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28th Annual Research Forum: Research informing reform
University of Notre Dame, 1.00 pm to 6.00 pm, Saturday 10 August

Keynote presenter

Photo: Barry Down
Barry Down

'You can't be neutral on a moving train': Why critical educational research matters in 'dark times'

Professor Barry Down
City of Rockingham Chair in Education
Murdoch University

This presentation borrows the title of Howard Zinn's (2002) book 'You can't be neutral on a moving train' to provoke some difficult conversations about the crisis of education with a view to advancing the centrality of critical educational research in 'dark times' (Arendt, 1968). The intent is, firstly, to identify how schools and those who inhabit them are increasingly 'caught in the crossfire' (Grossberg, 2005) of a regime of hyper-accountability, corporatisation and deficit ideologies (Ahlquist, Gorski & Montano, 2011) and how things came to be this way; secondly, to explore what it means to be a critical researcher in conservative times and what kinds of obstacles and possibilities exist; and thirdly, to identify some potential research issues worthy of critical investigation and how we might go about the task. At the end of the day, I hope we are better placed to start some purposeful conversations around the question: 'Has our research done anything to level the playing field, to overcome disparity, to promote a more mutually beneficial democratic society?' (Shields, 2012, p. 12).

Ahlquist, R., Gorski, P. & Montaño, T. (Eds.) (2011). Assault on kids: How hyper-accountability, corporatization, deficit ideology, and Ruby Payne are destroying our schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Arendt, Hannah. (1968). Men in dark times. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.
Grossberg, Lawrence (2005). Caught in the crossfire: Kids, politics, and America's future. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.
Shields, Carolyn M. (2012). Transformative leadership in education: Equitable change in an uncertain and complex world. London: Routledge.
Zinn, Howard (2002). You can't be neutral on a moving train: A personal history of our times. Boston: Beacon Press.

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