Colin, I am interested in your work to understand caring in the context of gender and class, particularly in light of the ways caring has been essentialized as a "feminine" attribute in so much educational literature. As I consider your desire to expand narrow conceptions of excellence from the academic/cognitive to embrace affective, cultural, moral, and political domains, I find myself returning to the word "excellence." The word is used frequently in the field of education, but I am never sure what it means. It strikes me as a word that carries considerable rhetorical force and that is impossible to question precisely because it is not defined. By "academic excellence," I suppose I more or less understand people to mean that standards are high and young people learn what it is that schools set out to teach. What does excellence mean when it is invoked in relation to humans' affective, cultural, moral, and political lives? -S.T.
Susan, I'd like to grab some time with you to discuss notions and practices surrounding caring and how they shape and reproduce, and are shaped and reproduced by existing schooling philosophies and practices. For me, excellence equates with a striving for and celebration of the multiplicities of schooling that you advocate are necessary if the 'curriculum-as-lived' is to contain relevance to the lives of students for whom it is intended. Notions of excellence incorporating more than academics remain somewhat ineffable and intangible precisely because so much of our time is consumed with attaining the "measurable" goals of the 'curriculum-as-planned', as if this constitutes the complete mission of schooling. I quite agree that excellence conceived in this manner does not lend itself to codified norms,and indeed it would be dangerous to begin a process of doing so. The corollary of this danger, however, is that we choose to ignore completely issues that do not lend themselves to codifiable language. I'm ambivalent as to which is the more depressing situation. For me the task is to make the orientation to children's affective, cultural and moral lives somehow more tangible to pre-service and in-service teachers. I'm feeling optimistic today!! Tomorrow, I may not!!!