NJCIE 2018, Vol. 2(2–3), 7–24


Educating and Leading for World Citizenship: Through Technocratic Homogenisation or Communicative Diversity


This paper analyses and discusses dominant discourses of contemporary governance from state and local authorities, leadership in organisations, and education for World Citizenship in the Nordic countries (Moos, Nihlfors, & Paulsen, 2016a).

The constant foundation and context for this discussion are for what purpose and how societies choose to educate the next generation, so that the next generation is capable of taking over society when their time comes, specifically as related to work, culture, civil society, politics and families. Over the past generation or so, the horizon for this educational task has extended from local and national level to include transnational and global levels. Due to economic, political and cultural developments, governments need to find ways of interacting and collaborating with people, agencies and nations, other than their own. Although there are political tendencies towards isolationism, this is, I am certain, a superficial phenomenon that will not hinder the general internalisation.

While many perspectives on this topic exist, I shall focus on two, distinctively different discourses. The first discourse is from a civilisation or outcome perspective and has many proponents, like the OECD, WTO and UNESCO. The core logic is based in the economics of the marketplace: consumers’ choice, competition, commodification and management, and governance. The other discourse has a cultural perspective: cosmopolitanism describes the interest in relating to, knowing and opening up to other cultures, norms and people on their own terms. This discourse is concerned with language, relations and meaning (Kemp, 2003, p. 65).

In education, a particular focus is on the battle between two very different discourses in contemporary educational policy and practice: an outcome- and standards-based learning discourse, the global learner discourse, and a general education/democratic Bildung based discourse and thus the citizen of the world discourse.

discourse is, in this paper, understood as a way of arguing and structuring the world, often by a specific societal or scholarly community. Such argumentation is based on a set of moral and ethical values or norms that are often not made explicit by the members of the community and the analyses try to uncover such values (Foucault, 1972, p. 200; Moos & Krejsler, 2006).

The strategy, guiding the analyses and interpretations in this paper is a “diagnosis of the times” or social-analytics: identifying empirical signs of change, interpreting the signs as indicators of a tendency showing a pattern or a direction or a discourse. The objective of this diagnosis of the times is to elucidate indications in times (tendencies) of transformation in the field of possibility for the times (conditions) (Hammershøj, 2017, p. 23).

The discussion in this paper is structured along the following lines (see figure 1):

Title: Two discourses: The global learner and the citizen of the world - Description: Four circles. 1. Context: Civilisation and culture 2. Themes: Basic skills and key problems 3. Processes: Measures and communication relations 4. Visions: Aims and purposes All circles connect in the middle: Leadership: Monitoring outcome and sensemaking
Figure 1. Two discourses. Source: author.

The contexts of educational discourses, meaning the societal, political and theoretical connections and coherence in which the discussions are embedded, and the perspectives used, be they educational, economic or rooted in governance.

The educational visions describe and discuss the purposes of education and thus the vision of the educated subject, the democratic citizen and the world citizen.

The educational themes discuss the content of education, which is rooted in social and personal challenges that education must encompass and intend to contribute to meeting the visions.

In the educational processes, I discuss the school’s contributions to meet the visions, the how-to of education and schooling.

In the section on leadership, I discuss organising in the ways the school is organised and how leadership is conceived, both in theory and practice.

The contexts of educational discourse

At the discourse context level, the level of developing and discussing discourses:

The vision level is concerned with explicit and implicit expressions of the purposes/goals/aims of education: What is education aiming for; what capabilities or competences should the next generation develop in education and schools?

Visions and context: Discourses on education

Two dominant, competing discourses (ways in which we can legitimately verbalise or talk about social phenomenon like education) are presently seen in many Nordic countries, and most certainly in Denmark (Moos, 2016; Moos & Wubbels, 2018). One discourse emerged mainly from the welfare-state model, a political post World War 2 vision, and is referred to as the democratic Bildung discourse. Based on works of Wolfgang Klafki (2001), one can name this understanding of general and comprehensive education for democratic Bildung because the intention is to position children in the world, in democratic communities and societies, in ways that make them competent in understanding and deliberating with other people and cultures. Klafki sums up the discussion in these three points: General education must be an education for everybody to self-determination capabilities, participation capabilities and solidarity capabilities. It is a critical rethinking of the general—for everybody—and of the demand on education to develop all human capabilities (Klafki, 1983/2007, p. 40).

