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Thomas Popkewitz, “The Impracticality of Practical Research: A History of Contemporary Sciences of Change that Conserve”
October 10, 2019 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Thomas Popkewitz, Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison
There is an alluring, daunting, and haunting desire in contemporary Western European and American social sciences. That desire is for research is to find the practical knowledge that enables change to bring about a good life in a just and equitable society. This desire haunts the 19th century emergence of the social sciences and becomes more pronounced in the post-war mobilizations of research in the expansion of the welfare states. This vision of practical knowledge is captured today in the international assessments of national school systems and professional education that identifies the pathways for governments to modernize school systems and provide for the well-being of its people. This faith embodies particular links between American policy and research in which reforms are verified by “scientific, empirical evidences” about “what works”.
This brown bag focuses historically on present principles that order the “practical” sciences as more profound, complex and paradoxical than initially suggested in the formulation of the research. The discussion asks: “What if the orthodoxies of science as having practical knowledge have little historical evidence to sustain its promise?” “What if the “scientific evidence” of the practical research is not merely about facts, evidence or “Science,” but about the ordering of conduct to change social life and people that produces differences and divisions?” And if I have time, I will talk about an alternative notion of science and social change.
The title and discussion draws on a book of the brown bag (University of Michigan, 2020). The study of science draws on a range of social and cultural theories and historical studies to understand the political of the sciences and scientific knowledge of social and educational change.