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Virtuous Educational Research

Conversations on Ethical Practice


Julian Stern

This is a book of conversations with researchers working across Europe, the USA and Africa. It aims to illuminate the lived reality of educational research on a wide variety of topics, including family life in rural South Africa, support for self-harming students in the UK, character development in the USA and Korea, educational leadership in the UK and China, philosophical analysis of education policy, and much more.
The book is for and about researchers and is built around a set of conversations with the author – a fellow researcher. Researchers work at the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding of the world, and frontiers can be dangerous places. How are the researchers’ personal qualities – virtues such as courage, honesty and kindness – tested and exemplified in their work? The conversations presented here explore the experience of research and ask what qualities are needed, or wished for, in order to successfully face its challenges. There are many books that include lists of what to do and what not to do when carrying out research. Here, in contrast, we find out what really happens and why – and what it takes to keep going.


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Part II. Starting the Conversation


Part II Starting the Conversation As a child, I was the quiet one, the one who listened carefully. Although I’m a little noisier now, I spent many years quietly listening, quietly reading, quietly watching the television. I was always busily in conversation – often enough, in my own head, arguing with characters in novels and (perhaps silently) debating social or political issues with the authors of books, with those on the television, and with family and friends. It might be that I was destined to study philosophy, in which, as I understood it, the essence of the discipline was itself thoughtful dialogue. I studied philosophy along- side social sciences, maintaining the sense of a conversation that included people who were not philosophers. (Even as a teenager, I realised how odd it would be to talk philosophically only with philosophers.) I continued as a student until, fed up with what I felt was studying for its own sake, I became a schoolteacher. At that point, I bumped up against one of life’s ‘stubborn particulars’ (Cherry 1995). The people I taught in school were not quite like me or the people I was brought up with. They had their own views and ways of life, and were not necessarily susceptible to a powerfully rational argument about what was right and what was wrong. Brought up widely read and determinedly liberal and tolerant (as delineated by the left-of-centre Guardian newspaper), I realised as an adult how intolerant I really was. Intolerant of those with...

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