The politics of careers education and guidance: a case for scrutiny
Much attention has been given by researchers and curriculum developers to the formulation of appropriate aims for careers education. Further work has focused on research into models for criteria for evaluation purposes. Both types of work imply an assumption that curriculum development and evaluation are in significant measure rational endeavours, guided by research and theorising. This assumption is not untypical in the curriculum planning field, where models for curriculum change have been elaborated and justified at length on the basis of philosophical, psychological, sociological and pedagogical arguments. Such approaches have been criticised by sociologists of education who, approaching from a variety of theoretical backgrounds, have argued the importance of viewing curricula as developed through conflict and shaped by social structures and social movements (for example Young, 1971; Goodson, 1983; Cooper, 1984; Whitty, 1987). The central purpose of this chapter is to introduce the latter perspectives into the study of definitions of careers education, drawing evidence from a socio-historical case study of policy-making and implementation. The processes of defining the subject were, it will be argued, highly conflictual, and shaped by social and political factors. Debates about the subject were not free-floating but nested in 'micro', 'meso' and, ultimately, 'macro' social and political structures which shaped the terms and outcomes of discussion. The chapter demonstrates the need to examine such structures in order to understand and intervene effectively in the development of careers education and guidance.