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Diversity and the Failure of the Civilizing Project

Laura Luna Figueroa and Alfredo Gaete

Chapter 7 Ethnography and Education Policy. A Critical Analysis of Normalcy and Difference in Schools

Abstract In this chapter we show how the diversification of the school population in two Chilean public schools has turned into a crucial means for survival and an awkward problem at the same time. Coigue School and Alerce School, despite many contradictions between their discourses and their practices, seem to have embraced diversity as a value by making it the core of their educational projects. The ethnographies carried out in these two schools illustrate the deep discomfort caused by the presence of children who are “different” because of their nationalities, their cognitive abilities, their conduct or other aspects. They also make evident that another, older agenda, which we call the civilizing project, still prevails in school daily practice and resists against discourses on diversity. We argue that attempts at student homogenization, inspired by the ancient values of nationalism and progress, have undermined the diversity project, but without making school members truly engage with the civilizing project either.