The other discourse is emerging in the so-called competitive state (Pedersen, 2011), a vision that evolved in the 1980’s, which I call the “outcome discourse” (Moos, 2017a) because the fundamental outcomes of education in this discourse are the students’ measurable learning outcomes. In discussions on education in this discourse, there is a tendency for the homogenisation of educational practices.

Over the past several decades, I have seen how international competition in the global marketplace has brought a focus on measuring student outcomes. Thus, education primarily seemed intended to provide a good position for the country and the individuals in it in the global race as constructed by international comparisons such as PISA from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) in the OECD. In order for an educational system to be competitive, education needs to “produce” students with high levels of attainment outcomes. Therefore, in the outcome discourse, education is constructed along management-by-objective lines. The government draws up the aims and measures the outcomes, while schools, teachers and students need to learn to correctly answer test questions.

The vision of education for the competitive state is built on a set of core theories: management by objectives and outcome-based accountability. Proponents of this discourse often refer to parallel theories like scientific management and the scientific curriculum as core theoretical bases (Blossing, Imsen & Moos, 2013). Proponents of these theories are fundamentally concerned with centralising power. Also, the scientific curriculum hides the power to decide on the purpose, content, relations and methods of education behind the pretexts of expertise and value-free decisions.

Both the democratic Bildung discourse and the outcome discourse build on a set of core logic and core purposes that are inseparable and partly incommensurable. The traditional governance discourse, that is, the welfare model, advocates for democratic equity, deliberation and participation in society and its institutions, while the competitive discourse builds on central management, that is, managing by objectives and hierarchies. The welfare educational discourse builds on individual authority and democratic participation and deliberation for democratic Bildung, while the competitive discourse builds on acquiring basic skills for employability.

I hold that the competitive- and outcome-orientated discourse and associated practices are subject to more nationally imposed social technologies than I have ever seen before in the history of education and educational theory (Moos, Nihlfors & Paulsen, 2016a). Social technologies can be seen as silent carriers of power. They are made for a purpose—often hidden from the practitioners—and they specify ways of acting. Therefore, they point to a non-deliberative practice steered and managed top-down (Dean, 1999, p. 31). The PISA comparison has been imported into the European space as an important means of governing education (Moos et al., 2016a; Wilkoszewski & Sundby, 2014).

Both the OECD and the European Commission (EC) are working with the global trends to develop a new model of and discourse for governance of education. The central theme is that policymakers and practitioners should build on quantitative sciences, rather than traditional, qualitative science of educational philosophy. These processes are called “the numerical study of social facts” and are the foundation for the emergence of “governing by numbers” (Nóvoa, 2013). Stephen Ball argues that he sees a shift of perception of social relations as belonging to the sphere of things and production life and thus to the market logic instead of to the social life:

The concept discusses social relations conducted as and in the form of relations between commodities or things. … In fetishizing commodities, we are denying the primacy of human relationships in the production of value, in effect erasing the social (Ball, 2004, p. 4).

Over the past century, this development has been the background for the emergence of a new group of experts in the educational field: experts in statistics and psychometrics. Politicians and policymakers are particularly interested in their work, as numbers are considered the best and cheapest foundation for political and governance decisions. This trend is often called an evidence-based policy.

