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Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies

http://csc.sagepub.com The Cultural Images of Public Schooling and the Emergence of Plurality in Research
Louis F. Mirn Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies 2003; 3; 203 DOI: 10.1177/1532708603003002006 The online version of this article can be found at: http://csc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/2/203

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10.1177/1532708603251809 Cultural Mirn Cultural Studies Images Critical of Public Methodologies Schooling May 2003

ARTICLE

The Cultural Images of Public Schooling and the Emergence of Plurality in Research
Louis F. Mirn
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

In this experimental article, the author initiates a methodological move toward the aesthetic in educational research. In doing so, he uncovers the hidden dynamics of power in the politics of knowledge. By treating the current commonsense images of public schooling as part of an emerging pluralism, he argues for a conception of aesthetics that is anchored in everyday cultural practices. Viewing public schooling as both a site of theoretical/methodological inquiry and intervention, the article begins to move away from an epistemological perspective that is rooted in problem solving to one that Willis captures as the relations of creativity.

Keywords: aesthetics; postmodernism; pluralism; deconstruction Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats (The Second Coming)

Cultural images of public schooling discursively structure the way researchers conceptualize the research problem as well as the larger sets of empirical and theoretical guiding questions. In other words, images, and their embedded metaphors, vigorously shape our conceptual models of educational research. As such, images and metaphors are more than mere rhetorical devices. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) observed that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature (p. 3). Understanding the prevailing cultural images shaping public
Authors Note: Previous versions of this article were presented at the following conferences: University of California Outreach Conference, San Francisco, October 1998; American Educational Research Association annual meeting, Montreal, Quebec, April 1999; and Reclaiming Voice II, University of California, Irvine, June 1999. Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, Volume 3 Number 2, 2003 203-228 DOI: 10.1177/1532708603251809 2003 Sage Publications 203

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schooling, in short, coming to terms with why these images are hegemonic, may be an analytical key to more fully open the doors of what I would describe as an emerging plurality in educational research. This is as it should be in a democratic scholarly culture. More ambitiously, this understanding may in a limited fashion disrupt the power-knowledge relation, what Michel Foucault (1979) richly captured as a knot (p. 27). Such an understanding ultimately points the way toward the primacy of the aesthetic in educational research. What will hopefully result is a move away from an understanding of the educational subject as object or subaltern (marginalized) subject (see below). It appears that as a pluralistic society, we are inescapably bombarded with multiple cultural images. These predominate in the mass media, the Internet, and communications in general. Out of these appear to emerge what I call hegemonic images that substantially affect public schooling and the myriad of societal perceptions of academic success or failure. Especially in the arena of public schooling, the responses to these cultural images from both elite groups as well as classroom-level educators and students are of significance to researchers for their interpretive political meanings. It is important to recognize that by no means do these hegemonic images remain unchallenged. They are scattered hegemonies (Grewal & Kaplan, as cited in Mahler, 1999). For example, the discourse of academic performance theorized below has undergone serious challenge by both upper-middle-class parents in Long Island as well as ethnic minority students and their families in east Los Angeles. This hegemonic image is inextricably tied to the articulatory practices of the establishment of state educational standards, standards-based school reform, and high stakes testing. Following Appadurai (1997), performance cultural images and discourses are prime examples of what we might characterize as representational hybridity. As I will attempt to explain in detail, such complexity has profound implications for research and of course for the signification of hegemonic cultural images and the capacity to resist them. Michael Peter Smith (2001) defined (cultural) hybridityand the capacity for political resistanceas the recombinant possibilities of contemporary life (p. 137; also see Marcus & Fischer, 1986, p. 122). These cultural images emanate outside of public schooling. On a more abstract level, these shifts in research paradigms signal an emerging epistemological acceptance in the educational research community toward multiple changing social realities of postmodernity (see definition below) (Harvey, 1989). Perhaps the single best illustration of these conditions is the mediating effects of communication technologies on educational research. This movement in educational research toward postmodernity is still in transition and, as I argue in the third and final section of this article, optimally should culminate in public schools and classrooms in Arnstines (1995) notion of the primacy of the aesthetic.

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The purpose of this article is to explore the dialectical, that is, interactive relationships between the cultural images of public schooling and the research traditions in the academy. The article is organized into three parts. Part 1 of this article examines the hegemonic images of public schooling, especially in inner cities. In Part 2, I argue that there is an emerging plurality in educational research, a plurality that is symbolized by commonsense images, primarily emanating from institutions. Finally in Part 3, I outline possible uses of aesthetics in public schools. 1. Hegemonic Images of Public Schooling To unpack the multiple social constructions of educational research, both quantitative and qualitative, I explore the usefulness of hegemonic, commonsense images of public schooling. It seems that the metaphorical language embedded in the multiple cultural images of public schooling is especially well suited for communicating research into the practices and processes of public schools. I rely on cultural images as a rhetorical strategy to begin the continual process of untying the knowledge-power knot (Foucault, 1979, p. 27). For want of more precise nomenclature, let me divide the prevailing cultural images of public schooling into three types: those that flow from modernity, those that flow from what I call a transitional postmodernity (see below), and those that are rooted in the aesthetic as a kind of discourse practice and the politics of the performative (see Phelan, 1993, and conceptualization of the aesthetic below). Modern cultural images focus on the commodification of schooling. These cultural images tend to treat the individual learner, and the social relations of learning, as objects. Transitional postmodern images, as they relate to the study and practice of public schooling, are transitional in that they tend toward the plural, and local. They reinscribe the school subject in history, culture, and politics. As such, they partially embrace Biestas (1994) concept of practical intersubjectivity. Finally, the aesthetic cultural image embraces both modern images and images emanating from a transitional postmodernity. That is, they move toward the near complete acceptance of the conditions of postmodernity as they apply to the conduct of educational research. Put differently, aesthetic images invoke a kind of radical plurality of research designs and methods (see Barone, 2000). Aesthetic images of public schooling more completely and accurately capture the full range of intellectual and emotional qualities of the students, teachers, parents, and educational leaders who live the everyday discourse practices of public schooling.

