Today we take a critical look at numbers. Think about it: numbers are everywhere in education, from grades to impact scores to rankings.

Many universities worldwide hope to internationalize and push faculty to produce knowledge across disciplines. That’s easier said than done.

My guest today, Angela Last, looks at these university fads and finds difficult ethical dilemmas that scholars must overcome.

Angela Last is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Leicester. Angela is an interdisciplinary researcher in the field of political ecology, drawing on her background in art & design and science communication to investigate environmental controversies and geographical knowledge production. She has been writing the blog Mutable Matter since 2007.

The chapter discussed in today’s podcast was published in Decolonizing the University (2018, Pluto Press).

Citation: Last, Angela, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 130, podcast audio, October 15, 2018.

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I’m going to generalize here. I bet for many listeners schooling is understood as an institution that instills in children a type of practical knowledge that hopefully makes them future productive citizens. Education through schooling is the answer to many social problems. It’s very purpose is to improve society.

But where did these ideas come from? Why do many people think schooling is to improve society? What knowledge and systems of reason govern this type of thinking about education?

My guest today, Professor Tom Popkewitz, dives deep into these questions. Tom joined me to talk about some of his newest thinking, which he is currently writing up as a book tentatively entitled, The Impracticality of Practical Research: A History of Present Educational Sciences and the Limits of its System of Reason.

Get ready: My conversation with Tom covers a lot of ground: touching on the notion of cosmopolitanism, connecting the Enlightenments in the 18th and 19th centuries to the 20th century progressive education era in America, and finally to contemporary teacher education and the rise of PISA.

He challenges us to think about what it means to compare in educational sciences today. Where did such comparative thinking come from and how does it primarily work?

Tom Popkewitz is a professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This year the Comparative and International Education Society’s Globalization and Education Book Award goes to Suhanthie Motha for her book Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching: Creating Responsible and Ethical Anti-Racist Practice.

This book smoothly and bitingly makes connections between globalization, the spread of English and English language teaching, and colonialism and empire. It is an accessible read which we hope spreads widely among both academics and teachers/practitioners. Sincerely, we hope as many people as possible, both within the larger TESOL community and beyond it, have a chance to read this excellent book.