What is it about?

This essay argues that, in the cultural process of education, young people neither internalize the culture of their ancestors nor are they molded by their parents and teachers. They interpret and redefine it for their own generation and the next.

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Why is it important?

Integrating theoretical and observational studies from a wide variety of cultural and historical contexts, the essay offers an account of education as an open-ended process at the interface between culture and individual development.


I found the strengths and limitations of the very varied studies that make up this collection enriching and provocative. In particular I welcomed the introduction by Levinson of the concept of a particular group's "intimate culture" as a filter that mediates between the personal agency of the individual and the 'imperatives of family and school', and the analysis by Luykx of competing explanations of biculturation as a productive characteristic of teachers in a society where formal education is hegemonically informed by a culture alien to the indigenous population. I saw the collection as a pioneering contribution to a multi-disciplinary formulation of the educational interface between culture and individual development. To illustrate the complexity of that interface, I highlighted several features of my own longitudinal study of the significance of schooling in the life-journeys of a cohort boys and girls born into a subsistence agricutural community of Zambian society soon after political indepndence.

Professor Robert Serpell
University of Zambia

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This page is a summary of: The Struggle to Make Sense of School, Human Development, January 1997, Karger Publishers, DOI: 10.1159/000278742.
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