Reconsidering school politics: Educational controversies in Sweden

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School politics in Sweden has recently moved in a conservative direction, emphasising the importance of conventional school subjects, stronger teacher authority and more discipline in the classroom. At the same time, consensus on the utility of such measures is lacking in the school debate. The conservative approach is often criticised as misleading and behind the times in relation to contemporary knowledge demands. This article examines and discusses the relevance of this critique. The main argument is that the conservative approach has a better matching with a previous phase in the history of Swedish school politics and that conventional schooling is difficult to combine with two of the major goals of schooling today – the diffusion of democracy and multipurpose skills. From this perspective, the political notion of schooling seems decoupled from the broader domain of public demands on education. To alleviate this problem school politics should draw less on the pedagogical ideas of essentialism and more on the historical legacy of progressivism in the Swedish education system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-21
JournalThe Curriculum Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • Sweden
  • school politics
  • multipurpose skills citizenship education
  • progressivism
  • essentialism
  • school–society nexus


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