Engagement, or student engagement, is widely used in educational research and public discourse to refer to the problem of public education. The underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions buoying engagement are rarely, if ever, addressed by educational researchers. The ‘silent omission’ (Sidorkin 2014. “On the Theoretical Limits of Education.” In Making a Difference in Theory: The Theory Question in Education and the Education Question in Theory, edited by Julie Allan Gert Biesta and Richard Edwards, 121–137. New York: Routledge) of engagement’s metaphysics has implications for inclusive education. This paper finds that despite being employed with good intent, engagement operates in a paradigm of normativity. In a gesture of bifocality (Weis and Fine 2012. “Critical Bifocality and Circuits of Privilege: Expanding Critical Ethnographic Theory and Design.” Harvard Educational Review 82 (2): 173–201), I critique engagement discourse and its historical context to find that it reproduces a longstanding tradition of psychologisingpublic problems (Fine and Cross 2015Fine, Michelle, and William Cross. 2015. “Critical Race, Psychology and Social Policy: Refusing Damage, Cataloguing Oppression, and Documenting Desire.” InContextualizing the Costs of Racism, edited by A. Alvarezand H. Neville, 273–294. Washington, DC: APA Publications.. “Critical Race, Psychology and Social Policy: Refusing Damage, Cataloguing Oppression, and Documenting Desire.” In Contextualizing the Costs of Racism, edited by A. Alvarez and H. Neville. Washington, DC: APA Publications), thereby displacing conversations about what may be the most influential issue of public education: social and economic inequality. A reframing of engagement as [student/teacher] engagement is proposed. Highlighted in the reframing is the educational relationship and the context in which it is nested. Mitigated is the pathologising and exclusionary effect of engagement discourse which operates within a dialectic of normal/engaged // ab/normal/disengaged.
SOURCE: Daniel Vallee, “Student engagement and inclusive education: reframing student engagement”, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Published online 01 Mar 2017
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