Re: [xmca] article on social class

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Sun May 07 2006 - 08:11:43 PDT


The chapter you refer to has been published, in 2001 - I need to update my
website! The book, co-edited with Mark Tappan from Colby College, 'Cultural
and Critical Perspectives on Human Development,' was intended to bring
together strands from cultural psychology and critical theory (including
critical pedagogy) on the assumption that they have many things in common
but also that each can help fill gaps on the other. Societal inequities have
not typically been a focus of cultural psychology; equally, critical theory
has tended not to see children as active agents in their own development and
learning. (I discuss these points in the chapter.)

As for 'Changing Classes,' I think it was published a few years too soon!
When I was writing it No Child Left Behind had not appeared. But the
accountability reforms implemented by Michigan's governor were essentially
the same as NCLB, and in the book I trace links between this kind of
education reform and international changes in economic organization. The
latter were easy to see in Michigan, where one form of manufacturing -
automobile construction - had predominated for a century. But I think the
book puzzles people - it's a case study of a single school district tucked
away in a midwestern state, seemingly far from the action, and it's written
in my attempt at a creative non-fiction style, so there's no heavy
theorizing and the reader is invited to put all the pieces of the puzzle
together and draw their own conclusions, on the assumption that my position
as researcher was not a privileged one. The book is used in courses in some
good universities, but it has not sold well.


On 5/6/06 5:33 PM, "Steve Gabosch" <> wrote:

> I am glad Martin posted this. I have been following up on Martin's
> book, which I have just ordered from It has a "Look
> Inside This Book" feature, so take a peek.
> 02-3784616-7110406?%5Fencoding=UTF8
> Martin frames his analysis of education reform in what a quote from
> Jean Lave on the back cover describes as an ethnographic study, in
> terms of the impact of the "New Economy" on education policies in a
> Michigan area working class community and elementary school. Like
> the book by Jack Barnes I mention, he sees a major shift having taken
> place in the world economy in the early 1970's that has been playing
> out in the decades since.
> I also noticed while looking at Martin's web site he has a chapter
> online he wrote in a book he co-edited now in press that describes
> some of his thoughts on education theory. I just ran this off on my
> printer and will be looking it over. It is from the upcoming
> Cultural and Critical Perspectives on Human Development, Martin J.
> Packer & Mark B. Tappan (Eds.), Chapter 4, Changing Classes: Shifting
> the Trajectory of Development in School, by Martin Packer
> - Steve
> At 02:05 PM 5/6/2006 -0400, Martin Packer wrote:
>> Mike, I tried to explore this in:
>> Packer, M. (2001). Changing classes: School reform and the new economy. New
>> York: Cambridge University Press.
>> On 5/6/06 10:29 AM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:
>>> Thank you for putting the issue of class back before us, Steve.
>>> Contemporary confusions over the concept of class are sure evident in
>>> the review which I assume reflect the fuziness or unclarity in the books
>>> reviewed.
>>> Suppose you had one, accessible, book to recommend to xmca'ites about
>>> how to think about social class in the contemporary world, perhaps one that
>>> included people's relations to the means of production. What would you
>>> recommend?
>>> mike
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