The Limits of Teacher Education Reforms: School Subjects, Alchemies, and an Alternative Possibility

Dec. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education,61(5), p. 413-421. November/December 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author argued that the democratic promise of a just and equitable society embodied in the reforms is important; yet the particular principles about school knowledge historically classify and order reflection and action to shape and fashion what is possible and “reasonable” for participation.

The notion of alchemy directed attention to the principles that translate and order what is taught. In this sense, the very system of reason that organizes school subjects is the political of schooling.

The focus on science and technology studies in the formation of school subjects does not leave the questions of the alchemy or of governmentality behind. Alchemies are inherent to schooling. Whatever faithfulness is sought in teaching school subjects, intellectual tools are created, substitutions are produced, and displacements are enacted that are different from the original.

By drawing on research about science and technology, the author recognizes that there is a double set of translation devices in its suggestion: The intellectual notions and concepts invented about modes of life in science studies are (re)translated here into a new space and articulations of schooling. 

Implications for Curriculum and Teacher Education

The task requires leaving behind the pedagogical matrixes of psychology in the curriculum and the didactics (methods) of teacher education—at least for the moment.
The author argues that until we have a way of thinking about the events that “make” history or physics, there are no adequate ways of thinking about how to order the problems, theories, and methods for constituting what counts as “learning.”

The author concludes that the problem of the alchemy in contemporary school reforms is that the distinctions and differentiations of psychology were installed as criteria through which principles were generated about what should be known and how that knowing was to proceed.

Updated: Feb. 22, 2012