Representing the Politics of Aesthetics in Research In numerous writings, Stuart Hall (1986, 1996, 1997) has argued that language is the central medium through which meaning is produced, communi-

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cated, circulated, and reproduced through everyday cultural practices. As such, language takes on more then merely symbolic and rhetorical functions: Embedded in wider notions of discourse theory, language is implicated materially in lived cultural experiences. Thus, language is concerned with both rhetoric and action. It is fundamentally performative in nature. For example, in the arts language produces material1 effects that Peggy Phelan (1993) characterized as a kind of performance politics. Her observations are worth noting in greater detail:
By suggesting that [performance art] participate in a performative exchange I hope to broaden current disciplinary boundaries which define the field of the gaze, the animate and the inanimate, and the seen and the unseen. Performance is the art form which most fully understands the generative possibilities of disappearance. Poised forever at the threshold of the present, performance enacts the productive appeal of the nonproductive. Trying to suggest that the disappearance of the external other is the means by which self assurance is achieved requires that one analyze the potential payoffs in such disappearance: performance exposes some of them. (p. 27)

The implication is clear for purposes of this article: Although rhetorical in scope, performance is a kind of discourse practice. It is a speech act (see Mirn & Inda, 2000). More precisely, as Thomas Popkewitz (1998b) has argued, discourse practices are effects of power that, in turn, may produce material effects on power relations. For purposes of this article, the material effects may be conceptualized in productive terms, that is, ones that may reduce both the exclusionary school practices that help define the Other (see example on special education, below) as well as academic and social inequalities that partially result from these exclusionary practices. I build on these theoretical and normative positions below to advance a conception of aesthetics as it relates to educational research. Although the concept of aesthetics has a rich history in philosophy, art, and literary criticism (see Eagleton, 1990; Easthope, 1991), it is only relatively recently that aesthetics has gained widespread utility in educational research. With the publication of Maxine Greenes (1995) Releasing the Imagination came new and important insights into how aestheticsas a cultural practice that has discursive, normative, and material consequences (Hall, 1997) might inform the professional activities of educators and educational researchers. Aesthetics concerns the realms of politics as well as the philosophical pursuits of beauty.

Aesthetics as a Cultural Object Generally speaking, the meaning of aesthetics has taken two distinct epistemic paths. On one hand, it refers to the rather fixed interpretation of works

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of art as objet dart, that is, as inherently possessing universal value more or less independent of interactions with the human subject (see Biesta, 1999). Viewed from this perspective, aesthetics is not concerned with action; therefore, it is not embedded in discourse practices (see Hall, 1997). Rather, aesthetics is an ideology inextricably bound to art objects, which as Terry Eagleton (1990) observed, become commodities in the market place (that) exist for nothing and nobody in particular, and can consequently be rationalized, ideologically speaking, as existing entirely and gloriously for themselves (p. 9). Here, aesthetics is not a cultural practice that both produces shared meaning and enacts material consequences for the Other (see below). Rather, aesthetics is represented in objects that have a totalizing, that is, universal, meaning usually restricted to the fine arts.

Aesthetics as a Material Cultural Practice On the other hand, Deweys (1934) conception of aesthetics simultaneously as ends and as means stands against an aesthetic tradition that interpreted (the distinction between art and life) in starkly dualistic terms (Haskins, 1999, p. 287). Put differently, the meaning of aesthetics is inseparable from action that inevitably arises with the experience of art. Action here has both a normative and material content. The boundaries between knowledge and experience are blurred. More operationally, language as a primary conduit of meaning and of action that may result from human agents articulatory practices is inevitably inscribed in the multiple discourses of aesthetics. Aesthetics, arguably, may ultimately constitute a political practice as action invariably implies an ethical content. Properly understood, I want to argue that aesthetics constitutes a material cultural practice. As such, it carries material effects for the learner, specifically the subaltern Other (see McCarthy & Crichlow, 1993). These effects are the results of power as well as shape the productive uses of power. Action is concerned with the expression of values, specifically in regards to identity formation and pedagogical encounters with the Other (see below). As Hannah Arendt argued, Plurality is the condition of human action, because we are all the same, that is, human in such a way that nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived, lives, or will live (as cited in Biesta, 1999, p. 212). It is this theory of aestheticsas a performative discourse practice (see Mirn & Inda, 2000) from which I want to build my own understanding of the concept. Following Judith Butlers (1993) work on performative theory in the context of gender and bodies that matter (also see Lyotard, 1984; Stone, 1999), I propose that aesthetics in educational research has two dimensions relating to performance (Biesta, 1999, 2000; Sarason, 1999).2 First, aesthetics is the fairly artistic ritualized presentation of the shared meanings that school agents enact when they construct school processes and practices. Both of these obviously

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imply value judgments and provide an organizational context for meaning in the conduct of everyday decisions. Whether written in the mission statement of the school or posted on its Web site, these concrete activities help represent lived cultural experiences for students. Artistic form is not separate from the intentional or unintentional meaning of the subjects who create it, as Nussbaum (1990) elegantly argued (pp. 3-13). In educational research, for example, presentations of findings that seek to capture in artistic form what traditional qualitative or quantitative designs and methodology may miss are an example (see Barone, 2000; Crue, 2000). The research performance is strictly ritualistic, precisely because it is narrowly artistic in form and purpose. It does not lead to action with an ethical content (see Stone, 1999). Secondly, aesthetics is performative, that is, a discourse practice that has material effects on the learner as both object of study and subject of multiple research discourses. To use Searles language, discourse actually performs the words it describes. It enacts. Moreover, as Stone (1999) correctly indicated, this action is ethical in content in that it concerns the ever-elusive issues of social justice for the Other. Aesthetics includes the use of the imagination (Greene, 1995) to take action on behalf of the subaltern Other in public schools and classrooms. I want to suggest that this action is inevitably moral. Having spelled out in detail what I mean by aesthetics, I turn now to a catalogue of some of the multiple cultural images in public schooling.

