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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Modernism, modernity and contemporality: conceptualizing the modern in Scotland’s modern studies
Author(s): Smith, Joseph
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Keywords: Modern Studies
Issue Date: 9-May-2024
Date Deposited: 10-May-2024
Citation: Smith J (2024) Modernism, modernity and contemporality: conceptualizing the modern in Scotland’s modern studies. <i>Journal of Curriculum Studies</i>, pp. 1-17.
Abstract: This paper offers an analysis of Modern Studies, a school subject unique to Scotland. First taught in the 1960s, Modern Studies was originally conceived as an option for students discontinuing their studies in history and geography. Since then, though, Modern Studies has carved a distinctive curricular niche and has become one of the most popular subjects in Scottish schools. Despite this popularity—or, perhaps, because of it—Modern Studies has not received the same critical analysis as other subjects in the school curriculum. The subject remains one defined by its content (political literacy, social issues, and international relations), rather than by its disciplinary or epistemic underpinnings. This paper uses Toulmin’s (1990) conception of modernity to analyse course documents and examination papers. This analysis suggests that Modern Studies was imbued from the start with three foundational assumptions. First, a positivist ontology that believes certainty about the social world is possible. Second, a belief that Weberian means-end rationality is the most appropriate approach to evaluating and making sense of social relations. Third, a telos which positions liberal capitalism as the inevitable end-state of human affairs. Modern Studies is, therefore, not just ‘modern’ but modernist. The paper explores and develops these critiques with reference to specific examination questions and concludes by proposing a programme for renewing and reinvigorating the subject in an age of epistemic uncertainty and global environmental crises.
DOI Link: 10.1080/00220272.2024.2345111
Rights: 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( 0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
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