Thursday, June 12, 2008

National Character Analysis

This is the fifth post where I will briefly review the works of comparative education scholars and place them along an epistemological spectrum. For this post, I’m looking at national character analysis.

Bereday, G.Z.F. 1964. Sir Michael Sadler’s “Study of Foreign Systems of Education.
Comparative Education Review 7, no. 3: 307-314.

Sir Michael Sadler’s How Far Can We Learn Anything of Practical Value from the Study of Foreign Systems of Education? clearly falls within the national character analysis epistemological framework of comparative education. Sadler emphasized the importance of experiencing and observing life outside of the school or classroom when studying foreign systems of education. This emphasis is found in several of his statements such as “if we propose to study foreign systems of education, we must not keep our eyes on the brick and mortar institutions, nor on the teachers and pupils only, but we must also go outside into the streets and into the homes of the people, and try to find out what is the intangible, impalpable, spiritual force which, in the case of any successful system of Education, is in reality upholding the school system and accounting for its practical efficiency”
[1] and “in studying foreign systems of Education we should not forget that the things outside the schools matter even more than the things inside the schools, and govern and interpret the things inside…A national system of Education is a living thing, the outcome of forgotten struggles and difficulties, and ‘of battles long ago.’ It has in it some of the secret workings of national life. It reflects, while it seeks to remedy, the failings of the national character.”[2]

Renner, R.R. 1988. “Developing Homeplace Values in Children: European Origins and
American Implications. American Journal of Education 96, no. 4: 519-532.

I place the work of Richard Renner under national character analysis on the epistemological spectrum. Renner’s ideographic approach is found throughout the article and in particular when he states that “educational rhetoric places a high value on the tradition of local control; local knowledge, however, is relatively unimportant.”
[3] Renner argues that “nonvaluing of homeplace knowledge, that bit of life the child knows best, is widely believed to foster an attitude of rootlessness, valuelessness, and alienation.”[4] Further, the underlying concept of homeplace lore, “is the premise that all who share a common homeplace or community are unavoidably linked to a valued destiny.”[5] Finally, Renner states that “the larger world can be mastered only by beginning with one’s particular surroundings; only thus can develop the self-assurance so necessary for a solid foundation later in life. Too often is it forgotten that only through homeplace mastery can one attain sufficient awareness of self to profit from further exploration of strange or foreign ways.”[6] While I placed Renner’s work under national character analysis I leave the possibility open that he may be a better fit under relativism on the epistemological spectrum.

[1] Bereday, G.Z.F. Sir Michael Sadler’s “Study of Foreign Systems of Education. (Comparative Education Review 7, no. 3, 1964): 309.
[2] Ibid, 310.
[3]Renner, R.R. “Developing Homeplace Values in Children: European Origins and American Implications. (American Journal of Education 96, no. 4, 1988) 519.
[4] Ibid, 520.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid, 30.

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