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.