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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


The Crisis of Public Schooling in a Postmodern Society: An Exploration of Solutions: School Choice or a More Far Reaching Alternative

Susan E. Hutchison.

Contemporary Western society is facing a crisis in public schooling. The strains, demands, and increased scrutiny indicate widespread dissatisfaction and a loss of public trust in the education system. Across Canada, school systems are experimenting with school choice as a reponse to public pressure. This paper explores tensions on public schooling by reflecting on larger themes in postmodern society and building a connection with the development of school choice. Historically, schools have always responded to societal pressures and conditions. Today's schools are gournded in the industrial world of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The philosophical underpinnings of school choice are presented and the potential effect on public schooling. As school choice is examined, the purpose of schooling becomes a complex issue of public education in the 21st century. What are the implications of this emerging postmodern paradigm? Finally, the paper concludes with a wider approach to reposition schools to address the challenges of the postmodern world.


Susan E. Hutchison  (Canada)
Junior School
Crofton House School

Susan Hutchison has been a classroom teacher, staff developer, parent educator, and school principal. Currently, she is Director of the Junior School at Crofton House School in Vancouver, Canada. Her interests include the history of education in Western society, the influence of parents on the education process, the changing role of educational leadership, and the culture of childhood in today's world. Recent studies and writing have focussed on the cirtical interplay between school organization and societal trends in the 21st century.

  • History of public schooling
  • Modern trends in school organization
  • Purpose of public schooling
  • Pressures of posmodern society
  • School choice
  • Six key issues of an interconnected alternative in response to societal
  • pressures:
  • 1.Define the purpose of schooling
  • 2.Connect with the outside world
  • 3.Be accountable
  • 4.Share leadership and decision making
  • 5.Develop strategies to engage the community
  • 6.Redesign the industrialized model of schooling
  • Concluding remarks

(60 min Workshop, English)