Listen to episodes featuring Frances Vavrus

Schooling as Uncertainty

The Comparative Case Study Approach

FreshEd in the Classroom

by Frances Vavrus
Professor of Comparative and International Development Education
University of Minnesota, USA

I have been teaching courses on comparative education at the master’s and doctoral levels for more than two decades. When I look back at my syllabi, one of the most striking changes has been the incorporation of FreshEd episodes to help students engage more fully with timely discussions and debates in the broader field of education. Although there are more than ten episodes that I have used recently in my classes, I have selected three of them to recommend because of the way they complicate dominant educational narratives and/or personify topics that can seem quite abstract.

An episode that serves these dual purposes is the interview with David Harvey (A Marxist Critique of Higher Education), whose account of his burgeoning class consciousness as a doctoral student in the 1960s provides insight into how such observations can influence the problems scholars take up in their research for years to come. This interview also addresses contemporary concerns of many graduate students, for instance, student debt and the pressure to publish, and how a Marxist analysis of these matters can be intellectually productive.

A second episode that works well in comparative education courses is entitled Altered States of Education with Gita Steiner-Khamsi. It can be viewed as the 2019 sequel to the 2016 interview with her on educational privatization, with this more recent episode tracing the development of research on this topic, especially the way that foundations have moved from providing funding to advising on policy. As Steiner-Khamsi aptly notes, “they don’t want just to give money, they want to disrupt.”

Finally, there are several excellent episodes about refugee education that refute common misperceptions about refugees, such as the 2016 interview with Mary Mendenhall, Garnett Russell, and Elizabeth Buckner on Urban Refugees and Education. This episode helps to counter the view that most refugees worldwide are arriving in Europe or the US, or are living in rural camps when, in fact, urban refugees in the global South are a large percentage of people on the move today. In future classes, I look forward to incorporating the 2022 episode with Sarah Dryden-Peterson about her new book on refugee teachers and students (Right Where We Belong). This important text with the same FreshEd interview title is both a personal and professional retrospective based on two decades of work on this issue, and I imagine it will have great appeal to students in comparative and international education.

October 1, 2022