New Social Foundations for Education

Education in 'Post Secular' Society

by Philip Wexler (Volume editor) Yotam Hotam (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook VI, 195 Pages


There has been growing scholarly attention to questions about the revival of religion and religiosity on global social, cultural and political fronts and the emergence of a ‘post-secular’ society. New Social Foundations for Education is dedicated to the drawing of the implications of the contemporary ‘post-secular’ social transformation for education. Though the question of the ‘post-secular’ stands at the focal point of a wide range of academic debates and discussions, within educational discourse it has not received close scholarly attention. This volume aims to correct this lack by presenting groundbreaking works of leading scholars from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Contributions discuss such topics as the mystical tradition and its social and pedagogic implications; transformative and ecological education; ‘new age’ spiritualism and its educational implications; and the relations between secular and religious education in different local contexts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: New Social Foundations: Education in Post Secular Society
  • Part I: Perspectives
  • 1. Notes on Post-Secular Society
  • 2. Education and the Post-Secular Condition: Resanctifying Pedagogy in an Era of Disenchantment
  • Part II: Historical and Comparative Studies in Education, Religion and Society
  • 3. On the Teachings of George Grant
  • 4. Religion, Education and the Post-Secular Child
  • 5. Pedagogy, Spirituality, and Curricular Design in Waldorf Education
  • 6. The Post-Secular Rhetoric of Contemplative Practice in the Public Curriculum
  • Part III: Case Studies in Palestine and Israel
  • 7. Demarcating the Secular: Education Policy in Mandate Palestine
  • 8. Palestinian Secular and Muslim Organizations’ Educational Activism in Israel: Without, Within and Against
  • 9. Post-Secular Ethnography: Religious Experience and Political Individualism among Neo-Hasidic Religious Zionists in Israel and the West Bank
  • Contributor Biographies

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This book is a first result of an ongoing academic collaboration which enriched our lives in recent years intellectually and personally and was accompanied by vibrant discussions, and meaningful collegiality. Philip Wexler would like to thank Heinz Sünker for the invitation to work in Germany, and Lambert Koch, the Rector of the Bergische Universitat, in Wuppertal, for his support. Yotam Hotam would like to thank Adi Efal, Itzhak Benyamini, and Cedric Cohen Skalli for exciting discussions on themes of modernity, secularism, faith and politics.

We gratefully acknowledge the following permissions to reprint:

Taylor & Francis

“On the Teachings of George Grant” by William F. Pinar, published in Critical Studies in Education, 55:1, pp. 8–17 (2014).

“Religion, Education and the Post-secular Child” by Robert A. Davis, published in Critical Studies in Education, 55:1, pp. 18–31 (2014).

“The Case of Palestinian Civil Society in Israel: Islam, Civil Society, and Educational Activism” by Ayman K. Agbaria & Muhanad Mustafa, published in Critical Studies in Education, 55:1, pp. 44–57 (2014).

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

“Notes on Post-Secular Society” by Jürgen Habermas, published in New Perspectives Quarterly, 25:4, pp. 17–29 (2008). (The text originally appeared in German in Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, 4, 2008).

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New Social Foundations: Education in Post Secular Society


Education and Society

The venerable tradition of thinking about Education socially seems to be coming to an end. At least for Schools of Education, there are repeated reports (Tozer and Butts, 2011) that teaching and research in what was, since the 1930s, called “social foundations” of education have been “marginalized.” They have been replaced, on the one hand, by a huge shift in focus—away from the social science disciplinary approaches that defined the social, contextual analysis of education—toward the applied, toward “practice,” both through teacher education and policy studies.

There is an aura of “triumphalism” about the new-found liberation among teacher education and policy researchers. This is not only understandable but also justifiable given the long history of condescension by discipline-trained researchers toward their more professional practice-oriented colleagues in education and the consequences for them personally and for their style of work that suffered from a disciplinary regime which inferiorized research and knowledge in professional practice.