PISA is more governance focused than is usually acknowledged (Lawn & Grek, 2012). This should, however, be no surprise, as the OECD is one of the originators and proponents of the neo-liberal, new public management system of thinking and governance (OECD, 1995). Measuring outcomes, and in particular outcomes along one global set of criteria, is a very powerful technology of soft governance—governance that is not prescriptive, only advisory (Lange & Alexiadou, 2007; Normand, 2016). As time goes by, politicians, policymakers and professionals become accustomed to thinking that such measurements are the “new normal.” As has already happened in so many ministries and local administrations, I see a homogenisation of views on education, on the dominant discourses of education. This tendency carries the potential for a new, global view and practice of education that, however, may also be neglecting national and local politics, culture, worldviews and education.

The homogenisation move

One global effect of transnational collaboration is the trend towards neo-liberal marketplace politics in public governance (with a focus on decentralisation, output, competition and strong leadership), as well as accountability politics (with a focus on recentralisation, centrally-imposed standards and quality criteria and on governing by numbers). The move towards a global, neo-liberal market-place, is built on the four freedoms (the free movement of goodscapitalservices and labour) (Lecarte, 2017). Education is seen as a service and thus subject to no market restrictions (WTO, 2017). This trend is known as neo-liberal New Public Management (NPM) (Hood, 1991; Hopman, 2008; Moos, 2007, 2011b).

CERI is a powerful player in the global restructuring of nation-states’ education (Henry, Lindgard, Rizvi, & Raylor, 2001). The influence of CERI grew when education services were included in the areas of free trade, thus transforming education into services and business (Moos, 2006a; Pitman, 2008). The agency constructs, together with other agencies, global learning standards and measurements like PISA. It contains sets of competences and numerous packages of so-called evidence-based programs and best practices. These are soft governance and thus preconditions for treating education and learning as commodities. The main influence comes from the OECD that sets the agenda (Schuller, 2006), within the whole organisation—for example, international comparisons such as the PISA and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). This strategy is explicated in the OECD publication Education Catalogue (OECD, 1998) as the strategy of “peer pressure” that “encourages countries to be transparent, to accept explanations and justification, and to become self-critical” (OECD, 1998 p. 2).

The PISA comparison is a peer pressure technology that builds on a set of common standards and measurements over the whole of the association, all 90 participating educational systems or countries (OECD, 2017).

Hence, the discourses and the attached social technologies are important factors in the homogenisation of education all over the globe. This tendency has reached a stage where big multinationals are interested in the education market. The Merrill Lynch-Bank of America estimated that the global educational market is worth $ 4.3 Trillion. Consultancies, like Pearson, Price Waterhouse Cooper and McKinsey, and philanthropically oriented foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, have become very active in developing and spreading educational and governance packages to the whole world, through philanthropy or sales (Ball, 2012, 2015, Gunter & Mills, 2017; Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016). These institutions are pivotal actors and agents of a global homogenisation, making education a similar commodity also by digitalising the programs: harvesting and managing big data through algorithms in mega-big databases from global tests and learning programs (Williamson, 2016) all over the world and hence supporting downgrading the importance of national and local cultures.

The second discourse: ’Global education’ is built on national and local aspects of culture.

Global education: Participation and deliberation

Ideas of the cosmopolitan citizen have very long roots. Greek philosophers formed the ideas before Christ, but they were not taken up again until the Era of Enlightenment where Emmanuel Kant and others (Kemp, 2003) formed ideas that could legitimise all peoples’ right to visit other people around the world. After a period where most people focused on national identities, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Ulrich Beck (1986) analysed the new situation. General societal, scientific and technical developments had produced a situation where people were more dangerous to the human species than nature itself: We were able to produce means of world-wide-destruction, so the dangers of nature would be substituted by the risks of man-made civilisation. It became obvious that those risks were not confined to countries, but were indeed transnational: Environmental pollutions, climate changes, nuclear power, and so on, are risks that can only—if at all—be handled in collaboration. Thus, we need to, says Beck (2008), to find ways to communicate and collaborate with people across our borders.

