Competitive Opportunity and Liberal Culture: The Significance of Scottish Education in the Twentieth Century

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Three of the great social ambitions of educational reform since the late-nineteenth century are now seriously problematical. Although education does offer individuals a way of bettering themselves, we now know that it does little to change the terms of the competition among people who start from different social classes: it probably does not, by itself, affect relative social mobility. Education in advanced economies has little effect on overall rates of growth: it is now clear that the analogy between individual and economic development is untenable. And the main other option to these instrumental goals – that education should pass on the best that has been thought and said – is now deeply unfashionable with policy makers, radical activists and most shades of academic opinion. Scotland is a telling case of these shifts. In the past century, it has held quite firmly to all three older views, and has tried quite thoroughly to implement educational reforms in pursuit of them. Its experience is as good a demonstration as any that the first two ambitions – of social mobility and of economic development – cannot be realised by educational change alone. The country is also moving deliberately away from the third ambition, its old humanism of knowledge. The implications of this experience and these developments are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Early online date9 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Educational expansion
  • Social Mobility
  • Economic development
  • Civic values
  • Liberal education


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