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Windows and mirrors: three images of the US science curriculum as reflected through Kenya’s Jua Kali

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In this article, the authors draw on their experience in an international, cross-cultural visit to ponder similarities and differences in educational systems in both the USA and Kenya. During the visit, one feature of Kenyan society that stood out and became a frequent topic of discussion was the existence of the Jua Kali. Presenting their ponderings through the metaphor of windows and mirrors, the authors use the Jua Kali to (a) muse about the impact of school structure and science curriculum on Kenyan society and (b) reflect on the impact of school structure and science curriculum on US society. Through these muses and reflections, the authors suggest that science curriculum in the USA is structured to be irrelevant and inefficient, and it does not yield the results that it promises. The authors conclude by drawing from the history of the science, technology, and society movement to advocate for small-scale, local reform efforts.
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Vol.:(0123456789)
Cultural Studies of Science Education (2020) 15:861–874
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-019-09967-2
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Windows andmirrors: three images oftheUS science
curriculum asreected throughKenya’s Jua Kali
JomoW.Mutegi1 · LazarusO.Momanyi2
Received: 6 May 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2019 / Published online: 23 January 2020
© Springer Nature B.V. 2020
Abstract
In this article, the authors draw on their experience in an international, cross-cultural visit
to ponder similarities and differences in educational systems in both the USA and Kenya.
During the visit, one feature of Kenyan society that stood out and became a frequent topic
of discussion was the existence of the Jua Kali. Presenting their ponderings through the
metaphor of windows and mirrors, the authors use the Jua Kali to (a) muse about the
impact of school structure and science curriculum on Kenyan society and (b) reflect on the
impact of school structure and science curriculum on US society. Through these muses and
reflections, the authors suggest that science curriculum in the USA is structured to be irrel-
evant and inefficient, and it does not yield the results that it promises. The authors conclude
by drawing from the history of the science, technology, and society movement to advocate
for small-scale, local reform efforts.
Keywords Eastern Africa· Critical theory· Cultural awareness· International programs·
Science curriculum
I was jostled from all sides as the crowd pressed in toward the stand. A middle-aged
man nodded and smiled at me warmly as he pointed at a pile of avocados. He raised
four fingers for the vendor. While the vendor bagged the avos, he lifted his eyebrows
in my direction as if to say, “You better get some while you can.” Judging from the
bustle of the crowd, he was right. This fruit would not be here long. Because I was not
in the market for fruit, I moved from that stand to a vendor who was selling clothes.
This vendor was an elderly woman. Her hair was tightly braided in neat cornrows and
her face was pleasant, but clearly business-like. Her clothes were plain, not frumpy
but motherly. Her plaid shirt, blue skirt and brown open toed-shoes, were nothing
Lead Editor: C. Quigley.
* Jomo W. Mutegi
jmutegi@iupui.edu
Lazarus O. Momanyi
momanyilo58@gmail.com
1 School ofEducation, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, 901 W. New York Street,
Indianapolis, IN46202, USA
2 School ofEducation, Moi University, P. O. Box3900-30100, Eldoret, Kenya
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Third, the authors acknowledge that racism is embedded in institutional structures, policies, and practices and moves toward identifying mechanisms by which racism is enacted through those structures, policies, and practices. This approach closely mirrors our own approach to addressing racism through science education research (e.g., Mutegi, 2013;Mutegi & Momanyi, 2020;Mutegi et al., 2018). ...
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... Not necessarily by changing its operational mode or procedures […], but by changing its content in terms of the subject matter and skills it invites the students to master. (Jónasson, 2016: n/p.;emphasis added) Thus, the status quo of the normative science curriculum seems one element of school culture impervious to change (cf., Mutegi & Momanyi, 2020), even in times of a severe health crisis. ...
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