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American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies

2020 Conference Call for Proposals

From Instrumentality to Criticality:
A Call to Articulate

a “Language” of Ethical Engagement

For questions/inquiry regarding

2020 virtual conference, please email:


Without community, there is no liberation ... but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.                                                                              Audre Lorde

The American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies invites proposals for its 2020 Annual Conference, to be held in San Francisco, CA, Wednesday noon, April 15 –Friday noon, April 17, 2020, at the University of San Francisco.

The year 2021 will mark twenty years since AAACS’s organizational meeting in Seattle in 2001. As that milestone approaches, reflection on the role AAACS has played in advancing dialogues within the field seems appropriate. Into what kind of (inter)disciplinary community have we grown since 2001? What areas of shared ethical commitment have we identified against the backdrop of our broad theoretical diversity? How have the conversations AAACS was created to engender been enriched and complicated by international perspectives? What challenges have curriculum scholars faced as bodies operating in institutionalized spaces?

AAACS reaches its maturity as the United States and many other parts of the world face a resurgent, reactionary politics that promotes white nationalism, race baiting, and anti-immigrant detention and deportation policies that gut long-established human rights practices.  In what ways have we as a field responded to this political landscape? What targeted actions and arguments can our field offer in opposition to the establishment of pervasive surveillance regimes, data commodification and the broader degradation of the public sphere?

In response to these concerns, we call here for a language of ethical engagement. Drawing insight from philosophical traditions and inspiration from emerging theoretical frameworks, we invite a return to radically democratic pedagogy. The question Counts (1934) asked, Dare the schools build a new social order?, is still relevant today. We speak most effectively of our intentions within our own local school communities when we reflect upon: what normative and broadly compelling grounds can visions of a “new social order” be established?

Such a challenge raises many considerations. Should we as a field commit ourselves to revitalizing public education’s commitment to critical citizenship, a democratic construct that has yet to be fully realized? What are the implications of how we position, or don’t position, our scholarship? How does our language of instrumentality and criticality shape our discursive practices? Where are the languages of education? What might a language of ethical engagement look like in our educational practices and settings? How might it sound?

In sum, we are proposing that this spring we gather as a community to consider how, in clear view of our theoretical, geographical, and individual differences, we might together work toward an intellectual cohesion capable of supporting coordinated moves toward human liberation in schools.

As always, proposals that do not respond directly to this call are also welcomed.


Wednesday Noon, April 15 – Friday Noon, April 17, 2020 (PDT)

2020 Video-conference co-hosts:

School of Education, University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA, USA

National College of Education

National Louis University

Chicago, IL, USA