Thinking Modern Modern cultural images of public schooling can be characterized by their tendencies toward what Lyotard (1984) called totalization. For the purposes of this article, totalization as encapsulated in modern cultural images may be operationally defined in structural-functional terms (Parsons, 1971, 1977). They emanate from institutions outside of public schooling that seek to socially regulate and thereby partially control human behaviors through their functional systems. Social control is primarily achieved within these systems through the productive exercise of power (see Popkewitz, 1998b). At the same time, because power is decentered and inextricably tied to knowledge, new constructions of these institutions (and thus the cultural images themselves) are possible. Modern cultural images of public schooling are inappropriate. They primarily focus on the educational product and hence reify the tendency to commodify knowledge and the social relations of knowing. As mentioned, they tend to make objects of the learner. Examples of modern cultural images3 of public schooling include the medical, civil engineering, industrial/business, and athletic images. The social relations embedded in cultural modern images are hierarchical and patriarchal in nature and often involve racialized classifications (see Banton, 1977; Meyer & Jepperson, 2000; Torres, Mirn, & Inda, 1999). There is usually a figure in

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power, often upper-middle-class male and White, that comes to the rescue of the ailing Other. The modern cultural images are closely linked; the dynamics between them effectively blur their demarcations. Discourses that emerge during the deployment of the medical image are illness and disease (the school system is sick). The medical image functions like treatments in a hospital. The patient (the student or public school system) is perceived as part of a biological system whereby the architects of the system (elites and activist citizens) seek to achieve continuous, and stable, homeostasis and apparently avoid disequilibrium at all cost (see Martin, 1990). When applied to inner-city schools in particular, this functional system is held as being in a chronic state of degenerative illness. The biological system (like its engineering counterpart, below) is ill beyond organizational surgery. Interestingly, the medical image operates discursively in clinical terms; that is, the language used connotes a technical medical problem (acute or chronic illness)one that must be remedied by treatment. More experimental portrayals of this cultural image that would spurn innovation in public schooling are shunted for more immediately solvable treatments. These convey the idea of quick fixes. In this regard, medical images work in conjunction with engineering ones (see below). I would prefer importing scientific experimental methods and the sense of improvisation and innovation characteristic of the scientific method rather than view educational illness as an evil to be eradicated like a violation of nature. Put simply, viewing the school system as sick leaves little room for trial and error. The consequence of a medical mode of thinkinggiven that an educational disease is merely metaphoricalis an abiding sense of crisis (Mirn, 1996). Parallel to the medical image of public schooling is the engineering image, in particular civil engineering, the profession of building bridges and the like. Civil engineering images appear to resonate with the culture of North America. Like the current call to save or fix social security in time for the retirement years of the baby boomers, both education bureaucrats and politicians understandably desire to fix failing schools. The assumption is that when the schools are finally fixed (or cured, as in the medical image), the process is completed. Rarely entertained is the notion that the work of school improvement is never over. It is a continuous process. Finally, an unintended consequence of this mode of thinking is the social reproduction of public schooling and other forms of social inequalities in the inner city and in rural communities. It is rare to learn of a failing school in the suburbs in need of engineering redesign, certainly not the affluent ones. Closely linked to the civil engineering image is the industrial/business one. Perhaps the most widely used of the cultural images emanating from modernity, it is most embedded in capitalists social relations. The concern is with the education product. Mirroring the growth in the global economy and in the stock market, the focus is on the production of statistical gains from high-

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performing schools. Those that fail to achieve at high levels or, worse, academically fail altogether are punished. This form of accountability is evident in President Clintons reform proposal to end federal funding to states that do not improve failing schools and more recently in California Governor Gray Daviss educational reform initiative to rank order public schools from highest performing to the worst performing school in the state.4 My last modern hegemonic image in public schooling is familiar to many parents of athletes in the research community. This is the athletic image. The assumption is that the education race is a zero-sum sport contest. That is, there are clear winners and losers. Of course, in every zero-sum game the winners come at the expense of the losers. As pointed out in the description of the industrial/business image above, society rewards performance. There are no rewards for failures. Collaboration, here the idea that gains can be made when learning is mutual, tends to get lost. On the other hand, a more optimistic conception of the education problem as an athletic contest potentially allows for the setting of high academic standards. Modern cultural images appear to implicitly wield a functional systems approach. For example, the medical image embraces a biological system, the civil engineering a mechanical system, and the athletic image a Darwinian system of survival of the fittest. School reform efforts aimed at fixing the broken system, for example within the image of medicine, apparently uniformly impose one model of reform on all schools, regardless of socioeconomic structures, organizational dynamics, or levels of parental and community involvement.

Transitional Postmodern Images


Transitional Postmodernity

I use transitional as a temporal metaphor. That is, it is an analogy to the ongoing transformations in the global economy fueled by communication technologies. As such, I signal a transformation in culture resulting from postmodernity, what Harvey has termed an epoch of postmodern conditions. These conditions, in turn, facilitate the construction of electronic cultural images of public schools. I argue that as these images become implanted in society through mass media, they become socially structured, that is, cultural images that cognitively shape how researchers think about public schooling (see discussion on cultural images below). This phenomenon is especially observable in inner-city schools in urban centers, where increasingly the discourse of school failure is prevalent (see Mirn & St. John, 2003). I borrow the notion of transitional from a broad spectrum of literature,5 including social postmodernism (see Nicholson & Seidman, 1995), critical