For students to become competent to function in such a globalised world, they should be taught how a democratic society functions at a structural level, that is, acquiring knowledge about one’s own parliament, about the government, the juridical system, and police. They themselves should experience and live a democratic life: “A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience” (Dewey, 1916/2005, p. 87). This is particularly important in relations at school. This means that not all methods of teaching and types of teacher behaviour are appropriate or acceptable. World citizenship education thus needs to build on forms of Democratic Bildung in order to capture the cultural understanding and acknowledgement of the other (Kemp, 2011; Moos, 2017b). It should include a global worldview and the idea of a global community in education, and not build the education of a global civilisation based only on the standards and measurements of PISA. Democratic education is described by Gert Biesta as “creating opportunities for action, for being a subject both in schools and other educational institutions, and in society as a whole” (2003, p. 59). Besides the opportunity for action or participation, the most important concepts related to democracy are critique and diversity because they give a more precise direction to the concept of participatory and deliberative democracy.

The theoretical or philosophical background for this paper (Moos, 2006b, 2006c, 2008, 2013) is a basic understanding of democracy and communication, the communicative rationale developed by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. In his theory of universal pragmatism, communication is seen as being legitimised if it strives for “the strange unconstrained force of better argument” (Habermas, 1996, p. 306) and Dewey’s (1916/2005) pragmatic understanding of learning and communication. This implies that communicators aim for mutual understanding and empathy with a minimum of domination in what will always be, in bureaucratic organisations, asymmetric relations. The potential for rationality in communication is inherent in communication itself. Thus, communicative rationality refers primarily to the use of knowledge in language and action, rather than to a property of knowledge.

In order for an argument to work as a better argument, it must build on a thorough knowledge of the content at hand and of the culture of all partners in communication, both one’s own and that of the other. Building on this line of argumentation, general education should strive to further students’ capacity for deliberation and the better argument as one major aspect of a world citizenship education.

If we change the perspective from micro- to a macro-sociology perspective and to policies concerning societies and states, we may be able to shed some light on the micro-sociological analyses. The intention behind doing so is to try to develop links between the trends and intentions in democracies at a societal level and the discussion of how leaders and teachers, the professionals in schools, can build the practices in schools in ways that are supportive for the students’ Democratic Bildung.


The themes are concerned with the content of education

The process level is the level of learning, teaching, organising and leading education. This level encompasses both learning and teaching in classrooms and organising and leading schools as well as governance of organisations and local authorities like the municipal superintendency.

Processes: Themes and content in teaching and learning processes

Over the past two or three decades, I have seen how international competition in the global marketplace has brought a focus on measuring student outcomes. Thus, education politics are primarily concerned with providing a good position for the country in the global race as constructed by international comparisons such as PISA. In order for an educational system to be competitive, education needs to produce students with high levels of attainment outcomes. Therefore, in the outcome discourse, education is constructed along management-by-objective lines: The government draws up the aims and measures the outcomes, while schools, teachers and students need to learn to correctly answer test questions. Often, the curriculum developed in this situation has a scientific structure: experts know how to attain the politically prescribed ends and they describe every step for schools, teachers and students to be followed in detail. In this orientation, there is a focus on back to the basics and back to the skills because these are easily measured.

The vision of education for the competitive state is built on a set of core theories: management by objectives and outcome-based accountability. Proponents of this discourse often refer to parallel theories like scientific management and the scientific curriculum as core theoretical bases (Blossing, Imsen, & Moos, 2013; Moos, Nihlfors, & Paulsen, 2016b). These theories are fundamentally concerned with centralising the power. Also, the scientific curriculum hides who has the power to decide on the purpose, content, relations and methods of education behind the pretexts of expertise and value-free decisions.

The Danish school reform from 2014 focuses on national standards and test and on basic skills (Undervisningsministeriet, 2015a) and also focuses on learning, instead of teaching. In guidelines issued in connection to the reform, there is no mention of teachers and teaching, only on pupils and learning. This focus is relevant because the purpose of schooling is to assist and guide pupils to learn and acquire competences and knowledge (Undervisningsministeriet, 2014). However, by not mentioning teaching and teachers, one misses two very important facilitators of learning: the work of and the inspiration and leadership provided by teachers and the content of learning (Undervisningsministeriet, 2016).

