Ethics and International Curriculum Work

The Challenges of Culture and Context

Edited by:
Terrence C. Mason, Indiana University – Bloomington
Robert J. Helfenbein, Indiana University

Published 2012

The widely cited, though highly contested, idea that “the world is flat” (Friedman, 2004) carries with it a call for education to provide a leveling effect across continents and cultures Students in Skokie or in Skopje, as the theory goes, are expected to experience a school curriculum that shares certain common elements, goals, and purposes. Such a globalized view is not, however, without its complications. This book addresses some of the issues that arise when the transmigration of educational ideas occurs, with a particular eye toward the ethical dilemmas that curriculum workers face in international contexts.

The authors who have contributed to this volume explore, through case examples and critical reflection, what happens when ideas that are drawn from one set of cultural norms and experiences is introduced into other cultural contexts. In many cases these are the stories of “donors” and “hosts,” of structured inequities of power and influence, of disparities in material resources, and, as expressed in one of the cases, the dynamics of the “colonizer” and the “colonized.” A recurrent theme concerns the challenges faced by educators working internationally to reconcile their own ethical predispositions toward equity and cultural responsiveness with certain tacit assumptions about the appropriateness or value of curriculum practices brought from the “developed” world for teachers and students in the “developing” world. How these dilemmas are navigated forms the content of this collection of reports from the field written by those who engage in this complex and important work.

While the content of this volume is situated at the intersection between the field of curriculum studies and comparative education, it is fundamentally a book about curriculum. Most of the authors come from various disciplinary backgrounds with specializations in curriculum development in content areas such as social studies, geography, or mathematics. As “outsiders looking in” on the field of international education and with thoughtful reflections grounded in practice, the authors provide a new set of insights into the challenges of international curriculum work. Finally, since many of the questions raised by the work included here are ethical in nature, the book begins and ends with analyses that link the practical realities presented in the cases with contemporary philosophical thought. This, then, can be seen as the primary contribution of the book to the educational literature as it offers a careful and well-articulated synthesis of theory and practice in the field of international curriculum work. This publication would make an important contribution to courses in curriculum theory and practice, comparative and international education, and international development outside of the field of education.

Acknowledgements. Book Editors Introduction: Ethics, International Curriculum Work, and the Practice of Freedom, Robert Helfenbein and Terrence C. Mason, Preface: Mutuality or Monopoly: Reflections on the Ethics of International Curriculum Work, J. Gregory Keller. Section I. Curriculum for Democratic Citizenship 1. Ethics and Democracy Education across Borders: The Case of Civitas International, Terrence C. Mason. 2. Deliberating Across Ethical Terrain, Patricia Avery and Carolyn Pereira. 3. From Transmission and Influence to Dialogue and Understanding: Rooting International Curriculum Work in Democratic Ethics, Doyle Stevick. 4. Curriculum Development Collaboration between Colonizer and Colonized: Contradictions and Possibilities for Democratic Education, Steven Camicia and Alfredo Bayon. Section II. Ethics, Teaching, and Teacher Education 5. A New Set of Questions: The Ethics of Taking Space Seriously in Macedonia, Robert Helfenbein, Indiana University-IUPUI. 6. Ethics, Dissensus, and Traveling Without Moving: Using Videoconferencing to Facilitate Dialogue between Preservice Teachers in Two Nations, Walter Gershon, Kent State University and Ni koletta Cristodoulou. Section III. Transnational Curriculum Theory and Practice 7. From Text to Pretext: An Ethical Turn in Curriculum Work, Jean-Francois Maheux, Dalene Swanson and Steven Khan. 8. Ethical Dimensions of a Global Curriculum and Professional Development Program: Reflections on a Project in India, William Gaudelli. 9. “I Saw It With My Own Eyes”: The Knowledge-Construction Process in International Educator Exchanges, Anatoli Rapoport, Purdue University. Afterword: Philosophical Resources for International Curriculum Work, Barry Bull, Indiana University-Bloomington.

"By reframing curriculum work from the standpoint of ethical inquiry and value orientation, Helfenbein and Mason provide a set of thought-provoking essays that wrestle with the complex intersection of nation, culture, and epistemological difference. The book explores the opportunities and challenges encountered by curriculum workers operating in cross-cultural contexts, stimulating critical reflection on the power dynamics that traverse curriculum efforts concerned with the conscious practice of freedom. A valuable resource for scholars in curriculum studies, social education, and comparative and international education." Patricia K. Kubow Bowling Green State University

"As accelerating globalization exposes the cultural resources and products of all nations to greater critical scrutiny, the flows of educational expertise, innovation, and policy between Western nations and other countries have become increasingly turbulent. Educators who collaborate across historical boundaries of nation, culture, class and ethnicity frequently encounter ethical minefields as they attempt to negotiate issues of power, positioning and identity. The distinctive contribution of the essays assembled here is to provide convincing arguments and evidence for attending explicitly and constructively to the ethical dilemmas and difficulties of performing transnational curriculum work. They are authentic, inspiring, and exciting accounts of the positive effects of difference in mediating and materializing curriculum change." Noel Gough La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia in Transnational Curriculum Inquiry

"This collection rejects fuzzy pieties for energetic analyses of the ethical demands and dilemmas of international curriculum work. The authors give us a valuable blend of theory and practice on collaboration, education, freedom, and constraint." Walter C. Parker University of Washington, Seattle