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Constellation Analysis

A Methodology for Comparing Syllabus Topics Across Educational Contexts


Bryan Cunningham

Jason Nicholls’ Constellation Analysis is an important contribution to studies in Comparative Education. From a deeply philosophical perspective (drawing in particular on the work of Hegel, Gadamer and Foucault), the author explores the ways in which topics in history education may be analysed and compared across international contexts. Utilising the Second World War as an «exemplar topic», the depiction of this crucial historical event in three countries, Japan, Sweden and England, is subjected to a highly novel form of interrogation. The book provides the reader not only with important insights into the nature of the books in use in classrooms across these contexts, but also into the educational – and indeed broad socio-political – environments beyond the classrooms.
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Chapter Six: Hermeneutic Readings of Past Masters II – Isolating and Approaching Educational Contexts through a Re- interpretation of the Brian Holmes / Edmund King Dialectic


[T]hinking does not need to conduct itself polemically…

G. W. F. Hegel, The Encyclopaedia Logic, 1991, p.35

In Chapter Four I introduced the hermeneutic synthesis as a philosophical basis for making comparisons. Essentially this synthesis was defined in the sense outlined by Hegel, posited as a step beyond thesis and anti-thesis, the antinomies of modernity and post-modernity thinking. I argued that Gadamer and especially Foucault were the logical extension of this way of thinking in the contemporary historical era. From the hermeneutic perspective the subject is understood as acting within the limits of a particular zone of de-subjugation, ‘the agent… in his existent sphere of liberty’.1 It is, moreover, this zone or sphere that defines the limits and the possibilities of critique; that is to say – the extent and potential of critical Spirit.

In Chapter Five we moved towards a series of more methodical considerations by re-interpreting the work of Bereday using Gadamer, in order to define the research horizon of the subject. Within an overall hermeneutic framework the emphasis was again placed on the definition of limits. What contexts are researchers in a position to investigate and what contexts are ‘out of bounds’? In practical terms the limits of the subject will be defined not only according to the research training received but also in relation to the researcher’s overseas experience and knowledge of foreign languages. This was understood to be especially the case for comparative researchers focusing on curricular subjects such...

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