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social theory, post-Marxism (Harvey, 1989), and poststructuralism (Poster, 1989). In particular, Douglas Kellner has argued that there exists an emerging cultural transformation that is in its transitional historical phase. As the forces of globalization have caused a change from manufacturing to an integrated, technology-driven economy (the knowledge sectors), Kellner argued that the interaction of technology and capital is helping to transform every aspect of life. Poster (1990) echoed this sentiment when he asserted that an increasing segment of communication is mediated by electronic devices (p. 1). In educational research, the movement away from dominant research paradigms, whether quantitative or qualitative in methodology, toward multiple methods is an illustration of this broader shift in society. Not insignificant, moreover, relatively new information technologies such as video cameras, online e-mail and conferencing, and more mundanely, qualitative software programs have perhaps propelled this shift. For example, Campbells research in progress uses interactive video to assess how elementary students in California conceptualize mathematical problems. His research has significant implications for a complex philosophical question, constructivism. It is conceivable that without the use of interactive video, questions of constructivism would be pursued through philosophical rather than empirical analysis. My argument is that this movement toward plurality in educational research remains contested, and its outcomes, though perhaps inevitable, are a result of ideological conflicts in the research community. Like the conceptualization of aesthetics advanced above, educational research also may be considered a political discourse. Transitional images in public schooling tend to (re)focus research and practice on the problems of the individual or the collective learner. The educational subject is restored as a concern of public schooling. Because transitional postmodern images place educational subjects, and their social relations, at the center of the educational enterprise, I assert that such cultural images approach more complete characterizations. They are more appropriate when compared to modern images. These cultural images are potentially more useful because they capture phenomena closer to the agents of public schooling, as they more fully enter into practical, intersubjective social relations embedded in teaching and learning (see Biesta, 1994; Maxcy, 1991). However, these cultural images are still hegemonic in that they are in bipolar opposition to the more modern and totalizing images described above. Although transitional postmodern images tend to be more complete, because they more fully capture plural dimensions of school actors lived cultural and social experiences in the classroom, they nonetheless are effects of power. Put differently, these cultural images view the learner as Other, that is, a subaltern, marginalized subject (see McCarthy & Crichlow, 1993; Mirn, Bogotch, & Biesta, 2000). Popkewitzs (1999) observations in this regard are worth noting at length:

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The role of professional knowledge is to assimilate and develop the rationalized and universal narrative about action initiated and carried out by actors. The narratives of action function as salvation stories by which people express intentions (consciously or unconsciously; Ideologically or whatever is its opposite). Theories of action circulate different ideological traditions as salvation stories [italics added] of change through the actor inscribed in the theory as securing truth. (p. 1)

Furthermore, the transitional postmodern images I describe below tend to unintentionally paint a picture of students in need of rescue by families, communities, or even the student himself or herself. This salvation story of the soul (Popkewitz, 1999) is paradoxically tied to the emancipatory aims of the project of modernity. These emancipatory goals are neither good nor bad in themselves (see Anderson & Grinberg, 1998). As I tried to make clear above, transitional postmodern images are potentially more progressive in that their underlying values seek to make the institution of public schooling more equal and equitable for greater numbers of students. It is naive, however, to view these aims as free of the effects of power and logocentrism (see Poster, 1989). First is the constructivist learner. Popkewitz (1999) observed that recent policy discourses embedded in the rhetoric of neoliberalism (e.g., markets, privatization, and community) makes the agent a local, constructivist actor such as found in state decentralized discourses about community health, community schools, and community based welfare systems (p. 12). Constructivist learners are flexible workers who can prosper in the knowledge sectors because they can take responsibility to autonomously manage their own educational and training needs, whether in or out of formal schooling. Constructivist learners move a bit closer toward embodied learning (see below). This cultural image focuses on the restoration of academic confidence, both individually and collectively (see Bush, 2000). Viewed from this perspective, so-called failing schools would not be primarily a problem of the institution but rather one of confidence intrinsic to the learner. I stress the notion of intrinsic because I am not concerned here with the fairly mechanical issue of building self-esteem by a series of motivational rewards or punishments. This would reify the business/ industrial image described above. The educational taskif you will, problemwould consist of restoring confidence to the individual learner or cultural group. In short, restoring confidence is analytically distinct from the notion of self-esteem; the latter is a purely modernistic image. In the family image of schooling, the emphasis is on meeting individual student needs or caring for a social group. An example would be African Americans, whose family members grew up during the civil rights movement. These families view access to educational opportunity as a fundamental civil right, not a privilege to be earned (Mirn & Lauria, 1998). As my work with Mickey Lauria has shown, many African American parents from poor and lower-middleclass backgrounds demand equality of educational opportunity for their children. However, owing to the lack of human attention to respect, trust, and caringas well as often deplorable physical conditions (Kozol, 1991)students

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and families perceive that access is unattainable. Within the family image, the gamut of student needs is provided forphysical, emotional, social, and academic. 6 In addition to the family, students individual needs can also be met in community. This leads to my last transitional postmodern image. Collaborative learning models, for example, peer tutoring, can flourish. Respect and trust, in addition to caretaking, are the social foci. The social relations embedded in the contexts of the enterprise of public schooling are the analytical unit, the potential focus of research if you will. Thus, mutuality defines the quality of experience of schooling, and learning may be considered a potential by-product of pragmatic collaboration between student and teacher, what Biesta (1994; see also Maxcy, 1991, 1995) conceptualized philosophically as practical intersubjectivity. In summary, what primarily distinguishes a modern from a transitional postmodern orientation in public schooling as expressed through the use of cultural images is the concern of the former with the multiple problems of teaching and learningoutcomes, organizational functionality and commodification, and the manner in which the learner is represented and the meaning of learning is defined (Hall, 1997, pp. 1-13)as product and educational performance. By contrast, transitional postmodern images recall the human dimension, the learner himself or herself, whether encapsulated in psychological processes or social relations. The focus is on the human subject and practical intersubjectivity (Biesta, 1994), although paradoxically the subject is conceived as Other. In the following sections, I extend the transitional postmodern image of public schooling and its emphasis on understanding schooling as a human enterprise into the realm of aesthetics. Before doing so, I need to analyze the consequences of modern and transitional postmodern images of public schooling.