This liberation from the disciplinary bases of the social foundations of education may be deceptive and short-lived—if it only helps pave the way for the incorporation of educational knowledge into nationalistic and corporate agendas of a new capitalism; one which fuses public and private, and where knowledge production and use—in which education is central—is an instrumentalized commodity in a problem centered academic world, as part of a fully commercialized wider apparatus of markets and networks: not “society.” ← 1 | 2 →

Tozer and Butts, in their recent history of the social foundations of education (2011: 10), without tracking the transformation of the wider world but in observing only about education, wrote:

Social foundations of education are caught between two powerful and competing movements, neither of them very compatible with the historically critical traditions of social foundations research and teaching. One of these movements is the standards-based movement in pre k–12 teaching, with its emphasis on standardized achievement tests, curricular alignment with the state and national standards and professional teaching standards. The opposing position is a market-driven orientation that emphasizes the deregulation of teacher preparation and the elimination of the ‘monopoly’ of colleges and universities on teacher certification programs.

Regimes of Social Knowledge

If the disappearance of the social in the marginalizing near-death of the social foundations in teacher preparation and policy analysis (plus a supercharge of legitimacy to the residual traditional elite status of psychology in education and in cognitive and neuro-sciences) turns out to be part of a new regime of overall social knowledge production in what Holmwood (2011) and others (see, for example, Slaughter and Rhoades, 2004) analyze as part of a shift in the mode of economic production from an industrial corporatism to a digitalized post-Fordism, then this liberating re-direction may be an example of how incorporative, reproductive hegemony works. Critics of the disciplinary domination of the social foundations of education may have won a “pyrrhic victory.”

For sociology of knowledge and for critical theory (Horkheimer, 1972), changes in emphases and distribution of academic research and teaching are neither simple, deserved triumphs of truth and justice nor the accumulative knowledge of research. In this view, paradigms change not only for “internal” reasons having to do with research in academic organization itself but also for “external” reasons in the wider context in which knowledge is produced, transmitted, consumed, and used.

Holmwood’s critical sociology of academic sociology offers a valuable illustration with implications across the range of knowledge taught in colleges and universities and, indeed, perhaps especially in their professional branches. Like “practice” triumphalism, critical sociologists have seen an advance and liberation from the post-World War II institutionalization of positivist empiricist sociology in the new wider economic production apparatus and its academic reverberations. Holmwood (2011), however, argues instead that (2011: 537): ← 2 | 3 →

…although disciplinary hierarchies have been destabilized, what is emerging is a new form of instrumentalized knowledge, that of applied interdisciplinary studies. Part of the disciplinary displacement is an “applied,” problem-centered knowledge, which is based in economic categories and which represents closer and more direct linkages between research and application and between the state sector and private corporations, in the newer networks and coalitions of “a new spirit of capitalism.”

The inter-disciplinarity of applied social studies is not, he argues, the critical inter-disciplinarity of the modern corporate-industrial and academic disciplinary past but one that has no place for the critical interests of such boundary crossings. The “reorganization of knowledge” leads to an


VI, 195
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
george grant palestinian secularism neo-hasidic waldorf education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VI, 195 pp.

Biographical notes

Philip Wexler (Volume editor) Yotam Hotam (Volume editor)

Philip Wexler is Professor of Sociology of Education and Unterberg Chair (Emeritus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. From 2011 to 2013, he was the visiting Bronfman Professor at Brandeis University. He is currently Visiting Professor in Education and Social Sciences at The Bergische University, Wuppertal, Germany. He is the author of a number of books, including Social Theory in Education (Peter Lang, 2008). Yotam Hotam is Assistant Professor at the University of Haifa where he is also the head of the MA Program for the Study of Alternatives in Education. His publications include Modern Gnosis and Zionism: The Crisis of Culture, Life Philosophy and National Jewish Thought (2013) and Space Theodyssey: Science Fiction, Religiosity and Education in a Post-secular Age (2011).


Title: New Social Foundations for Education
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206 pages