An analysis of education and student learning, (Moos et al., 2016a) with reference to Rømer, Tanggaard and Brinkmann (2011), distinguishes between pure education, found in evidence-based and best practices, for example, and impure education, described as follows:

The impure education is an education where methods of education cannot be separated from the content and the anchorage in cultural, ethical and political processes (Rømer et. al., 2011, p. 7).

The proponents of impure education hold that one cannot separate the learning processes from the content, the object of learning. However, the separation of content from form is very common in contemporary educational policies, where learning has become the individual student’s endeavour to lead and monitor her/his own learning processes. This is often labelled meta-learning: learning to learn, which may be supported through various methods of cognitive empowerment. In this understanding, students do not need a teacher or learning material, such as textbooks. They need to acquire only a set of cognitive learning strategies.

Theory about education for world citizens needs to look at the contemporary societal and cultural challenges (culture, languages and history), to find relevant themes that pupils need to understand. Although these broad tendencies are political, economic and governmental by nature, we need to remember that behind all of these forces we find people and civilisations as well as cultures, and thus we need to reconsider education to include global thinking and cooperation. We, therefore, should listen to Wolfgang Klafki and Peter Kemp (2011). In connection to his theory of the exemplary principle in didactics, Klafki (2001, p. 74) writes about the need to include “key-problems typical of the period” like peace, environment, social inequalities, need for new qualifications on the labour market and individual people’s relations to other people. These key-problems are civilisational and pivotal transnational challenges of which students in our schools must acquire knowledge.

Democratic diversity

However, theories such as those of Dewey’s (Brinkmann, 2011; Dewey, 1929/1960) hold that learning is not exclusively an academic, cognitive practice, but it is also about establishing habits through non-verbal signals and concrete manipulations with real objects and people. Dewey’s pragmatic theory of communication and learning holds that learning and experiences are communication and sense-making processes (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005), where meanings are produced jointly through interaction and participation (Dewey, 1916/2005, p. 30). We learn in the interplay between student, teacher and content. Here, both academic, personal, and social learning take place because all parties try to make sense of the information, the situation and the relations. Here, students also form their social and personal identities, as aspiring members of the learning community of practice (Wenger, 1999).

Gert Biesta (2009) gives a broader understanding of what schools need to focus on in arguing that schools should concern themselves with three interlocking functions of education when striving for a Democratic Bildung: students’ qualification, socialisation and subjectification. When focusing on qualification, schools emphasise the students’ need for acquiring knowledge, skills and judgement thus enabling them to act in diverse worlds, be it the working, private, cultural or political one. When socialising pupils, they are enabled to become members of communities of many kinds with specific values, norms and behaviours. Qualification and socialisation are pivotal in education as they enable students to enter into societies as we know them. In addition, it is important to acknowledge each and every, unique student as they subjectify, thereby becoming unique subjects, who acknowledge themselves and who are competent in questioning the society’s order of knowledge and community, and who can and should be both critical and creative in respect to the “givens” of civilisation.

When schools want to assist pupils to find themselves as unique subjects, they need to distinguish between diverse forms of education. The Norwegian philosopher Jon Hellesnes (1976) formulated a differentiation between conditioning or affirmative and liberal or non-affirmative education (Uljens & Ylimaki, 2015) as two forms of socialisation:

Affirmative education reduces humans to objects for political processes which they do not recognise as political; a conditioned human being is thus more an object for direction and control than a thinking and acting subject. Non-affirmative education means that people are socialised in such a way that they understand the problem complexes pertaining to the preconditions of what occurs around them and with them. Educational socialisation thus emancipates humans to be political actors. (Fedotova 2014; Hellesnes 1976).

