cover of book

The Impracticality of Practical Research: A History of Contemporary Sciences of Change That Conserve
by Thomas S. Popkewitz
University of Michigan Press, 2020
Paper: 978-0-472-03774-2 | eISBN: 978-0-472-12642-2 | Cloth: 978-0-472-13173-0
Library of Congress Classification LB1028.25.U6P67 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 370.72


There is an alluring desire that research should lead us to find the practical knowledge that enables people to live a good life in a just and equitable society. This desire haunted the 19th century emergence of the social sciences as a discipline, then became more pronounced in the postwar mobilizations of research. Today that desire lives on in the international assessments of national schools and in the structure of professional education, both of which influence government modernization of schools and also provide for people’s well-being. American policy thus reflects research in which reforms are verified by “scientific, empirical evidences” about “what works” in experiments, and “will work” therefore in society.

The book explores the idea that practical and useful knowledge changes over time, and shows how this knowledge has been (re)visioned in contemporary research on educational reform, instructional improvement, and professionalization. The study of science draws on a range of social and cultural theories and historical studies to understand the politics of science, as well as scientific knowledge that is concerned with social and educational change. Research hopes to change social conditions to create a better life, and to shape people whose conduct embodies these valued characteristics—the good citizen, parent, or worker. Yet this hope continually articulates the dangers that threaten this future. Thomas Popkewitz explores how the research to correct social wrongs is paradoxically entangled with the inscription of differences that ultimately hamper the efforts to include.

Nearby on shelf for Theory and practice of education / Teaching (Principles and practice):