Volatile Knowing

Parents, Teachers, and the Censored Story of Accountability in America's Public Schools

By (author) Kaia Tollefson Foreword by Maxine Greene

Publication date:

28 January 2008

Length of book:

222 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739115596

Volatile Knowing refers to the potential for positive change that can result when parents and teachers talk with each other about the politics and policies of externally defined accountability mandates in education. This text tells the story of twelve teachers and parents who breached the unofficial but deeply inscribed home/school divide to discuss the current accountability-for-uniformity movement that has overtaken the nation's educational agenda at federal, state, and local levels. This kind of volatile knowing offers hope for progressively-minded citizens: that together, parents and teachers can ignite a new, child-centered movement for accountability and creativity in America's public schools.

Volatile Knowing is based on a qualitative case study of a particular group of parents and teachers who studied and discussed information about the accountability movement that is typically censored in mainstream media coverage. The themes that emerged in this study are presented through the lens of Foucault's analysis of the workings of modern power. By making the exercise of hierarchical power visible to readers, it is hoped that Volatile Knowing will prompt an expanding conversation and ongoing study of the ways in which the people's definitional authority in their schools and society can be both lost and found.
In our current educational world of ruthless individualism, Kaia Tollefson attempts to reassemble the pieces of a broken democracy by bringing parents and teachers together for some honest conversation about the children they share. What she finds above all is that parents and teachers are hungry for authentic dialogue. In the context of the generally shallow research on 'parent involvement,' this study stands out for its honesty and integrity.