Critical Questions in Education
3rd Annual Special Theme Issue: CALL FOR PAPERS
Critical Inquiry for the Social Good:
Methodological Work as a Means For Truth-Telling in Education
Aaron M. Kuntz, University of Alabama
Austin Pickup, Aurora University
Special Issue Proposal
We propose a special issue of Critical Questions in Education (CQIE) dedicated to new understandings of critical methodologies in education. Importantly, we situate inquiry generally—and methodological work more specifically—within two overarching philosophical concerns of truth-telling and practical wisdom. Specifically, we assert that critical work necessarily situates inquiry within an assumed responsibility for the public good: one thus engages in inquiry practices in order to promote a more socially-just society. This alignment of inquiry with social-justice work productively challenges the use of critical, a term all-too-easily (and simplistically) invoked in contemporary educational discourse. To be critical one must work towards truth-claims that disrupt the normative flow of common-sense; critical work cannot replicate what is already known. As such, critical inquiry is necessarily radical, critiquing the existing status quo even as it envisions possible alternatives to the contemporary moment. This, we propose, provocatively challenges methodological work within the contemporary academy: how might inquiry be differently (and, we might say, more progressively/usefully/productively) “critical” if we begin from a notion of truth/the good (as opposed to moving away from it or ignoring such notions)? This special issue is thus driven by our collective interest in how scholars might re-envision “critical work” when they have to take a stand on truth/the good.
Given our above assertions of what it means to be critical, much work in educational scholarship that invokes the term might be interpreted as critical in name only. “Critical” methodologies disappointingly remain at the level of the procedural, offering only inquiry techniques as the means through which to engage in critical work. Yet, such technical formations can never intervene in the incessant production of the status quo: situated at the level of procedure they remain governed by the very rationalities that implicate our contemporary moment. Additionally, the postmodern moment, while offering a useful deconstruction of grand narratives, has perhaps left us in a state of scholarly paralysis when it comes to possibilities of repair or even renewal. Though the proliferation of “critical” scholarship within various traditions (critical race, critical Latina/o, critical feminist, critical disability studies, etc.) has worked to challenge existing hegemonic norms within the educational landscape, this scholarship often remains hesitant to move toward its own notions of truth or the good. But, is it enough to challenge the status quo only to find ourselves groundless? Can we move toward a critical praxis which takes on positive notions of truth and the good while still holding to contextual understandings of these same notions? What answers do the various critical traditions provide about socially-just education and how might these answers intersect or depart from one another? In response, we ask educational scholars to consider a more engaged sense of critical work, one that orients towards the production of truth-claims surrounding the common good. Critical methodologies would, in turn, establish orientations towards meaning-making that are profoundly political, challenging not simply normative claims, but the very means by which such claims are made. In this way, critical work intervenes simultaneously on epistemological and methodological levels.
This issue begins with a philosophical grounding regarding critical work as an important point of departure. We offer two overlapping orientations towards criticality and methodology: 1) Foucault’s sense of parrhesia (or truth-telling) and 2) Aristotelian notions of phronesis (or practical wisdom). For Foucault, truth-telling involves recognizing and speaking a truth that is not otherwise made visible by normative ways of knowing or coming to know. Thus, in order to engage in parrhesia, one must break from the past in order to imagine a yet-to-be-realized future. Similarly, Aristotle’s notion of phronesis is grounded in a deliberative judgment of the present in order to know how to act in an unforeseen future. As such, both orientations towards knowing and doing involve: an engaged analysis of the past; a recognition of how historical ways of knowing and being implicate the present; a determination to point a way forward towards a more socially-just future; a contextually grounded sense of value rationality. Consequently, parrhesia and phronesis offer select challenges to “critical” methodological work. No longer can someone claim the critical mantle solely by critiquing what is (this would be equivalent to saying the educational system is broken, throwing one’s hands up, and moving along). Instead, critical work involves a great degree of risk—requiring as it does a commitment to work for some unknown future in the name of social justice or the social good.
With this in mind, we propose a special issue that invites articles that provoke the term critical specifically in relation to methodological work. Given the above assumptions about engagements with notions of truth and the good, what might a critical methodology look like? How might it be enacted? What does it require of the critical methodologist? How might these engagements be different (or similar) within the various traditions of critical inquiry?
Proposal Format: Please email a 500-1000 word, excluding references, proposal for review in a word document to Dr. Aaron Kuntz (contact information below) by June 15th, 2015. This proposal should include a list of key references that will be utilized in the chapter, as well as 3-4 keywords. Also, please include a brief author bio (200 word limit) and all relevant contact information.
Final Manuscript Formatting
Call for papers: April 15, 2015
Proposals Due: June 15th
Accept/Reject: July 1st
Draft Articles Due: November 15th
Feedback to authors: January 15th, 2016
Final Drafts Due: March 15th
Published: Summer/Fall 2016
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