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In recent decades, the pursuit of excellence, broadly defined as high educational achievement, has shaped the education systems and the research agendas of many countries across the world. Schools have been encouraged to provide a world-class quality education, with an emphasis on outstanding performance for some students, alongside a general improvement of outcomes for all. Educational excellence is however a very debated ideal. Given the complexities of defining ‘excellence,’ questions arise about its precise meaning in relation to achievement but also, and importantly, about its significance for education. This paper examines excellence as an ideal for education policy and the reasons for pursuing it. It suggests that educational excellence ought to be conceived in ways that are conducive to a general aim of well-being for all, in various abilities that lead to valuable pursuits, with due consideration of the importance of high achievement in relation to individuals’ specific aptitudes.
The paper describes activities and reflections during and after a four day outdoor education course from the point of view of four educators: a philosopher, an outdoor educator, social work educator and a literacy educator. During the course, various philosophical and educational activities and ideas were put to the test, issues such as slowness, solitude, and silence were both practiced, discussed, and reflected on. After the course, reflecting on the whole experience, ideas from Aldo Leopold on conservation aesthetics are used to make a case for a certain kind of environmental education, and David Orr’s account of myths of education are used to argue for the importance of such education. To develop the ideas further, the paper discusses both recent neoliberal trends that are affecting educational systems around the globe, and also issues such as the difference between situated knowledge and representational knowledge, and the significance of language and perception for human connection with nature.
This article shows how Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky’s approaches to humanistic education are grounded in the concepts of growth, knowledge, language, freedom, and social justice. Despite their epistemological differences, Russell and Chomsky agree on the need for educating the public to abuses of power. Their own practice of education is a source of inspiration for intellectuals, who wish to counter the current discourse in schools and universities by upholding the value of academic freedom.
John Rawls (1985) famously argued that social justice ought not to concern itself with the metaphysical disputes that separate us as groups and individuals. Identity is supposed to be irrelevant to the deliberations of free and equal citizens. Since the recent turn toward right-wing populism, renewed attention has been devoted to the place of identity in contemporary Western societies. In this paper, building on key philosophical accounts of identity, I argue against both political liberalism’s confidence in identity-blind justice and some contemporary conceits of social justice education, according to which identity is the beginning and end of normative judgments. In the first section I show how identity appeals to a notional horizon of authenticity against which specific claims are adjudicated, and which takes on normative significance in its own right. I then consider two examples of recent controversies in Canada over the meaning of Indigenous identity and gender identity, respectively, which reveal latent tensions in the pursuit of social justice. In the final section I sketch the implications of these tensions for school-based education and the role of education in advancing identity talk more generally.