The theories of Bean and Apple (1999), Bernstein (2000), Biesta (2011) and Dewey (1916/2005) demand that it is pivotal to give students voice, which is seen as the opportunity for deliberations in schools. This builds on a notion of a deliberative democracy that attempts to build a connection between liberal and communitarian democracy (Louis, 2003). The basis for liberal democracy is described as a special form of governance, where the free individual is capable of choosing his- or herself, and where this individual pursues his or her own interests, taking care of his or her own life. Another dimension of this kind of democracy is the protection of the free individual, in receiving social rights, and in making social contracts. In other words, individuals are autonomous, even if they are part of a community and they have formed their opinions before entering and while participating in the community. They are not bound by shared values, but the majority votes are the preferred way of mediating opinions and reaching decisions:

A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder. (Dewey, 1916, p. 99)

Teachers and leaders are important actors in forming and adjusting education to become more inclusive and participatory as they have roles in forming and leading the school organisation, the organising of classroom and school practices and the education within it.

Organising and leadership

The leadership level is concerned with ways in which schools are organised and ways leadership of schools is seen in theory, politics and practice.

Leadership development in Denmark is a shared responsibility between the National Government (the association of municipalities), the Ministry of Education and the Agency for Modernisation in the Ministry of Finances in negotiations with leadership associations,and so on. The Ministry of Education issued in relation to the School Reform a policy paper (Undervisningsministeriet, 2015b). Seven themes were described that illuminate the ways the Ministry sees leadership of schools: 1) emphasis on leadership for effective learning in line with the national outcome standards, 2) production of leadership strategies for meeting the aims in a professional organisation, 3) leadership based on evidence and best practice in education, 4) leaders ensure competent teachers, 5) leadership facilitates professional collaboration with experts outside schools, 6) leadership develops well-being and commitment in order to build a professional organisation and 7) leaders should open up the school to the local community, finding new, valuable learning environments for pupils.

Aims and procedures are clearly described in line with the effective, outcome-based school policy. It is clear that schools need to implement national aims and standards, but they are not asked to interpret or translate them in accordance with local and school culture, values and norms. The policy is a principal-agent policy: The Parliament has decided on aims and standards, schools and teachers shall implement and be accountable for, mainly through national tests. A shift in negotiations of teachers working conditions from teacher unions and employees to individual school principals: Act 409 (Regeringen, 2013) has caused leadership conditions that reflect OECD top-down recommendations. This has meant a major shift in leadership conditions, to a situation, that is similar to OECD top-down recommendations from the Improving School Leadership Project (Pont, Nusche, & Moorman, 2008): lead a small business, manage resources, adapt teaching programmes, form a new culture of evaluation, assessment and monitoring and use data for improvement, but also develop new approaches to teaching and learning, collaborative teaching practice and raising achievement.

The Danish policy is not explicit on two important elements of school leadership: the school as an organisation and leadership as influence. Therefore, it is sensible to look for theories of organisation and leadership elsewhere.

Many theories are concerned with understanding and analysing organisations. Here, only one will be presented because this new institutional understanding is in line with the general understanding of governance, leadership and education in this paper: the core of all of them is communication and relations: “An organization is a network of intersubjectively shared meanings that are sustained through the development and use of a common language and everyday interactions” (Walsh & Ungson, 1991, cited in Weick, 1995, p. 38).

Agents negotiate membership in a community as they share the meanings of relationships and tasks in translating external expectations into internal understanding. Community and affiliations emerge in day-to-day interactions and communication.

The sense-making processes between school leaders and teachers are educationally pivotal because they can and should serve as models for the sense-making processes throughout the whole school. Sense-making takes place in many forms of communication, language, interaction and behaviour. Even if the sense-making focus on language has been at the forefront for some time, it should be supplemented. We need to focus more on what Weick (1988) describes as “enactment”: the notion that when people act, they bring structures and events into existence and put them into action, focusing more on the actions they want to take into a given situation. Therefore, deliberation is essential and at the core of this discourse (Uljens & Ylimaki, 2015).

