policy objectives. Throughout the twentieth century, in England and America, many educational thinkers have diagnosed a contemporary cultural crisis and proposed large-scale remedial treatment. These proposals have come most notably from Fabian socialists, scientific rationalists like Wells and Russell, Dewey and other American experimentalists, and Mannheim. Their diverse proposals for cultural renewal may be organized under such headings as crisis, planned change, holism, and a quest for unity and order. Thus, reconstructionists seek to manage the change processes whose destructive impact on culture they have analysed. Reconstructionism embraces a range of educational positions, from the cultural autonomy of education to the assimilation of educational to other social and political processes. Despite the ambitious synthetic accounts given of these and other relationships, various tensions remain, including thosetiotween common core curricula and specialization, mass and minority institutions, and social adjustment and independence of mind. Reconstructionism, by broadening the teacher's role, poses particular problems for teacher education. As a theory of planned cultural change, its focus is not so much the school as the institutions of teacher education, which are conceived as potentially culturally critical and innovative.