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Book Review: QUESTIONING THE CLASSROOM: Perspectives on Canadian Education

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QUESTIONING THE CLASSROOM
Perspectives on Canadian Education
By Dianne Gereluk, Christopher Martin, Trevor Norris and Bruce Maxwell 
Oxford University Press, 2016 ISBN: 978-0199010035


This book, co-written by four professors of Education from across Canada, asks pre-service teachers “to rationally construct and critically reflect upon the principles that inform their own conception of the nature and scope of educational practice.” (p. xiv)

It is organized around six questions:

  • Why should children be educated?
  • How should children be educated?
  • What should children learn?
  • Where should children learn?
  • Who should control education?
  • What are the nature and limits of teachers’ professional identity?

Each section provides an introduction to enduring issues within the domain of the organizing question, but does not present answers and, in fact, intends to provoke reflective thinking so that readers can develop their own informed and considered opinion which they can articulate and explain. Readers are encouraged to reconsider their own assumptions and to critique conventional wisdom and taken-for-granted positions in order to develop the disposition and abilities of a principled, fair and critically reflective educator.

In order to achieve these objectives, the authors believe that a problem-based approach to the philosophy of education should replace the traditional canonical approach. Thus, the text is sprinkled with case studies, problems and vignettes labelled “Pause for Thought.” Each chapter concludes with review questions that invite further reflection on key issues. The intention is not to convince the reader of anything but rather to help him or her “to see the complexity of issues that make teaching so incredibly wonderful, challenging, and at times, difficult to negotiate.” (p. xx)

This book is current, accessible and thought provoking. From a distinctly Canadian perspective, it examines such diverse issues as the commodification of knowledge, teaching controversial issues, the pros and cons of choice, place-based education, education for Canadian identity, residential schooling and traditional justice, parental rights and professional autonomy. Individual readers will find these sections informative and constructively provocative, but a class or study group format would greatly enrich the experience.

While this book was specifically written for pre-service teachers, I cannot imagine any educator, trustee, politician or parent who would not find it engaging, challenging and beneficial.

Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, December 2016