Panel C.04 — For social justice? Critical perspectives on discourses of diversity and professionalism in education

Convenors Katerina Cidlinska (Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic); Blanka Nyklova (Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences); Johanna Maria Pangritz (Philosophical Faculty, University of Hradec Králové)

Keywords social in/justice, education, diversity discourses and policies, professionalism, instrumentalism


There are various expectations from education in democratic societies stemming from different epistemological and political positions. On the one hand, the humanistic perspective frames education as liberation of spirit and a precondition for critical thinking, on the other, more pragmatic needs of the labour market are foregrounded. These positions are not irreconcilable as they hope for positive developments: of individuals and subsequently society leading to a bright future of a prospering society without abysmal inequalities, poverty and violence. At the same time, we have witnessed a long-standing critical discussion about education as it strives to fulfil this ideal. Critics centre on gender, race and class related inequalities in education as they analyse curricula content and educational institutions cultures. In this context, lack of critical perspective and representatives of minorities in curricula and homogeneity of the teaching staff, the stereotypes they hold and lack of role models for heterogenous group of students are discussed (Martino, 2008, Pinel, Warner, Chua, 2005).

Similarly, as there are various expectations from education, there are also various opinions on how to tackle the mentioned failures of education. In terms of educational culture, for example, there are various approaches to diversity policies (Appelbaum, 2002, Banks, 2015). Regarding the curriculum, the discussion takes place around the specific knowledge and skills needed for success in particular professions, at the labour market and in the world in general (Booth, Masterton, Potts, Swann, 2013). However, even if the particular strategies are framed by efforts to increase social justice, they may also contribute to preserving the status quo. A case in point are efforts for greater gender diversity of primary school teachers justified by concerns for alleged harmful impact of feminization of education on boys, and potential changes to the gender order. Similarly, when disciplines focused on fighting social injustice, e.g., social work, accentuate the need for professionalism in dealing with impact of social injustice, such efforts may side-line the topic of elimination of the causes of the injustice. Another related example is that of disciplines addressing socially conditioned violence, e.g., psychology, when they disregard the conditioning and rather focus on instrumental training in how to communicate with victims.

In this panel, we seek empirical and theoretical contributions that focus on ways in which instrumentalization and professionalization of education in disciplines concerned with fighting social injustice (including but not limited to social work; psychology; psychiatry; pedagogy; gender studies; law) defeats the purpose of such education. We are also interested in abstracts aimed at examples of problematic approaches to diversity policies and in abstracts showcasing how to bypass the above failures of education for social justice.


Guidelines and abstracts submission