oa Journal of Education - New conservative or new radical: the case of Johan Muller



The work of Johan Muller has reached the stage where a coherent assessment can be made of its relevance and worth to the South African educational community. Some of his articles spanning the 1990s were collected and ordered in Reclaiming knowledge: social theory, curriculum and education policy, a text that theorized and critiqued the post apartheid reform process in terms of its backgrounding of explicit knowledge structures while at the same time building a theoretical model that would be useful in analysing contemporary developments in South African education. Muller located this within a broader critique of progressive education and radical social constructivism, pointing out the manner in which this project had an ironic and tragic tendency to reproduce inequality rather than address it within a South African context. It is a galling assessment for those actively attempting to redress the imbalances of South African education through principles and practices of Progressivism, the very naming of which brings forth all that is good and worthwhile in education. It is a dangerous one to make as well, for not only does it go against a powerful international community of educational academics, it also sets itself up as a critique of liberated governmental policy and practice in South Africa, all in the name of the same principle both hold so dear � social justice. Such a bold project deserves careful scrutiny and Elana Michelson offered one such attempt in her article On trust, desire and the sacred: a response to Johan Muller�s �Reclaiming Knowledge�. Her response, this article argues, misrepresents the project of Muller by characterising him as a conservative intellectual. This is a dangerous falsification given the realist critique it offers of recent educational reform processes and the engaged and systematic suggestions it makes for the project of social justice within South African Education.


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