The School as a Moral Arena : Constitutive values and deliberation in Swedish curriculum practice

Sammanfattning: This thesis’ main theme is the relation between school practices and the constitutive values explicitly endorsed in the Swedish national curriculum. It consists of four articles. Article I examines the new educational circumstances in a multicultural society. It problematizes the school’s task to find a balance between contributing to a certain cultural consensus, the common and shared, and to increase the ability to live with a cultural multiplicity. The article addresses the need for intercultural education for the realisation of a democratic classroom. Article II addresses the challenge for schools to advocate constitutive values in a multicultural society. It problematizes the relation between the curriculum’s values, stipulated at central level, and their interpretation and implementation at local level, i.e., in the class-room. An action-research project in a Swedish school illustrates the teachers’ struggle to realize these values in daily practice. The project resulted in the teachers move from abstract to concrete discussions of the constitutive values, as well as changes in their daily practice. Overall, the paper focuses on possibilities for deliberation in a multicultural school. Article III highlights schooling as a moral practice. It builds on a field study which investigates the relation between the curriculum’s stipulated values and the enacted curriculum. Episodes of moral steering are presented together with the teachers’ subsequent evaluation of these incidents. These episodes suggest that insofar as individual beliefs and moment-by-moment responses may lead to actions with counteract constitutive values, moral practices must also be a deliberative practice where alternatives are weighed and courses of action are adopted. Article IV develops the discussion concerning the school as a moral arena. A short lunch episode from the school study illustrates the discrepancy between the curriculum’s constitutive values and their realization in practice. The paper suggests that episodes at the margins of school practices may be just as important to the moral curriculum of school as the knowledge-related elements conventionally deemed to be the core of the curriculum. In summary, the thesis demonstrates that the assignment to foster the coming citizens in a multicultural school is complex. Other values than those stipulated in the curriculum steer teachers’ actions. Moreover, it is a thorny mission to accomplish an equal school in an unequal society. Nonetheless, there is a need for awareness among pedagogues concerning the correspondence between societal values, the hierarchy of social groups, individual values, the curriculum’s values, and the teacher’s assignment. The curriculum’s values have to be taken into account just as well as individual attitudes, prejudices and taken-for-granted notions have to be clarified, confronted, defended or abandoned. Interpreting, internalising and applying democratic values in school is a never-ending process.