Neutrality in Education and the Necessity of Diversity and Multiple Voices

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In this essay, I attempt to point out the dangers inherent in seeking exclusion based on rationales claiming to justify a drive for what has been called at different times "educational effectiveness," "educational choice," or "excellence in education." I stress that the several approaches proposed to eliminate or minimize so-called contentious elements in the curriculum raise serious questions since they rely on dichotomous positivist or modernist concepts of idea and learning, founding their arguments on a discourse which clings to rigid binary oppositions. Pointing out the necessity of otherness and multiple voices, I argue that in order for learning to actually take place, students must develop what has been called a serious "metalinguistic competence," and in order to do so, they must be exposed to analysis and discussion of controversial materials, to otherness, to multiple voices, and to complex multi-level discourses.

As educators in an increasingly diverse and complex world, is it not our responsibility, then, not to simplify, to neutralize, or to translate curricular materials into a transparent medium? Isn't it not to eliminate or exclude complex or controversial elements of the curriculum, but on the contrary to make sure that they are part and parcel of education, and that students develop the necessary skills to understand and analyze such material? Is it not to engage our students in a quest for knowledge which should take them far beyond the boundaries of their immediate socio-cultural contexts, in space and time? Is it not to encourage them to take risks in learning and discovering the other, the unknown, while building up a greater sense of responsibility toward self-directed learning, and truly unique identity building?

Keywords: Neutrality, Exclusions, Responsibility, Learning
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Denise Egéa-Kuehne

Professor, Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Practice
College of Education, Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge, LA, USA

Dr. Egéa-Kuehne is Professor in the College of Education and Director of the French Education Project for Research and Teacher Education at Louisiana State University. She publishes and lectures in English and in French in North America and in Europe on diversity, languages, education, human rights and related ethico-political issues. Her publications include "Derrida & Education", Routledge, 2001 (co-editor and contributing author with Gert J.J. Biesta); "Levinas and Education: At the Intersection of Faith and Reason", Routledge, 2008 (editor and contributing author); "Key Critical Thinkers in Education: Derrida," Sense Publishers (forthcoming).

Ref: D08P0351