Publication 5936

Fleury S. C. (1998) Social studies, trivial constructivism, and the politics of social knowledge. In: Larochelle M., Bednarz N. & Garrison J. (eds.) Constructivism and education. Cambridge University Press, New York NY: 156–172. Fulltext at
Excerpt: Constructivism is a postmodern theory of knowledge with the potential to transform educational theory. Its present popularity in science and mathematics education, however, is no assurance of its enduring influence on education in general or social studies in particular. One need only recall how Piaget’s work has been previously misunderstood and effectively misused to bolster narrow curricular ends (Egan, 1983). Constructivism could meet a similar fate in our contemporary educational and political climate. The historical tendency of educational psychology in the United States to decontextualize educational theories of their cultural and political basis could trivialize the profoundness of a constructivist theory of knowledge, especially for social studies education. This thesis is further strengthened by the significant and mutually supportive roles played by science and social studies education in supporting a positivist theory of objective realism as the basis of social knowledge. The significance of this analysis lies in the potential that constructivism has for revitalizing education for a democracy. The failure of social studies educators to seize this opportunity would be unfortunate.

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