Effects of Commonsense Cultural Images A consequence of the epistemology of modernity is a tendency toward commodification. Cultural images of public schooling such as the athletic and business image grossly illustrate these tendencies in modernity, tendencies to equate process with product, the separation of knowledge from power, and the objectivication (commodification) of knowledge and the social relations of knowing (Mirn, Biesta, & Bogotch, 1999, p. 4). The product of public schooling is a prime example. Less obvious illustrations are found in other modern images, however. For example, the engineering image, a favorite of neoliberals, depicts schooling as a problem of organizational structure, that is, the attempt to technically design (reengineer) the correct, single best system of teaching and learning. Research into school practices is potentially plagued with serious epistemological difficulties. If the sole purpose of schools and stu-

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dents is to perform,7 for example, researchers might understandably conclude that the master (sic) teachers of the school, near-mythical figures, caused the school to fail or to excel. Virtually no serious researcher of public schooling, much less experienced practitioners, would make such a claim. Nonetheless, popular culture and media are riddled with images of gallant teachers and school administrators who turn around failing classrooms and their test scores overnight. Just picture Jaime Escalante. I want to be especially clear here. The point is not that excellent teachers and school leaders do not matter. Of course they do. However, when commonsense images are applied unscrupulously to failing or high-performing schools, the mistaken notion may ensue that lifting (no metaphor intended) academic performance to such lofty heights is the sole purpose of schooling. Other, potentially more fundamental goals such as community development initiatives (Crowson & Boyd, 2000; Mirn & St. John, 2003; Torres & Mirn, 2000) may get buried. By inadequately examining the language and symbols embedded in the use of everyday, commonsense images of public schooling, the conclusions of the investigator perhaps point in the wrong direction. Politicians and policy makers might, for instance, spend billions to fix an educational bridge leading to nowhere. As recent works by Anyon (1997), Lipman (1998), Weiner (1999), and Mirn (1996) have established, the issue in many cases is not failing schools but rather failed school reform and distressed urban, inner-city communities (also, see Mirn & St. John, 2003). My research has shown that schools in the inner city have a difficult time establishing a climate of trust and mutual respect (Mirn, 1996, 1997). Educational research that reveals in detail the processes whereby such conditions are concretely and deeply established in whole schools and classrooms may unexpectedly conclude that academic outcomes may not be that significant in the long term or, more precisely, that the meanings of academic achievement are multiple. Thus, we need multiple representations of the meaning of academic achievement. The social reality now is that the meaning of achievement is nearly totally defined by the results of standardized, national, and increasingly international test scores. On the other hand, if students, especially in the inner city, who are routinely deprived of healthy social conditions grow up, instead, learning how to trust adults, resolve conflicts by negotiation, and appreciate social, class, gender, and sexuality differences, then these nonacademic outcomes of public schooling could possibly be viewed as significant. These social outcomes can be juxtaposed with more traditional measures such as test scores, school climate, and dropout rates. Such outcomes can help begin to redefine public schools as political institutions in the sense that shared community moral values can be put on the school reform agenda. Public school reform can thus potentially help foster local community development (see Baum, 1997; Crowson & Boyd, 2000).8 More public schools can then contribute to the overall quality of life in local communities (Mirn, 1995).

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Ultimately, the community image may hold the most promise in the transitional postmodern camp, but students still lack voice and power. The sense of community is whats missing in contemporary society. Information technology has significantly reduced the need for face-to-face interaction (see Poster, 1990). True, a sense of place and shared values that mark the experience of community are systematically being infused into schools through parent and community involvement (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 1998; California Department of Education, 1999; also see University of California, Irvine, 1999). Parents and community members still hold the balance of power. Students are seen as rescued or saved by community and business partnerships (see Popkewitz, 1999; also Baum, 1997, personal communication, July 1999; Epstein, 1993). This move toward parental and community empowerment is understandably appealing in that unequal power relations may seem more balanced in favor of families and residents, but ironically, students are frequently cast as the Other in public schools (Mirn et al., 2000). Transitional postmodern images begin to more appropriately refocus9 our scholarly and practical attention to human beings and human agency; to the persons that are the hallmark of schooling and education, or at least should be; as well as to the concrete differences these subjects make in the everyday lives of public school students. Educational subjects, for example, superintendents and building principals, can take action. However, these actions are not things that lead to better products. They are, rather, discursive practices or communicative actions (Habermas, 1970). As such, school-level actions (reforms) are embedded in social relations marked by multiple discursive spaces and subject positions (see Mouffe, 1988). Primary among these are the interactions with students. School agents can act. This is so because the subject who acts on educational alternatives (see Hays, 1994) is historically contingent, that is, constituted in language and forever reconstituted in discourse practices and social relations of power (Butler, 1993). Objects are thus potentially recast as subjects in public schooling. The hegemonic images of public schooling and corresponding educational research, thus, may reflect a larger historical-theoretical trajectory, which ranges from viewing the student as an object in modernity to a constituted (yet marginalized) subject in transitional postmodernity. In Part 2, I provide the social and historical-theoretical contexts that give us insights into an emerging plurality in educational research. 2. Emerging Plurality in Educational Research In 1998, Elliot Eisner laid out the parameters of what I am arguing in this article as an emerging plurality in educational research.10 Eisner didnt specify any field within the generic category of educational research. Rather, his call embraced, perhaps unintentionally, a transitional postmodern orientation,

