Smyth, John (1997) Teaching and Social Policy: Images of Teaching for Democratic Change. International Handbook of Teachers and Teaching, 3. pp. 1081-1143. ISSN 2197-1951

The term’ social policy’ is not one we normally expect to find associated with discussions about matters instructional and pedagogical. In normal parlance, social policy refers to actions that are more likely to be associated with actions of the state or related to matters of the wider well-being of the population at large. In a recent book on this topic in Australia, Paul Smyth (1994) argued that the term social policy has become a ‘political catchword’ (p. 1) for a range of activities. Originally, it was a term popularised in the post World War II years as a way of referring to the mechanisms for ‘protecting citizens from market forces’ (p. 1) and ensuring that struggling industries and the wider community were shielded from the worst rigours of economic competition. Such government intervention was regarded as important for those least advantaged, like working class people, and other sections of the community ill-equipped to engage in muscular cut-and-thrust activity. In other words, it was a way of government ensuring protection for weaker sections of society, while at the same time ensuring a certain degree of social cohesion through public ownership of resources — if you will, a kind of ‘mixed’ economy with both market and government control. On occasions, it meant considerably more than this as the state moved beyond ‘mere[ly] protect[ing] people from markets’ (p. 3) and actively participating in planning the way in which social and economic welfare was to be achieved. The post-war years have seen an increasingly affluent society narrow the social policy debate considerably ‘… to the margins of welfare and public finance. ‘[The effect has been that] the state’s social policy or ‘nation building’ role was increasingly defined in terms of social welfare and … [its] political character was forgotten’

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