The argument is similar to arguments about distributed leadership made by Spillane, Orlina and Woods (Spillane & Orlina, 2005; Woods, 2004). They write that the core of their concept of leadership is the notion that leadership does not lie in the actions of the leaders per se, but in the interactions between leaders and other agents (Foucault, 1983). Therefore, leadership is a relationship of influence between leaders and followers that takes place in situations (which may be described by their tools, routines and structures). Leadership is about interactions that influence and that influence other persons.

The basis for sense-making and for enactments is the life-world (Coburn, 2004) of each participating group and individual. Life-worlds differ because of differences in background, experience, position and interests. This means that the positions, training and prior experiences of school leaders matter.

Deliberative and participative opportunities for leader and teachers link and connect between the conditions of the teacher and the conditions and frameworks that schools and teachers give students, in order to develop democratic Bildung. This kind of Bildung is not only a matter of knowing about democracy, it is more a matter of acquiring democratic patterns of interpretation and democratic ways of life (Beane & Apple, 1999; Dewey, 1916/2005). Therefore, a democratic Bildung must include the possibility of testing those interpretations and ways of living in real life (Moos, 2011a).

Participants in organisations like schools are also members of other communities: families, friendships, cultural and political associations, and so forth. Each of them is forming the values and norms of its members; some may well be deeper than what schools can do. This will be the case in many families. Therefore, the aim of school leadership should be to reach ways of working and living together without harming each other but supporting each other. Karen Seashore Louis takes a productive perspective on this:

Many contemporary democratic theorists argue that the most essential element of democratic communities today is their ability to engage in civilized but semi-permanent disagreement. Articulating a humanist voice that calls for respecting and listening to all positions but then being able to move forward in the absence of consensus will be the critical skill that school leaders need to develop when the environment makes consensus impossible (Louis, 2003, p. 105).

Seashore Louis advocates the view that democratic communities cannot build on total consensus as that would entail loss of acknowledgement and respect for some values and norms. As most schools function as loosely coupled organisations (Weick, 1976), it would be sensible to argue that schools should strive for some kind of semi-permanent disagreement while moving forward in practical life.


The distinction between civilisation—that focuses on the labour market, governance, bureaucracies, state-planning, monitoring and accountability, and following a number of social technologies, and culture—that focus on traditions and language, arts, interaction and communication—runs as a thread through this paper. It does so because with it we are able to catch important differences in contemporary societies, global and local, and thus in educational politics and discourses. The distinction also elucidates differences between the global trend towards governance of education through homogenisation and technocracies that are chosen by actors like the OECD and collaboration of individuals, cultures and educational systems through communication and deliberation.

A fundamental difference between the discourses is the view of individual agents and agencies. The global governance trend insists on letting the school leaders, the political top, make all important decisions and the agents to implement them. This is an affirmative approach to education: individuals need to acquire knowledge and norms in civilisation in order to be able to do the job. The world citizen trend acknowledges some kind of top-down governance, but insists it must give room to manoeuvre and interpretation to individuals, so they can develop as critical and creative citizens, in a non-affirmative education.

Both discourses recommend diverse forms of influences like soft governance and social technologies. Often, they look similar on the surface: When the homogenisation discourse mentions self-governing as an appropriate and productive social technology that is basedon emphatic and close relations between leaders and employers. It gives employers some room to manoeuvre, but at the same time commit them to be accountable to the values and thinking patterns in the organisation (Dean, 1999). Taking this view on education for global collaboration, it will lead to a homogenisation of people from all over the world in one direction, the marketplace logic of values and norms. When the cultural discourse recommends a pragmatic approach (Dewey, 1916/2005) to education, learning and leadership based on communication, it builds on the conviction that this can give a non-affirmative education. It wants to assist students in getting accustomed to the world and its communities. At the same time, they should become capable of taking a critical and creative stance to both. This trend could lead to people being aware of the other individual and culture and being able to communicate and acknowledge them.

One aspect of both tendencies needs to be taken into account: How are the initiatives being legitimised, like in Dewey’s quest for democracy or in the neo-liberal demand of efficiency and effectiveness?


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