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whose new epistemological and ontological underpinnings potentially disrupt the historically monolithic character of educational research. In education, the putative dominant paradigms of the physical, social, and human sciences have tended to marginalize important theoretical and methodological insights from the humanities, the arts, and cultural studies (see Ginsberg, 1997). Eisner (1998) put the issue squarely: My own view is that social and physical science are a species of research; research is not a species of science (p. 34). Here, I expand on Eisners brief argument to assert that educational research is no longer monolithic. Whether conscious or not, educational researchers now embrace a plurality of methodological approaches (see Anderson & Herr, 1999). For example, research in educational leadership embraces multiple approaches (see Capper, 1993, 1998, 1999), including the study of the ethics of administrative dilemmas (Beck, 1994) and their potential resolution through moral leadership (Sergiovanni, 1992); educational leadership as dramatic performance (Starratt, 1993); the spiritual dimensions of administrative practices (see Bolman & Deal, 1995; Capper, 1998); the ethos of caring, social justice, and critique (Starratt, 1991, 1994); and finally the concept of research in the field as embedded in the language and symbols of metaphors (Beck, 1999). There now appears to be an abundance of diversity in research design and methods.11 Moreover, I view this move toward pluralism, away from methodological metanarratives, as a healthy one. It signals a more democratic scholarly culture and tolerance for differences in educational research. These multiple educational research paradigms help to partially disrupt the regimes of truth as systems of reason (Popkewitz, 1998b) that are embedded in approaches that tend to make students and schooling as objects of nature. These natural epistemological assumptions, for example, that public schooling is a commodity, are linked to the modern cultural images described above. Viewing the processes and outcomes of public schooling as commodities is a conceptual legacy tied to the modern cultural images detailed above. Pluralistic approaches in educational research potentially net both theoretical as well as methodological gains. That is, the relational dynamics unearthed in such substantive areas as those listed above begin to spotlight the internal circuits of power, the uncritical assumptions embedded in the internal circuits of power, and the uncritical epistemological assumptions embedded in educational research. The hegemony of epistemologies of nature (the natural sciences) no longer appears to unilaterally obstruct the social relations of teaching, learning, and leadership. The language and research methods of the arts, cultural studies, and the humanities best capture the emerging plurality of educational research. Furthermore, because knowledge emanating from the social sciences may be socially constructed, care must be given to distinguish between material (physical) reality and social (nonphysical) reality; the former is better suited for research methods imported from the physical sciences. Here, I am especially concerned with the latter forms of reality as they relate to the understanding of

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the realm of desires, emotions, and meanings educational actors (classroom teachers and other educational leaders) may bring to school processes and classroom practices.

The Positionality of the Educational Researcher The emerging postmodern project generally, and specifically within the rather broad field of educational research, may seriously question the main features of the epistemological worldview of modernity. In particular, it potentially challenges the conception of the subject as an ego or consciousness that exists outside of (and therefore also prior to) history (see Biesta, 2000; Popkewitz, 1998a). Moreover, it partially interrupts the near universal understanding of knowledge as a neutral registration/representation by this ego or consciousness of the world outside (see Hall, 1997). Contrary to the notion that the subject serves as its own point of departure, postmodernism stresses that the subject is a constituted [italics added] subject (Butler, 1992, p. 9), that is, a subject that is always inscribed, and potentially reinscribed, in history. For example, decisions that classroom teachers make, and the values that underpin their professional judgments, have a history: They come from somewhere and are linked to such sociopolitical dynamics as the relationship of the school to its local community and wider society (Apple, 1985, 1993, 1996), the authoritative positionality of the school administrator (Giroux, 1993), and the near autonomy of the classroom teacher (Tyack, 1974; see also Poulantzas, 1969, 1978). Nagel (1979) theorized
that there is a necessary logical [italics added] connection, and not merely a contingent or causal one, between the social perspective of a student of human affairs and his standards of competent social inquiry, and in consequence the influence of the special values to which he is committed. (p. 498)

Research in the human and social sciences, thus, is contingent on historically relative influences. More to the point of this article, because social organizations (public schools) are in constant flux, be they so-called open or closed systems, the intellectual apparatus summoned to study such phenomena need changing as well (Nagel, 1979). This is especially the case when the emotions, desires, beliefs, and meanings that educational subjects bring to the research problem mark the scope of investigation. The emergence of plurality in research into public schooling is part of what I am describing as a transitional postmodern move. Scholars such as Henry Giroux (1981, 1991) have long asserted that pedagogical and leadership practices seem uniquely resistant of postmodern change, however broadly these social conditions are conceived.12 As a whole, the field of educational research

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now seems to tolerate a diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches (for example, see Capper, 1998, 1999); these developments are relatively new, few in number, and controversial. Constas (1998) was therefore correct to argue that educational research still relies on the paradigms of science. Understanding whether such paradigmatic resilience is good or bad is beyond the scope of this article. The emergence of plurality, despite some significant questions, is healthy in a democratic society. As previously stated, this diversity of approaches is still in transition. Debate on the paradigm wars, as Anderson and Herr (1999) claimed, is to a certain extent misdirected. As has been established above, there is no categorical, definitive postmodern stance in educational research. This point cannot be overemphasized. So what is the fuss about? Scholars are in need of research epistemological assumptions and corresponding designs that encapsulate both modern and postmodern worldviews (see Part 3, below). This signals a move toward the aesthetic. 3. Using Aesthetics in Public Schools Efforts to improve the quality of experience in individual classrooms and entire schools may be the only way to interest students. My hope is to apply the aesthetic cultural images of public schools and their potential usefulness to suggest what aesthetic school practices might actually look like. This may map the contours of aesthetic efforts to improve the quality of public schooling, in particular inner-city schools. These are thus both theoretical and practical interventions into the everyday life of public schools. Following Dewey, the aesthetic cultural image of public schooling captures the quality of the learning experienceas perceived by the individual learner or social groups (learning communities, racial-ethnic minorities, and so on). At an idealistic level, this image invokes the sense of beauty, wonder, curiosity, and a literary imagination, what Maxcy (1991, 1995) characterized as aesthetic intelligence (see also Greene, 1995). Although it superficially concerns matters of taste, I want to use the ideas of Donald Arnstine to explore substantively how the primacy of the aesthetic might engage more substantial questions relevant to the needs of particular kinds of students (as stated, my concern is with inner-city students). By examining the dimensions of aesthetics in public schooling, more attention can be given to matters of design, the quality of the learning environment, and experience of public schooling, as well as to the aesthetic crafts of teaching and leadership. These foci have significant implications for educational research, as I will attempt to demonstrate at the conclusion of this article. Elsewhere, I have written that in particular urban schools lack aesthetic sensibilities (see Mirn, 1996, p. viii). Kozol (1991) has sensitively, and exhaustively, documented the conditions of everyday life in inner-city schools across the United States. In urban communities such as East St. Louis, New York, and San Antonio, the resources needed to bring public schools in these

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districts to a level remotely approaching their counterparts in more affluent school districts in suburbs are substantial:
Looking around some of these inner-city schools, where filth and disrepair were worse than anything Id seen in 1964, I often wondered why we would agree to let our children go to school in places where no politician, school board president, or business CEO would dream of working. (p. 5)

Usually, we attribute aesthetics in public schooling to programs such as arts in education. These programs have been somewhat successful in raising academic achievement in schools (see Catterall, 1998). They range from employing part-time performing artists (dancers, poets, and sculptors) in elementary and secondary schools to comprehensive educational tours such as Wynton Marsaliss tribute to Duke Ellington at the Lincoln Center. These tours are nationwide and are often associated with organizations such as the National Association of Jazz Educators, which holds annual national conventions. Rarely, however, do practitioners and educational researchers think of the converse scenario: education in arts or, more specifically, education through the arts or the aesthetic experience. The latter would involve at least a partial realization of an aesthetic quality in the classroom. To get a glimpse of what this means, especially in light of research and practice in public schooling, I turn now to the writings of Donald Arnstine. In Democracy and the Arts of Schooling, Arnstine (1995) developed a conception of the primacy of the aesthetic. By this he meant that aesthetic qualities must be present in the classroom for (public) schooling to have a genuine educative effect on the learner, that is, beyond its successful institutional function of socialization (the latter is a by-product of a systems perspective discussed above). Put simply, the primacy of the aesthetic in schooling means a concern . . . to create conditions that will help students have experiences of high quality (p. 68). I want to distinguish between two dimensions of aesthetics in education, teaching and learning, or between teacher and student. The latter two are of course the key primary subjects in schooling, the other being parents or family-type support groups (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 1998; California Department of Education, 1999).

Aesthetic Teaching The goals for the teacher within this framework are to create in the classroom a climate that fosters high-quality learning experiences. In the following passage, Arnstine (1995) illustrated this climate by providing specific dimensions of aesthetic teaching, including engaging high-quality reflection, eliminating routine activities, and allowing students a measure of social control over their own learning. Arnstines statement is worth repeating at length.

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When an experience is high in quality and also [italics added] involves thought, it is aesthetic in quality. Teachers must focus on the elimination of routine activities [busy work] that go a long way toward maintaining control over students behaviors, but have the unintended effect of disengaging them from instruction and therefore probably from learning as well. The overall purpose of developing a classroom climate that embraces the primacy of the aesthetic is to treat our students as active individuals, responsive to their social group yet growing in power to make discriminating judgments. For this growth to occur, they need to act thoughtfully in ways that are characteristics of experience when its aesthetic. (pp. 69-70)

This climate set by the classroom teacher will in turn result in the learning of dispositions (customs and affectations) (see Eagleton, 1990, pp. 13-31) toward the acquisition of the practice of reflection. The underlying theoretical and practical assumption is that of the community image, which contains the idea of mutual respect and trust. In contexts such as inner-city schools, this goal may be unreachable without deliberate attention to fostering such a climate. What produces thoughtful engagement reminiscent of the arts is the teachers ability to foster confrontation in the student. Following Derrida (1992), by confrontation I mean the emotionally violent collision with the unexpected or, as Arnstine noted, a discrepancy. This involves the resolution between what the student expected to learn based on prior experiences and information and what is actually true based on empirical evidence or logic. For example, the idea that Latino parents actually may want to participate as active parents with their teachers in the learning process may come as somewhat of a surprise to many Anglo students in teacher education courses, who cite empirical research that finds that such parents seemingly do not value education. What students actually do with the discrepancyhow they do or do not resolve itis the intellectual labor of becoming a student and ultimately becoming educated. This work is a process of practical intersubjectivity, which Biesta (1994) has conceptualized as the practical-pragmatic interactive process between teachers and students in the classroom. An example from a second-grade classroom in Boston should make the process clearer. Darby and Catteralls (1994) lengthy illustration is worth noting:
An early encounter with aesthetic symbols for a struggling second-grader in the Boston area emphasizes the importance of the arts in one childs early development. Lanika is one of my special education kids. She has poor attendance and, therefore, never really established solid friendships. . . . She has poor language/ articulation skills. . . . We did a unit on birds and as one of our books we read Sing A Song of People which is about Boston. We looked carefully at the pictures and admired how the artist used layered paper to create the pictures. . . . The assignment was to make a bird with paper and scissors and give no [italics added] pencils or crayons. The kids could not draw, they could cut, just cut. . . . Lanika

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used the book to give her visual clues on how to make a swan. I wish I had videotaped Lanika making that swan, though I doubt I will ever forget it! I had never seen her so focused. (p. 302)

This example vividly highlights the core of aesthetic teaching, which Arnstine (1995, p. 73) argued provides students with a sense of sustained curiosity. It concretely illustrates the artistry of teaching as performance (see Sarason, 1999). Here, teaching helps move this classroom into an aesthetic mold. However, the organizational context appears to be cast in functionalists terms, that is, as systems of reason generally and populational reasoning in particular (Popkewitz, 1998b). The effects of power appear to reproduce exclusionary practices. What does this mean? Put simply, the classroom practice appears to lack a politics of the [aesthetic] performative (Phelan, 1993) in that the hierarchical discourses (see above) representing the identity of the students are cast as Other (special education kids). But the procedural steps seem at least pointed in the right direction.

Quality Learning As mentioned, the passage above signals classroom processes pointing the way toward a performative (Mirn & Inda, 2000) view of learning.13 Here, learning means doing, both in the poststructural (see Poster, 1989) sense as discoursepracticesas well as in the behavioristic sense as concrete action. The actions, furthermore, stem from the encounters with learning discrepancies mentioned above. These discrepancies (the unexpected knowledge that students confront) are a result of the climate teachers instill in the classroom. In aesthetic terms, students must desire such encountersbe willing to engage in the process of their potential resolutionsin order for high-quality thought to emerge. In a word, deep learninggenuine knowledgeis at the heart of the primacy of the aesthetic with respect to what such practices may look like in actual public schools. Concluding Observations In this article, I have juggled back and forth between modernity and postmodernity, attempting to strike a balance between them. For example, I used the constructivist image in Part 1 and the embodied learning image in Part 3 to illustrate that transitional postmodern images of public schooling can, almost fluidly, merge with aesthetic ones. I have shown that though related to modern psychological views of enhancing self-esteem, academic confidence is not primarily about instilling positive emotions. Above all, confidence concerns the feedback students derive when they are academically successful. This

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position recalls the language of modernity yet extends well beyond the perspective that learning is a commodified object. Educational researchers can more fully capture the full range of care for studentsemotional, social, safety, and academicby invoking an aesthetic image of public schooling. This cultural image would juxtapose the family image alongside that of embodied learning. Thus, the research community may realize gains for research and practice in core areas of schooling: teaching, learning, and leading. These gains would be more difficult to achieve with monolithic research designs that tend to be devoid of an aesthetic conception of schooling. What are the gains for research and practice with an aesthetic conception? These can be conceptualized by recalling the definition of the aesthetic image advanced above. In general terms, we can now understand the qualitative, multiple expressions of the meaning of teaching, learning, and leading for educational actors that result from the invocation of modern and postmodern images. For example, in addition to realizing the qualitative interpretation that the schools provide a context for meaning, we also know that the expressions of this meaning (and underlying values) at times can be made only through artistic representation (arts-based research) (see Mirn et al., 2000). Furthermore, we can hypothesize that the discursive processes themselves carry material effects of power (unintended consequences). Moreover, by recognizing that the methodological move toward plurality is transitional, the largely dysfunctional debate over which epistemology is best can be avoided. Practitioners benefit because attention to action is foregrounded when the performative dimension of aesthetics is invoked and the language employed to select and define the research problem produces practical alternatives to problem resolution. The following new kinds of research questions emerge when paradigms are multiple and a conception of the aesthetic is employed. These can be grouped around the following categories: normative, political, and performative questions. For example, what moral values underpin the identification of schoollevel problems and the school administrators resolution of these (see Mirn et al., 2000; Noblit & Dempsey, 1996)? Who controls access to legitimate knowledge (Apple, 1993), and what is the technology that certifies acquisition of such knowledge (see Constas, 1998)? What discourse practices are accessible to school leaders in the pursuit of morality and virtue in the school (see Oakes, Quartz, Ryan, & Lipton, 2000)? In what sense do these discourse practices carry material effect, that is, constitute a lived social epistemology? Finally, how does the societal reliance on graphic and cultural images of public schooling shape reform movements such as standards-based reform? How does the enactment of school-based reform socially reproduce the status quo in schools (see Oakes et al., 2000)? As researchers address these questions, the aesthetic cultural image may become an intellectual vehicle to help bring the student as person into the theoretical and practical foreground.

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Notes
1. Hays (1994) conceived material as embedded in a social structure, that is, a given set of social relations, natural resources, or identifiable economic and political institution (p. 60). 2. The idea of performance is quite controversial. Here, I follow Gert Biesta, who observed that the performative practice in schooling directly implies communication with an audience. Thus, the act of the performative is fundamentally educative in its broadest sense in that it promotes radical reciprocal understanding between the communicative authority (classroom teachers) and others (students). 3. I am certain that other images in both the modern and postmodern categories can be found. However, here I focus on what I consider hegemonic images in education. See Mirn (1992) for a discussion of hegemony. 4. Daviss call ultimately failed to pass muster with the California legislature, although it was largely supported by business and industry. 5. Space does not permit even a cursory synthesis of this complex literature here. 6. A vivid example of the family image is the story of Charles G. Emery Elementary School in Orange County, California. Emery increased achievement rates on the highstakes Stanford 9 Test by 20 percentage points in certain areas. In 1998, the 1st year the test was administered, scores languished below the national average. However, as a result of a school-improvement strategy that examined the strength and weaknesses of the children who would be coming to them from lower grades, setting priorities based on their new students needs rather than their former students past performance [italics added], dramatic gains were had (Hefland, Alexander, & Sahagun, 1999, p. A30). 7. Contrast this definition of performance with the one discussed for the aesthetic image. 8. Traditionally, academic rather than social outcomes were the exclusive purview of leadership effects (see Hallinger & Murphy, 1983, 1985; Wimpelberg, Teddlie, & Stringfield, 1989). 9. Of course, we need to consistently remain mindful of Popkewitzs admonition cited earlier. 10. A version of this article was presented at the Reclaiming Voice II conference, University of California, Irvine, June 1999. 11. My colleague Jonathan Inda correctly asks, Might not pluralism be a metanarrative itself? This possibility is acknowledged as part of the transitional move in postmodernism (see below). I thank Jonathan Inda for this observation as well as his detailed criticisms of an earlier version of this article. See Hall (1986). 12. For the purposes of this article, I follow Mark Posters (1989, 1990, 1997) theoretical-historical trajectory to assert that a central feature of the culture of postmodernity is that of a marked switch in advanced capitalists societies to the mode of information and away from the mode and relations of production. These transformations are global in scope and, as Manuel Castells (1996, 1999) has established, have affected the core of identity related to an information society (also see Giddens, 1990). 13. For a detailed explanation of performativity theory, see Mirn and Inda (2000).

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Louis F. Mirn is a professor of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Previously he served for 5 years as chair of the Department of Education, University of California, Irvine.

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